Bonfires & Air Quality

There have been a few complaints about bonfires in the village so we thought it might be helpful to include some guidance here. This is a summary of the information   on the  bonfires  section of the website There are no specific laws against having a bonfire, or when you can have one – but there are Acts that deal with the nuisance they can cause.

Burning domestic waste

It is an offence to get rid of domestic waste in a way likely to cause pollution or harm to human health, including burning it. This is covered under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Burning plastic, rubber or painted materials creates poisonous fumes. These can have damaging health effects – particularly for people with existing health problems, like asthma or heart conditions.

Danger to traffic caused by smoke

Under the Highways Act 1980, anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. If this happens, call the police.

Think about how your bonfire may affect your neighbours

If you are having a bonfire, the smoke and smell created by it can annoy your neighbours. Smoke can stop people enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out.

If your neighbour has a bonfire and it affects you, speak to them and explain the problem. They may not be aware of the distress they are causing – and may have not thought about other ways to dispose of the waste, like composting.

If you do have a bonfire

A bonfire may be the only way of disposing of garden waste that shouldn’t be composted, like diseased wood. If you have a bonfire, follow these simple guidelines:
  • warn your neighbours beforehand – they are much less likely to complain
  • light the bonfire at a time least likely to affect your neighbours, eg not on a warm day when people will be in their garden
  • only burn dry material not damp, which causes more smoke
  • avoid lighting a bonfire when air pollution in your area is high – check the weather forecast, or the Air Quality website

Other ways to dispose of garden waste

There are ways to get rid of your garden waste without having a bonfire or sending green waste to landfill sites.  Most garden waste like grass cuttings and leaves can be recycled by composting. Here is some useful advice  on composting from the Royal Horticultural Society. Alternatively, if you don’t have time or space to compost at home you can sign up to your local council green waste collection service using the links below:

Complaining to your council about bonfires

If speaking to your neighbour fails, contact your local council’s environmental health department:

  • For Rother,  telephone 01424 787550
  • For Wealden, telephone 01323 443322

In most cases, officers from the council will try to deal with the problem informally. To be considered a nuisance, bonfires need to be a regular occurrence and seriously interfere with your well-being. If the bonfire is only occasional, eg a couple of times a year, it’s unlikely to be considered a nuisance in law.If the council considers a bonfire to be a nuisance, it can issue an ‘abatement notice’. This notice may mean your neighbour must stop having bonfires completely. If they do not stick to the notice (‘comply’) they face a fine of up to £5000 and a further £500 for each day they don’t comply.