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Garden Bonfires (Domestic Bonfires)

Air pollution in Dudley Borough is a significant issue, Garden Bonfires can make it worse.

Burning garden waste produces smoke and pollutants which can damage the environment and can be harmful to health.  Burning rubber, plastic or painted materials not only creates unpleasant smells but also emits a cocktail of potentially poisonous chemicals into the air.

Rather than burning your garden waste consider composting or using the free Dudley MBC Garden Waste Collection service (green wheelie bins or bulk collection).

Health Effects

Brief exposure to bonfire emissions is unlikely to have a long-term detrimental effect on health, however, frequent exposure may adversely affect persons suffering from asthma, bronchitis, heart conditions, the elderly and children.  

Bye-laws

It’s a common misconception that the Council has specific bye-laws which prohibit burning. (For instance it’s ok to light a bonfire after 6:00pm, it isn’t and there aren’t). Even though bonfires are not banned in Dudley Borough they should be avoided to prevent complaints about smoke.

Under the Highways Act 1980 a person responsible for lighting a fire which causes smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. (Please contact the Police for further information if these circumstances arise).

Nuisance

Dudley Council receives a significant number of complaints concerning smoke, smell and ash due to bonfires, over 200 in 2006. Bonfires can interfere with normal daily activities including enjoying gardens, hanging out washing or opening windows, this can result in serious neighbour disputes.

If you are bothered by smoke consider approaching the person having the fire, however, you should only adopt this approach if you consider you are not placing your own personal safety at risk. Where a neighbour is causing a problem by burning and the matter cannot be resolved amicably, the law is on your side.  Under the provisions of 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 practise a bonfire would have to be occurring on a regular basis and interfering substantially with your well being, comfort or enjoyment of your property to be judged as causing a statutory nuisance under the provisions of the EPA 1990.

Guidelines

The risk of causing a statutory nuisance by having a bonfire can be reduced if the guidelines below can be strictly adhered to:

  • Only burn clean, dry material
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.
  • Keep the fire small and add material to the fire frequently 
  • Make sure that the fire only lasts a short time (suggest a maximum of 15 minutes)
  • Never use an accelerant such as old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire.
  • Avoid having a fire in unsuitable weather condition – smoke lingers in the air on damp, still days and in the evening. The weather conditions need to allow the smoke to disperse upwards quickly.
  • Avoid burning when the wind will carry the smoke over roads or into other people’s property.
  • Avoid burning at weekends and on bank holidays when people want to enjoy their gardens
  • Avoid burning when the air quality in your area is “poor” or “very poor”. 
  • (You can check air quality by telephoning 0300 555 2345 Ceefax 196 or consulting LA web site).
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder – douse with soil or sand as soon as the fire is finished.

There are other reasons why waste materials should be disposed of in ways other than burning. As well as reasons concerning health, amenity and the environment fire can also easily spread to fences or buildings as well as scorching trees and plants.  Exploding cans and bottles can be a hazard when rubbish is burnt. Piles of garden waste are often utilised as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets!

The Council’s advice to you remains try to compost or dispose of waste materials by means other than burning.

To report a nuisance bonfire or for further information regarding bonfires, please contact us as per the details below.

Contact Details

  • Name Food and Consumer Safety
  • Address Directorate of the Urban Environment, 4 Ednam Road, Dudley, West Midlands DY1 1HL
  • Telephone 0300 555 2345