Advice on bonfires and how to report nuisance smoke and smells.

Alternatives to bonfires

Bonfires pollute the air we breathe as well as cause health issues, safety problems and a nuisance to others. We therefore advise you to: 

  • not burn your household or commercial waste – plastics, painted materials, foam or paints, treated wood, plywood and chipboard give off poisonous chemicals when burned and some can cause cancer 
  • use other ways of disposing of your waste such as recycling, composting or take it to one of our household waste recycling centres
  • get rid of your garden waste by signing up to our garden waste collection service
  • book a bulky waste collection to dispose of bulky household items such as old furniture and furnishings  
  • only use those with a waste carrier‘s licence to take your waste away for you – before employing them check they are registered as a waste carrier with the Environment Agency and keep a receipt describing the waste you are handing over to them
    • if you use anyone who cannot provide you with their waste carrier’s licence number and contact details and your waste is later found fly tipped you are liable for a £250 penalty notice or prosecution 

Bonfires - reducing the nuisance to others

There are no laws that prevent garden bonfires or specify times when they can be lit. However bonfires can cause problems for your neighbours: 

  • the smoke and smell can affect people enjoying their homes and gardens by having to close windows or having to dry washing indoors 
  • smoke can make breathing worse for asthma or bronchitis sufferers and young children, or cause problems for those with heart conditions 
  • gases released from bonfires such as carbon monoxide and dioxins are harmful to people and the atmosphere and can become difficult to remove from clothing and furnishings 

How to reduce bonfire issues – the do’s and the don’ts

If you decide to have a bonfire, here are some guidelines to reduce the risk of your fire causing a problem.  


  • advise your nearest neighbours before lighting a bonfire 
  • only burn dry material and burn the material quickly in small quantities so the minimum amount of smoke is created 
  • choose your bonfire site carefully away from trees, fences and windows 
  • avoid having a bonfire when the wind is blowing in the direction of your neighbours, and avoid having one on a bank holiday or at weekends  


  • burn grass clippings or ‘green’ material as this creates thick smoke 
  • burn oily rags, rubber and plastics as they create heavy smoke or toxic fumes 
  • light a bonfire when your neighbours are drying washing, are out enjoying their gardens or have windows wide open 
  • use petrol, methylated spirits or similar to light the fire 
  • light bonfires one hour before dusk or leave them burning overnight as smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening  
  • ever leave the fire unattended 

Please be aware that if you light a fire and you allow the smoke to drift across the road and it becomes a danger to traffic, you could be fined under the Highways Act 1980. People should report such incidences directly to the Police.

Reporting bonfire smoke

Smoke may be classed as a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A smoke nuisance must be frequent and interfere with the use or enjoyment of your home, such as smoke filling your house or you cannot use the garden. This does not include inconvenience or that you can see or smell the smoke. 

We will investigate problems caused by smoke or fumes that are emitted from both domestic and commercial premises. Before contacting us try to resolve the problem first: 

  • approach the person causing the nuisance and politely make them aware of the issue and how it is affecting you – often people are not aware they are causing a nuisance 
  • listen to their point of view, compromise and try to find an amicable solution  
  • keep records of all your conversations or any correspondence you send or receive 
  • if speaking directly to the person does not help you can make a complaint to us 

If after investigating the issue and we decide that the bonfire is causing a nuisance: 

  • we will approach the person responsible and ask them to stop 
  • if they refuse our request, a notice may be served to stop them having further bonfires 
  • failure to comply with the notice could lead to court action and a fine of up to £5,000 or £20,000 for a business 

Report an environmental problem in the Craven area

Report a bonfire problem in the Hambleton area

Depending on the nature of the complaint one of our officers may visit the property, contact your neighbour by phone or send a letter advising of the complaint. Your details will be kept confidential but if the problem reoccurs you may be asked to keep a diary of events to assist us. 

To make a complaint you can contact our Environmental Health team or complete our online environmental health issue form.

Report a smoke nuisance in the Harrogate area

To make a complaint you can contact our Environmental Health team or complete complete our online environmental protection enquiry form

Report a smoke nuisance in the Richmondshire area

We have a duty to investigate statutory nuisance complaints which includes smoke from bonfires and chimneys in domestic and business premises. 

To report an issue complete our online neighbourhood nuisance form.

Report a smoke issue in the Ryedale area

We have a duty to investigate statutory nuisance complaints which includes smoke from bonfires and chimneys in domestic and business premises. 

To report an issue please contact us.

Report a bonfire problem in the Scarborough area

We can issue an abatement notice if a neighbour is lighting a bonfire frequently and it is causing a nuisance.

To make a complaint complete our online pollution form (select air pollution).

Report a bonfire problem in the Selby area

When looking into a complaint we will consider: 

  • impact
  • frequency
  • duration
  • time of day/night
  • sensitivity
  • public benefit

To make a complaint please contact us.