Chichester District Council receives many complaints regarding smoke and smells from bonfires. Smoke can ruin peoples enjoyment of their garden, prevent them from opening their windows or hanging washing out.

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Nuisance from bonfires and how to avoid it.

Smoke from bonfires can be very irritating and cause distress to those exposed to it.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, smoke caused by bonfires may be a statutory nuisance and the Council has powers to take action against those that create a serious pollution from bonfires.  Case law has established that the concept of nuisance considers "reasonable expectation". So in general terms the occasional small garden bonfire burning dry wood/plant material may be acceptable, whilst burning of other household materials such as painted wood, plastics, furniture, mattresses etc would not.

Often people believe there are byelaws controlling hours when you can have a bonfire.  This is not the case.  However, if we investigate a complaint for you, we will consider whether the impacts are reasonable with reference to; the duration, severity and frequency.

What you should do?

We would recommend you politely discuss a bonfire problem with the person having the bonfires.  They might not realise they are causing a problem. If the situation doesn't improve, then you can report the problem to us on the attached form.

Bonfire Guidelines

If you have garden waste to dispose of, try and compost as much as possible. Consider using a shredding machine, which can reduce hardwood materials into mulch for use on your garden. The remainder can be taken to one of the household waste recycling centres. If you must light a bonfire, ensure that the material to be burnt is dry. This will minimise the amount of smoke produced.

  • Do not light a fire when the weather conditions might cause the smoke to travel into your neighbours garden or property.
  • Remember that smoke will hang in the air on a damp, windless day and in the evening around sunset.
  • Position any bonfire as far away from buildings as possible. Do not light a fire if the wind will carry the smoke over roads.
  • Never leave a fire to smoulder - put it out with water or soil.
  • Remember, heaps of garden refuse provide a haven for small animals such as hedgehogs. Check before you light.
  • Take care to keep children away from a bonfire. Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Burn only dry plant/wood waste. Avoid burning any wood that is treated/painted or any other household waste.
  • Prevent the risk of fires spreading by keeping fires away from buildings, fences, trees and plants and make sure you have a means of extinguishing the fire (garden hose, buckets of sand or water).