There is no law prohibiting bonfires or regulating times when they can be lit, but they do cause annoyance and add to local air pollution so we would discourage their use for disposal of waste.

An occasional well controlled bonfire is not a statutory nuisance under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (see below).

Dense smoke caused by burning noxious or toxic substances can damage people’s health.

Dark Smoke

It is an offence to emit dark smoke from an industrial trade or business premises under the terms of the Clean Air Act 1993.

The Law

If alleged smoke from regular bonfires is persistent and interferes with the use and enjoyment of neighbouring properties then it could be considered a statutory nuisance under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, it should be borne in mind that smoke from occasional bonfires although understandably annoying, would not be frequent enough to be considered a statutory nuisance.

If however you are being bothered by persistent bonfires, you will need to provide evidence of how and when this is affecting you. Before the Council will act, you will need to provide a nuisance diary detailing how and when you have been affected by the smoke. You will need to provide at least a fortnight’s worth of dates to assist us. A diary sheet can be downloaded from below. We will not consider your complaint unless a nuisance diary is submitted in support of it.

Nuisance Diary
Diary form for logging the occurrences of neighbourhood or commercial noise and other nuisances.

Please contact us if the problem continues or if you are worried about contacting the person causing the problem.

  Report a nuisance

Taking your own action

You can also take private action under the law Opens in a new window. Contact the Clerk of Torquay Magistrates Court Opens in a new window direct for details on how to do that.

Smoke nuisance from solid fuel appliances

Torbay has no smoke control areas, people are therefore entitled to operate wood and multi fuel stoves without needing to comply with the requirements of the Clean Air Acts. Using a solid fuel appliance is considered to be a reasonable activity, and you can expect to smell your neighbour’s fire from time to time if they have such a stove.

If you are having problems with smoke or odour from a neighbour’s wood burner there is little the council can do unless there is a defect with the installation, or you can prove that smoke is clearly entering your habitable accommodation, or preventing the use of your property on a persistent and regular nature. The Council will therefore only be able to act when you have provided a diary detailing how you have been disturbed. Any additional evidence such as video and photographs will greatly assist the Council in determining if a nuisance exists. A diary sheet can be downloaded from below.

The Council does offer advice to users of multi fuel stoves to minimise air pollution, and a copy of this guide is available below. Please pass on this guidance to anyone that you feel may benefit from its information.

Wood burners and open fires guide
Good practice guide for operating wood burners and open fires

Good Bonfire Guide

Following these few simple guidelines may stop your bonfire from being a nuisance:

  • Be neighbour friendly - warn them in advance and avoid burning at weekends or on Bank Holidays when people are likely to want to enjoy being outside.
  • Make sure what you are burning is dry.
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, plastics, foam or paint.
  • Never use old engine oil, methylated spirits or petrol to light the fire or encourage it.
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions, for example when it’s damp.
  • Avoid burning when the wind will carry smoke over roads or into other people’s property.
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder. Douse it with water if necessary.

Most garden waste can be composted, shredded or taken to the recycling centre. Bulky waste can be collected by SWISCo for a fee or donated to a local charity.