Bonfires and smoke

  • Bonfires and smoke

It is a common misconception that there are specific laws & byelaws that prohibit garden bonfires or specify times they can be lit - there are not.

There are no restrictions preventing bonfires upon private residential property as long as they do not cause a nuisance to other people.  Additionally they should also only burn paper, clean wood or garden waste.

Thanet District Council recommends that all combustible waste should be taken to the civic amenity waste recycling centre at Manston Road, Margate. Before burning you should also consider whether the waste can be composted, recycled or disposed of within your household waste.

If you are planning on having a bonfire in your garden, to minimise the risk of causing nuisance and possible legal action, 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 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.
  • In some circumstances a more suitable time to burn would be after dusk 18.00/19.00hrs.


However, where a neighbour is regularly burning rubbish, the law is on your side.

Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, a statutory nuisance includes "smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance". In practice, to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be 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.

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 dealt with 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 should only generate white smoke. These bonfires are also subject to nuisance legislation as outlined above.

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.

If this fails, then contact Thanet District Council on 01843 577000 or e-mail and report the address details and an official complaint will be set up and Environmental Protection will carry out an investigation.