Garden Bonfires

The Environmental Health Department will investigate complaints of smoke nuisance caused to residents.  Smoke nuisance can arise from any number of sources, however the most common type of complaint we receive concerns nuisance caused by garden bonfires.

Bonfires can be a nuisance - the smoke, soot and smells they cause are the subject of many complaints to The Council. Smoke can ruin residents' enjoyment of their property, preventing them from opening windows, hanging washing out and can prevent them enjoying being in their own garden.

As well as being a nuisance, bonfires can be dangerous.  This is particularly the case if they are unattended, or if they are started using flammable accelerants such as petrol.

Instead of Burning

Rather than burn garden waste, perhaps consider one of these more environmentally friendly ways of disposal?

Recycle

Instead of burning, Cheshire East Council provide a green wheelie bin service to all residents and garden waste is collected on a fortnightly basis from the kerbside.

Composting

If there is insufficient room in your bin, why not consider composting.  Most garden and kitchen waste can be recycled into compost which will produce a useful soil conditioner, saving you money on commercial products.  More information is available from Association for Organics Recycling.

Tipping

If you are able, you could take garden waste to any one of the household waste centres in the Borough.  They all accept green waste which then goes off for composting.

Shredding

Woody waste can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching; you can buy or hire shredders, but remember, they can be noisy - don't replace one nuisance with another!

If you must burn

If you must burn, the following advice may help you to prevent causing a nuisance to neighbours;

  • Only burn dry material, wet fires produce more smoke
  • Keep fires small and controllable
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions – smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days. If it is too windy, smoke blows into neighbours' gardens and windows and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high. You can check air quality on 0800 556677 or at UK Air Quality Archive
  • Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings
  • Never use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to light a fire – you could damage yourself as well as the environment
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smolder – put it out

The Legal Position

If done carefully, the occasional bonfire should not cause a major problem, so an outright ban on bonfires would be unreasonable. However, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is an offence to cause a statutory nuisance, and this can include nuisances created by bonfires.

To be considered a nuisance, the bonfire would have to be a regular problem and interfering substantially with your well-being, comfort or enjoyment of your property. If you are bothered by persistent bonfire smoke, you may wish to approach your neighbours: they may be genuinely unaware that their actions are affecting you.  Perhaps suggest some of the alternative methods of disposal outlined above.

However, you may feel unable to approach your neighbours, and you must consider your safety if you were to try this method. You should contact the Environmental Health Team and inform them of your concerns. In most cases letters are written to both parties and this is enough to resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, in some cases it does not end there and if the bonfires persist you should inform the officer dealing with your case. You should complete the diary form sent to you by the officer, to provide information to allow the officer to establish whether there is the occurrence of a nuisance.

They may wish to visit to assess whether the bonfire is a statutory nuisance. If it is, an abatement notice may be served on your neighbours under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If the person then fails to comply with the notice, they may be prosecuted, and upon conviction in a Magistrates Court gives rise to a maximum fine of £5000.

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