Bonfire Night (5th November) is fast approaching, and with large gatherings still prohibited due to COVID-19, you may be wondering whether you're allowed to build a bonfire in your back garden in lieu of attending a public Guy Fawkes celebration.
The good news is that, generally speaking, you CAN have a bonfire in your garden. However, you will need to observe a few safety precautions, and you must also ensure that the smoke from your fire isn't going to cause a nuisance for your neighbours.
Garden bonfires: what are the rules?
Smoke is the key thing to be mindful of when planning a garden bonfire. Smoke coming from your property may be classed as a statutory nuisance; if a neighbour complains about your bonfire, environmental health officers from your local council will consider...
- How much smoke is being produced
- How often this happens, and for how long
- How unreasonable the activity is
While the final decision ultimately rests with your local council, marking Guy Fawkes Night with a bonfire in your garden is unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance (assuming you only do it once a year).
However, you may get into trouble if you...
- Allow smoke from your bonfire to drift across a road. This can make it hard for drivers to see where they're going, and you may receive a fine for posing a danger to traffic.
- Burn anything that causes pollution or harms people's health. For example, it is illegal to burn certain types of household waste in your garden.
- Fail to keep the fire under control.
For more garden bonfire rules, visit GOV.UK.
Garden bonfire tips
Here are some extra bits of advice to make sure your Bonfire Night celebration goes off without a hitch:
- Inform your neighbours in advance. This will give them a chance to close their windows and take their washing off the line to make sure it doesn't end up smelling of smoke.
- Before you light the bonfire, check for sleeping hedgehogs!
- Never leave a bonfire unsupervised. Keep a garden hose or some buckets of water on standby in case the fire gets out of control.
- Pick the right spot for your fire. Don't light a bonfire directly under any telephone cables or overhanging trees, and try to stay well clear of all buildings, fences, hedges, and anything else that might catch fire. If possible, build your bonfire somewhere that's shielded from the wind.
- Don't let any children or animals get too close to the bonfire.
- Keep flammable and otherwise dangerous items away from your bonfire (e.g. petrol, aerosol cans, batteries, alcohol).
- Once the festivities are over and your bonfire has gone out, pour water on the embers to make sure they don't reignite.
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