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Garden bonfires in residential areas are antisocial and are often very irritating to neighbours.

Every year, the council’s environmental protection team receives large numbers of complaints about nuisance bonfires when drifting smoke prevents other residents from enjoying their homes and gardens.

Why can bonfires be a nuisance?

Nuisance smoke from bonfires can stop people from:

  • sitting in their gardens
  • opening their windows
  • hanging out their washing

Fires can also:

  • add to the general background level of air pollution
  • increase the level of potentially harmful compounds
  • impact on chronic health conditions such as asthma and bronchitis
  • be dangerous – a fire can easily spread to nearby fences, sheds and outbuildings
  • cause drifting smoke that is a hazard on a public highway if visibility is reduced

Alternatives to bonfires

There are other ways of getting rid of your waste rather than lighting a bonfire.

  • You can compost biodegradable items such as tea bags, vegetable peelings and garden waste. This can significantly reduce the contents of your waste bin.
  • Make use of the council's kerb-side collections for disposal of recyclable items such as paper, card, glass, plastic and cans.
  • Reduce the amount of waste in your bin by choosing items with less packaging and by choosing re-usable shopping bags rather than carrier bags.
  • Take clean, unwanted items of clothing to your local charity shop, or arrange for a charity to collect good quality furniture items.
  • Take waste items to the household waste recycling centre at Stonegravels.
  • You can arrange for the council to collect your unwanted bulky items by phoning 01246 345 345.

What the law says

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 prescribes that smoke from bonfires can constitute a Statutory Nuisance if it disturbs local residents and prevents people from enjoying their homes. Where a local authority is satisfied that smoke from a bonfire gives rise to a statutory nuisance, then it must serve an Abatement Notice on the person(s) responsible for the nuisance to effectively prohibit a recurrence.

Failure to comply with the terms of an abatement notice is an offence which may result in prosecution in the magistrates’ court. A successful conviction may result in a fine of up to a maximum of £5,000 and/or three months imprisonment.

Additional legislation exists to control dark or black smoke from bonfires on commercial or trade premises. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 also requires that all waste on trade and business premises be stored safely and securely, and prevented from causing pollution.

Making a complaint

If you are suffering a nuisance bonfire, you could first try talking to your neighbour to raise the issue with them.

If this approach fails or you do not feel comfortable talking to your neighbour directly, then you can make a complaint to the environmental protection team at Chesterfield Borough Council.

Your complaint will be allocated to an investigating officer who will initially write to the person responsible for the alleged fire explaining the law of causing a nuisance with a bonfire and suggesting some alternative methods of disposing of their waste. This informal approach will normally be sufficient to prevent a recurrence of the problems, but you will be asked to keep a record of future fires and contact the investigating officer immediately if the situation is not adequately resolved.

On receipt of completed record sheets, the investigating officer will instigate a more formal enquiry in which he/she will visit the alleged perpetrator, and make every attempt to witness the bonfire. If a bonfire is witnessed and with the support of a comprehensive log of previous fires, the investigating officer will consider taking formal action against the perpetrator on a case by case basis.

Contact us

You can contact us in a number of ways:

Online by completing our online enquiry form.

By telephone:

Please call our customer service centre on 01246 345 345.

In person:

Chesterfield Borough Council
New Square
S40 1AH

By letter:

Chesterfield Borough Council
Environmental protection team
Town Hall
Rose Hill
S40 1LP

Last updated on 06 April 2020