Smoke and bonfires

The government has published best practice guidance on outdoor burning Reducing air pollution from outdoor burning (defra.gov.uk). It aims to inform members of the public of the air quality impact of outdoor burning and help them to reduce emissions from it. Please also see our air quality page.

Domestic garden bonfires

Please do not burn your waste; take it to the civic recycling centre at Manston Road, Margate or consider whether the waste can be composted, recycled or disposed of within your household waste.  Burning waste is unnecessary and can cause a smoke and odour nuisance to neighbours. It can also affect the health of vulnerable people with respiratory conditions and children with asthma; even burning clean wood produces fine particles which will contribute to air pollution.   According to Public Health England mortality indicators Thanet has the highest mortality rates attributable to air pollution in Kent, this is because we have a high proportion of vulnerable people living in our district so please do not contribute to levels of fine particles by having bonfires.

If you do burn waste regularly and cause a nuisance to neighbours you are at risk of receiving an Abatement Notice; you could also receive a Community Protection Warning and subsequent notice under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.

However, if you only have the very occasional bonfire and only burn green dry waste arising from your own property which doesn’t cause a nuisance to neighbours we would recommend you follow these guidelines:

  • Only burn dry material.
  • Never burn household waste including plastics, rubber, foam or paint or treated wood (stained or painted).
  • Never use oil, petrol or solvents to light or encourage a fire.
  • Avoid fires on hot, damp or still days
  • Take account of the wind direction. Do not burn if large amounts of smoke will be travelling towards residential dwellings.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Notify all neighbours that may be affected.
  • It is a common misconception that there are specific l times they can be lit – there are not but In some circumstances a more suitable time to burn would be after dusk 18.00/19.00hrs.

Commercial bonfires

If the bonfire is emitting dark smoke and is on trade / industrial land or the waste is from a trade or industrial process then it is an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993. If the bonfire is emitting dark smoke the person in charge of the fire and the landowner can face a substantial fine if convicted. Bonfires on trade or industrial premises are only permitted where the Environment Agency has granted a D7 exemption.


It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all of fine-particle pollution comes from domestic wood burning. The following helpful guidance has been produced to help mitigate impacts on neighbours and air pollution: Burn better, breathe better campaign.

In a bid to improve air quality, environmental pollution and public health, the Government has phased out the sale of coal and wet wood in England. The sale of Wet wood was banned from 1st May 2021 and coal was banned from 1st May 2023. However, people can still use it until that date provided they purchase it from an Approved Coal Merchant.

Make a complaint

If you are bothered by smoke, approach your neighbour and explain the problem. You might feel awkward, but they may not be aware of the distress they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate in the future.

Please note that the Council will only consider formal action where someone is causing a persistent problem (over more than one day), interfering substantially with your wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of your property (i.e. clouds of smoke trailing across and entering adjoining properties). Legislation does not allow us to take any action on single bonfires on single days at domestic premises where they are burning green waste (trees, shrubs, leaves etc.), paper or clean wood. In an emergency where a bonfire is unattended and out of control please report it to Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

If you would like to make a formal complaint, then contact Thanet District Council on 01843 577000 or e-mail environmental.health@thanet.gov.uk and report the address details and an official complaint will be set up and Environmental Protection will carry out an investigation.

Help & support

Did you find this page useful?

  • This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.