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East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Bonfires and the law

It is a common misconception that there are specific byelaws within the East Riding prohibiting garden bonfires or specifying times when they can be lit – there is not. 

However, this is not a licence for indiscriminate burning! 

Occasionally, a bonfire is the best practicable way to dispose of diseased wood that cannot be composted.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended) it is an offence for people to dispose of their domestic waste in a way likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. In practice you should not burn waste that is likely to create excessive smoke or noxious fumes. If only dry garden waste is burnt, your bonfire should not cause a problem to your neighbours.

Most bonfire problems can be investigated under nuisance legislation. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, a statutory nuisance includes “smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. 

In practice, for a bonfire to be a statutory nuisance, smoke and smell from bonfires would have to be a recurrent persistent problem, interfering substantially with the comfort or enjoyment of neighbouring properties.

If a bonfire of industrial or commercial waste is emitting black smoke it is dealt with under the Clean Air Act 1993. This includes the burning of such material in your garden! 

Under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is illegal to dispose of waste that is not from your property e.g. from your work place or from a neighbour:

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (external website) 

For example, tradesmen must not burn waste from their place of work, at home.

Statutory nuisance

To be considered a statutory nuisance, the problem has to be serious enough to be interfering substantially with your well-being, or comfort and enjoyment of your property.  This may include smoke or fumes from bonfires and chimneys.  

If the council is satisfied that someone is causing a nuisance, a notice can be served on the person responsible requiring them to stop causing the nuisance.

Read more about statutory nuisance on the Legisaltion.gov.uk website:

Statutory Nuisance - Environmental Protection Act 1990 (external website)

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact us:

Environmental Control

Email:  pollution.control@eastriding.gov.uk 
Tel: (01482) 396301

County Hall
Cross Street, Beverley
HU17 9BA

Town Hall
YO16 4LP

Council Offices
Church Street, Goole
DN14 5BG