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Environment and animals

Air pollution from bonfires and smoke

Whilst you may have a bonfire at a domestic property, we do not promote burning household waste since it can reduce the air quality of our city and can pose a risk to health.

Be aware that:

  • burning waste may cause a smoke nuisance to your neighbours
  • bonfires can get out of hand and be dangerous, putting additional pressures on emergency services
  • we can prosecute you, or issue fines up to £400, if you're caught fly-tipping

Bonfires on public land are illegal; anyone caught building a bonfire could be fined for fly-tipping; if you see an illegal fire being built, please report fly-tipping.

Alternatives to bonfires

Think about practical alternatives for disposing of waste other than bonfires, such as:

Burning commercial waste

Burning of commercial or trade waste is not allowed on any site, without permission from the Environment Agency. Businesses have a legal obligation to dispose of waste in a proper manner and may be prosecuted for failing to do so.

Nuisance smoke from domestic bonfires

If a domestic bonfire causes a smoke nuisance, we may ask you to put it out and prevent you having any further bonfires by serving a legal notice.

  • failure to comply with a legal notice could result in a fine up to £5,000
  • if a bonfire on a business site causes a smoke nuisance you could be taken to court and fined up to £20,000
  • if the fire creates 'dark smoke' you could also be fined up to £5,000

To minimise the likelihood of causing a smoke nuisance you should:

  • consult neighbours and give them time to shut windows and bring washing inside
  • avoid bonfires during windy or wet conditions, when smoke will be more likely to affect your neighbours
  • make sure that any garden waste to be burnt is dry
  • never burn plastics, painted materials, plywood and chipboard as they can give off poisonous chemicals - some of which can cause cancer
  • never use petrol, methylated spirits or similar to light the fire
  • never leave the fire unattended

Complaining about bonfires

While it's an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to 'emit smoke, fumes or gases which are a nuisance', there are no byelaws prohibiting bonfires and no permitted ‘lighting up times’ in York. Smoke control areas only apply to smoke from chimneys, caused by burning coal inside the house; they do not apply to gardens.

If you're affected by smoke from a bonfire, we would suggest:

  • speaking to the person responsible
  • politely make them aware of your situation - often people are not aware that they are causing a nuisance

Alternatively, you can make a complaint to us by telephone or email.

Our normal working hours are Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5.00pm. Out of hours visits can also be arranged, if necessary, once we have received your complaint.

If, after we have investigated your complaint we decide there is a smoke nuisance, we will approach the person responsible and ask them to stop. If they refuse, we can issue a legal notice to stop them having bonfires in future. Failure to comply with any legal notice could lead to court action.

Also see

Public Protection - Air Quality

Eco Depot, Hazel Court, York, YO10 3DS

Telephone: 01904 551525


Find out about air quality monitoring in York and download air quality reports.

Visit JorAir