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

There are no restrictions preventing bonfires upon private residential property as long as they do not cause a nuisance to other people and providing they are only burning small amounts of paper, clean wood or garden waste

Where there is no alternative disposal method, and incineration is necessary, to minimise the risk of causing nuisance and possible legal action, if you plan to have a bonfire, follow these guidelines:

Thanet District Council recommends that all combustible waste be taken to the civic amenity waste recycling centre at Manston Road, Margate.

  • Consider whether the waste can be composted, recycled or disposed of with the household waste. 
  • only burn dry material
  • never burn household waste, 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
  • avoid burning on Sundays or Bank Holidays if you can
  • never leave a fire unattended
  • Notify all neighbours that may be affected.
  • Environmental Protection would recommend that 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, interfering substantially with your wellbeing, comfort or enjoyment of your property. If a bonfire of industrial/commercial waste is emitting black smoke it is dealt with under the Clean Air Act 1993.

If 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.