Bonfires and burning materials
Whilst there are no laws against having a bonfire, there are laws against the nuisance they can cause. We therefore ask for everyone to be considerate, by putting residents' safety first and to avoid causing a nuisance.
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Call 999 if you are concerned about smoke from a building, or smoke causing poor visibility on a highway.
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There are no restrictions on when you can or cannot have a bonfire. However, please do not cause a smoke nuisance to anyone. More information on preventing bonfires causing a nuisance can be found on the Gov.UK website: Garden bonfires: the rules.
In warm weather, windows may be left open and people may be enjoying their gardens well into the evening period. You should always respect the reasonable wishes of your neighbours.
In addition to possible nuisance, many people aren't aware that household burning, such as stoves, open fires and bonfires, is a significant contributor to small particulate matter pollution, and affects both outdoor and indoor air quality. Breathing in particulates can adversely affect health and worsen existing medical conditions.
Professor Sir Stephen Holgate at Southampton General Hospital (also UK Research and Innovation Clean Air Champion and Special Advisor to the Royal College of Physicians on Air Quality) says:
"Particulate air pollution is a leading cause of ill-health. These miniscule particles, (known as PM2.5), are invisible to the naked eye and are small enough to pass through the lungs, into the bloodstream and into your organs. This can contribute to diseases such as asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and COPD.
One of the main sources of particulate air pollution is woodsmoke. I would encourage anyone who is considering burning wood - either for home heating or on a bonfire - to think very carefully about what they are burning. In fact, choosing to stop burning wood (and other solid fuels) is one of the best ways of improving local air quality and protecting your health."
We have limited powers to prohibit bonfires, and encourage residents to choose alternatives to burning, for example:
- compost as much garden waste as possible, find out about a home composting scheme
- take your garden waste to a Household Waste and Recycling Centre
- use the Council's garden waste collection scheme
If burning does occur, you can reduce the effects by following this advice:
- have as few bonfires as possible
- tell your neighbours when you intend to light it
- build it as far away from neighbouring properties as possible
- keep bonfires away from fences, hedges or other combustible materials
- burn only dry vegetation or clean, untreated wood
- have plenty of water ready
- attend the fire at all times
- continually monitor whether the fire might cause annoyance
- extinguish the fire if necessary
- light a bonfire if the wind will blow smoke across neighbouring properties
- light a bonfire if a neighbour is using or is likely to use their garden
- light a bonfire if there is washing on a neighbour's line
- light a bonfire if the weather is wet, windy or misty
- burn any green cuttings or wet material
- burn household waste, plastics, rubber or any other material which would cause dark smoke or harmful combustion products
- allow smoke to blow across a road
- leave a fire smouldering
Solid fuel appliances and wood burners
Burning that takes places at people's households can be one of the biggest contributors to pollution in the UK. Find out more on cleaner fuels on the Ready to Burn website.
We are working with other Hampshire councils and a local environmental charity, the Environment Centre (tEC), to promote cleaner burning in open fires, stoves and bonfires.
If you use a solid fuel appliance you should:
- Burn less: Reduce burning where possible, keep stoves and fires for particularly cold weather or if they are your only heating source
- Burn cleaner: Use cleaner fuels such as smokeless, authorised fuels or dry, well-seasoned wood with low moisture content
- Burn better: Use efficient appliances which have been correctly sized for the room, don't shut off air or allow the temperature to drop, and service and clean them regularly. Don't allow burning to continue through the night
- Burn differently: If possible, switch heating to no or low emission fuels, such as renewable, electric or gas alternatives
You should also ensure the flue is of sufficient height to achieve adequate smoke dispersion. It is recommended that wood burning stoves (or any appliances burning solid fuel) do not have a cap or cowl on the discharge end of the flue that impedes the upward vertical flow of emissions from the flue. This causes the smoke to flow back down to the ground (down-wash) and increases the likelihood of causing annoyance to your neighbours.
For more information and advice on wood burning, see the Environment Centre (tEC) website.
If you are struggling to stay warm or pay energy bills, call the Hampshire County Council 'Hitting the cold spots' advice line: 0800 804 8601.
Smoke control areas
The Clean Air Act 1993 introduced a wide range of new regulations, such as those which control smoke emissions.
There are no smoke control areas within New Forest. However, care should be taken when choosing a fuel to avoid causing smoke problems to your neighbours.
Make a complaint
You can make a complaint about bonfires or the burning of materials using the form below. Select 'air pollution' from the the dropdown menu at the top of the form.
Alternatively, you can contact us by email: email@example.com to make a complaint. In all cases we will require the following information:
- your name, address, email address and telephone number - unfortunately, we are unable to investigate anonymous complaints
- the address of the alleged source of the bonfire
- detailed information on how, when and where it affects you.
As part of our investigation, we will require the completion of a diary sheet noting episodes of bonfire use or burning. This is generally over a one to three week period.
Upon receipt of the diary, it may then be appropriate for us to contact your neighbour and offer advice on how the situation may be improved.
Should the problem persist, we may visit to gather evidence of the extent of the problem. If we are unable to resolve the matter informally and are satisfied of the existence of a statutory nuisance, an Abatement Notice may be served requiring that the nuisance be abated.
Failure to comply with an Abatement Notice is an offence and legal proceedings may result. If found guilty of an offence of this type, then there is an unlimited fine.
You may be required to give evidence in the Magistrates Court.
You can contact us to make a complaint about anything detailed above, or to ask questions about bonfires and burning materials.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 02380 285411
Monday to Thursday: 8.45am to 5.15pm | Fridays: 8.45am to 4.45pm
Environmental Health (Protection), Appletree Court, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, SO43 7PA