As we head into peak bonfire season, this guide looks at the rules around having a bonfire on your property, so you can enjoy a warming blaze without being a nuisance to your neighbours.
The Gunpowder plot of 1605 is still an excuse for a bonfire over 400 years later. If you are going to celebrate 5th November at home, stay safe and follow our tips on what you can and cannot burn on your bonfire. There is no law in the UK that specifically bans bonfires in gardens, even in smoke-free zones. But there are laws against causing a public or statutory nuisance, and some restrictions that you need to be aware of before you set light to that pile of rubbish in your back garden.
If smoke makes its way on to a public highway, it can be classified as a criminal offence in some circumstances and you could be fined. Regularly burning material on your own property could also be deemed a nuisance by the council, if it causes problems for your neighbours. Your council could issue you with an abatement notice.
If you’d like help managing your garden, use Which? Trusted Traders to find a gardener in your area.
A lot of household and garden waste can be safely recycled or composted rather than burned. Contact your local council for more details. You should try to avoid burning large amounts of packaging, leaves or soft clippings that can be easily composted, or items that are easy to recycle, such as newspapers.
A bonfire is ideal for burning untreated wood that is not suitable for use on an indoor stove or fire. Ensure any wood you burn is free from metal objects such as nails or staples. These can be dangerous; as the fire heats up, they could fly out and hit unsuspecting bystanders.
Any wood you burn should be dry and untreated. Wet wood can explode as it burns, collapsing your bonfire and posing a risk to bystanders. Soft woods such as pine, spruce, alder or cedar will light easily and burn more quickly than hard woods such as eucalyptus, alder, oak or citrus.
Stick to burning dry material, in particular garden waste such as:
It is a criminal offence to get rid of domestic waste in a way that could cause pollution or harm to human health. Burning plastic, rubber and painted materials releases toxic smoke, so should be avoided at all costs.
You should never burn:
Think about where your bonfire is located. How much smoke will it create and where will that smoke go?
It is also important to pay attention to basic safety advice.