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Home > Environment > Noise, Smoke and Other Nuisances > Smoke, smells and other nuisances

Smoke, smells and other nuisances

If you are experiencing a problem with smoke, smells or other pollution you can report it to us.

For us to take action the issue needs to be a ‘statutory nuisance’, which means it must do one of the following:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injure health or be likely to injure health

A statutory nuisance will be more than 'annoyance' and much more than the mere detection of pollution or a problem.  Many other factors determine whether or not a something amounts to a statutory nuisance including how often it occurs, how long it lasts for, the time of day and your location (e.g. urban/rural).

Issues that may be a statutory nuisance include:

  • smoke from premises
  • smells from industry, trade or business premises (for example, sewage treatment works, factories or restaurants)
  • artificial light from premises
  • insect infestations from industrial, trade or business premises
  • accumulation or deposits on premises (for example, piles of rotting rubbish)


Report a nuisance


Danger to traffic from smoke

It is an offence to allow smoke to drift across the road and become a danger to traffic.  If smoke from a bonfire is causing poor visibility on the highway please contact the Police.

If you are worried about the safety of a neighbour's bonfire, contact the Fire Service for advice or call 999 in an emergency.


Domestic bonfires

There are no specific controls, such as permitted times, over the lighting of bonfires to burn waste.  If only dry waste is burnt the occasional bonfire should not cause a problem.

If the bonfires are only occasional it will be difficult to prove a nuisance in law.  This would also apply if there are several different neighbours occasionally having bonfires.  Download a Garden Bonfires Leaflet here for further information on the law.

If you are being disturbed by bonfire smoke from your neighbour, it is worth talking to them about it in the first instance – they may not realise they are causing a problem.  

If you have spoken to your neighbour and the situation doesn’t improve, report it to us providing evidence about the frequency of the bonfires, their duration, location and how the problem directly affects you.


Bonfire guidelines

If you must have a bonfire follow these guidelines to avoid causing a nuisance and to keep safe:

  • Keep the number of bonfires to an absolute minimum.
  • Only burn dry material. This will produce the minimum of smoke.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, or anything containing plastic, foam or paint. The Council will collect domestic hazardous waste for a small fee - see our Hazardous Waste Collections page for details.
  • Never use old engine oil, methylated spirit or petrol to light or encourage the fire.
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions. Smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening around sunset – ensure the bonfire is extinguished well before.
  • If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours’ gardens and across roads.
  • Keep the bonfire under adult supervision at all times and ensure it is extinguished completely, by dousing with soil or water, before you leave it.
  • Keep a hose pipe or buckets of water close at hand in case the fire gets out of hand.
  • Take account of your neighbours’ activities e.g. washing hanging on a line, open windows, sitting in garden, decorating etc.
  • Consult, or at least warn, your neighbour before lighting a bonfire.

Dark smoke from commercial premises

Under the Clean Air Act 1993 it is an offence for dark smoke to be emitted from any industrial or trade premises.  The maximum penalty for being found guilty of an offence under this legislation is a fine of up to £20,000.  The disposal of waste is also regulated by the Environment Agency and generally speaking, they prohibit the disposal of waste by bonfires on site.  We therefore strongly recommend that all industrial/trade waste is removed to a properly licensed waste disposal site.