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Frequently asked questions about bonfires

Please select from the topics in the list below to move to more information on this page.

  1. Are bonfires illegal?
  2. Can I take my own legal actions to stop a bonfire problem recurring?
  3. What alternatives are there to bonfires?
  4. What precautions should be taken if I have a bonfire?
  5. What time can I have a bonfire?

1. Are bonfires illegal?

Bonfires are not illegal. However, if a nuisance is being caused by bonfires, then legal action can be taken to eliminate this nuisance. If you are bothered only by occasional bonfires, or a series of bonfires at different sites, this will not be regarded as constituting a nuisance as no individual can be held responsible.

2. Can I take my own legal actions to stop a bonfire problem recurring?

Yes, you can, if a nuisance is being caused. You would have to prove your case in court, so it would be advisable for you to instruct a solicitor.

3. What alternatives are there to bonfires?

In addition to sometimes causing a nuisance, bonfires are not good for pollution levels and human health. Other options of disposing of garden rubbish include composting, or taking your waste to a recycling centre.

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4. What precautions should be taken if I have a bonfire?

If you decide to have a bonfire, do take your neighbours into consideration: weather conditions and time of day may influence how much they are affected by your fire:

  • Avoid lighting a fire on damp, still days and in the evening when smoke lingers in the air.
  • Don't have your bonfire on a windy day when the wind will carry the smoke into your neighbours' gardens.
  • Plan when you are going to have your bonfire so that it doesn't coincide with weekends and bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens.
  • Minimise the smoke produced by only burning dry material.

Even if you are going to have a bonfire, please take the pollution it will cause into consideration. You can check the air quality for your area by ringing 0800 556677.

You must also ensure that your bonfire is not a safety hazard to yourself, your family or your neighbours:

  • Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs.
  • Before lighting the fire check that no pets or children are hiding inside it.
  • Build the stack so that it is stable and will not collapse outwards or to one side.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, aerosols or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.
  • Never use old engine oil, meth, paraffin or petrol to light a fire or to encourage it.
  • Keep everyone away from the fire - especially children.
  • For an emergency keep buckets of water, the garden hose or a fire extinguisher ready.
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder – pour water on the embers before leaving.

5. What time can I have a bonfire?

There is no restriction on what time of day you can have a bonfire, but consider the following points:

  • Your neighbours are most likely to be using their gardens or have washing out in the day and early evening
  • For an hour or so after sunset, smoke is likely to stay at ground level causing a nuisance
  • If you often have bonfires in antisocial hours, you are more likely to be considered a nuisance and have legal action taken against you

Page information

  • Updated: 29 Aug 2012
  • Web and Digital Services
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Permalink: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/view?a=180489

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