Guidance for garden bonfires

Each year the Environmental Health section at the Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council receives a large number of complaints alleging nuisance due to smoke from garden bonfires.

Whilst it is accepted that people will light bonfires from time to time to dispose of garden refuse, it should be noted that this may well cause nuisance and annoyance to neighbours and prevent them from enjoying the use of their garden. Because of this, it is the least acceptable method of disposal; the most preferred being to compost the garden waste. If this is not practicable it should be taken to a local Waste Disposal Site, e.g.

  • Tovil Household Waste Recycling Centre, Burial Ground Lane, Tovil Green, Maidstone
  • North Farm Transfer Station & Household Waste Recycling Centre, Longfield Road, North Farm Industrial Estate, Tunbridge Wells
  • Dunbrik Transfer Station & Household Waste Recycling Centre, Main Road (A25), Sundridge, Sevenoaks
  • Household Waste Recycling Centre, Button Street, Swanley.

We suggest that the following guidelines will help to prevent a smoke nuisance from being caused:

  1. Compost as much garden refuse as is possible and burn only when there is no other reasonable method of disposal.
  2. Garden refuse should be dry before burning and care must be taken to add material to the fire only in small quantities. The sudden heaping of large quantities of refuse onto the fire will produce large quantities of smoke. The Golden Rule to follow is to feed the fire little and often.
  3. Never add household refuse, plastic or rubber materials to the fire or sump oil to try to light it.
  4. Site the bonfire as far away from neighbouring properties as is possible.
  5. Do not light a bonfire when the weather conditions will cause problems. The bonfire should only be lit when the wind is light and steady, and in a direction that will cause the least annoyance to neighbours.
  6. Bonfires can be dangerous and should never be unattended. Do not allow the fire to smoulder, as this too creates large quantities of smoke; dowse it properly with soil or water.

There are no byelaws currently in force within Tonbridge & Malling Borough to control the lighting of bonfires. However, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, smoke and ash from a bonfire that is causing nuisance to persons in the vicinity can be deemed to be an offence, rendering the person having the bonfire liable to prosecution. It is not the Council's wish generally to take legal action when you are undertaking activities within your home and we suggest that consideration to neighbours along the lines mentioned above, will go a long way towards preventing a nuisance from being caused.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Environmental Health at the TMBC Council Offices, Gibson Building, Gibson Drive, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent ME19 4LZ, telephone number (01732) 844522.