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Smoke and bonfires

There are no laws for when a resident can have a bonfire, however commercial bonfires are more strictly controlled. Whether domestic or commercial they must not create a nuisance for people in the local area.

We discourage bonfires as they cause air pollution, upset neighbours and can damage health, particularly of children, older people, and those with breathing and heart conditions.

There are many ways to dispose of waste without burning it, including garden waste disposal through our garden waste collection scheme and other items through our bulky waste collection service.

Most waste, including garden waste, is accepted free of charge at the Norfolk County Council Recycling Centres. There are several located across South Norfolk, please see the Norfolk County Council website to find your nearest recycling centre and check their opening times.  

If you do choose to have a bonfire at home, it is your responsibility to ensure it does not cause a statutory nuisance to neighbours. The following precautions should be taken:

  1. Notify your neighbours in advance so you can ensure your bonfire does not interfere with their activities, such as drying laundry and use of their garden
  2. Ensure the bonfire is located as far from your neighbour’s properties as possible and away from trees, fences and anything that could catch fire
  3. Burn only dry garden waste and never materials such as domestic waste, painted items, plastics, furniture, textiles or wet garden waste including leaves
  4. Never use accelerants such as petrol to start your fire
  5. Check the weather conditions and wind direction so that the smoke doesn’t blow into your neighbour’s properties or hang in the air on damp, still days
  6. Supervise the fire at all times and ensure it is totally extinguished at the end.

If you cause a smoke nuisance we can take enforcement action against you. This could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record if convicted.

Report a domestic bonfire that you believe is causing a problem.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires that all businesses must dispose of their controlled waste in a way that does not cause environmental pollution or harm to human health. A person who commits an offence may be liable to a maximum penalty of £20,000 or imprisonment.

Waste produced in the course of a business operation should not be burnt, it should be removed by a licensed waste carrier. This includes waste generated on building and construction sites. The only commercial waste which can be burnt is untreated organic waste such as tree cuttings and brambles. These can be disposed of on a controlled fire which is supervised at all times. The fire must not create a smoke nuisance for residents in the area. To do this, you will require an exemption from the Environment Agency.

It is also an offence under the Clean Air Act 1993 to emit dark or black smoke, which is subject to a £20,000 fine and a criminal record.

Report a commercial bonfire that you believe is causing a problem.