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Smoke nuisance

Bonfires and smoke pollution

Wiltshire Council receives complaints about smoke from garden bonfires, domestic flues and chimneys and about smoke emanating from commercial premises.

Garden bonfires produce smoke and smells, which can annoy neighbours as well as damage the environment. Garden trimmings that are still green and wet can give off lots of smoke, and materials like plastics and rubber create poisonous chemicals when they are burnt. Most garden waste can be easily composted and larger amounts can either be placed in your Green Bin and taken away providing you have arranged a Garden Waste Collection or taken to one of the household waste recycling centres in the county.

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If you must have a bonfire to burn any waste that cannot be composted, then it is advisable to follow these simple guidelines.

  • Warn your neighbours – this gives them an opportunity to close windows and doors, remove washing off the line and they are much less likely to complain
  • Ideally burn later in the evening when people are less likely to use their gardens
  • Only burn dry material
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic, foam or paint
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days. If it is too windy, smoke blows into neighbours' gardens and windows and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high. You can check air quality on 0800 556677.
  • Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings
  • Warning Never use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to light a fire - you could damage yourself as well as the environment
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out
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There are no byelaws restricting bonfires in Wiltshire’s Area and there are no specific times of day restricting bonfires.

However if smoke is caused by a bonfire is creating a nuisance, the council has powers to take action under the provisions of the  Environmental Protection Act 1990. Private individuals can also take action through a Magistrates' Court. If a bonfire is causing smoke to drift across a road, please contact the police.

If you are affected by smoke, we would recommend that you discuss it initially with your neighbour, as they may not realise that they are causing a problem. Always try to be reasonable, otherwise your discussions may end up in further arguments and create unwanted future neighbour tension.  Explain the details of your concern and try and agree a reasonable solution or compromise.

If the situation does not improve, then feel free to contact the Environmental Protection Team. We would ask you to fill out a smoke nuisance log sheet for two weeks and then return it to us. The nuisance log sheets are very important and the Council will not take any further action unless it has received completed nuisance log sheets from you. If the log is not returned without a reasonable explanation within 21 days the complaint will be closed.

Once we have received your log sheets a member the case officer will assess them and contact you to discuss what will happen next. We may write to the alleged offender bringing their attention to the matter and providing them with a simple guide on how to have a bonfire whilst reducing the risk of it being a nuisance to neighbours. We may also make visits in an attempt to witness the smoke. Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.  If after the three visits no nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.

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Having considered all the evidence, the investigation will result in one of the following courses of action:
a) No further action if no nuisance is substantiated
b) Informal advice
c) Service of formal statutory notice to abate the nuisance
If an abatement notice is served and not complied with legal action may be taken through the Courts.
Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with Public Protections Enforcement Policy.

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It is an offence for a commercial premises to emit ‘dark’ or ‘black’ smoke as a result of a bonfire and should arrange for a commercial contract to remove their waste. To report burning of waste on commerical premises please contact the Environment Agency.

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Nuisance - How to take your own legal action

If the local authority is unable to substantiate a statutory nuisance you are able to take your own action against the person/organisation responsible

Information about out to do this can be found on the How to take your own legal action page.

Exhaust Fumes

Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution. The type of car and the way that you drive it can have significant effects upon the levels of resultant pollution.

Following the rules below will help to reduce pollution from your car:

  1. Undertake regular maintenance on your car.
  2. Reduce or eliminate unnecessary journeys.
  3. Drive gently.
  4. Drive more slowly.
  5. If stationary in traffic for more than a minute, switch your engine off.

Remember: More fuel is used if you drive erratically (racing starts, sudden start-stops), or use your car for short journeys (particularly if cold). To ease the pressure on your pocket and the environment, do your bit to reduce motor pollution.

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Report excessively smoky lorries and buses to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

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Last updated: 4 January 2017 | Last reviewed: 4 January 2017