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Colchester Borough Council is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to take action to minimise disruption and keep residents and visitors safe. 

Coronavirus: updates, advice and guidance

Bonfires and smoke nuisance

How to deal with bonfires and smoke nuisances


  • What can we do to help you
  • Bonfire guidelines
  • Why not compost your garden waste or get rid of bulky waste

Burning of Manure - Government guidance says it is against the law to dump or burn some solid wastes, which includes horse manure and contaminated bedding. Depending on the circumstances, it may be more appropriate for the Environment Agency or the council to complete an investigation.

The smoke and smell of bonfires can be considered nuisances. They often lead to complaints, especially if the bonfire contains damp and smouldering garden or household waste.   

Although there are no local by-laws allowing or prohibiting bonfires, there are national laws that can be enforced to protect the environment and minimise nuisance from bonfires. 

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows us to take action against any person having a bonfire that produces smoke on a frequent or persistent basis or which interferes substantially with a persons reasonable enjoyment of their home, including their garden. 

An abatement notice may be served to the person responsible for such persistent bonfires with the potential for heavy fines for non-compliance. 

Bonfire Guidelines

  1. Keep the number of bonfires to an absolute minimum and only burn dry garden refuse.  Never burn household rubbish or other materials.
  2. If you are a trade or business you should not have a bonfire to dispose of your waste. Trade waste should be removed by a licensed carrier (unless it is green waste) and disposed of at a licensed site. For more information contact the Environment Agency.
  3. Be prepared to consult your neighbours before lighting a bonfire to seek their agreement and ensure that no inconvenience will be caused.
  4. Do not light a bonfire when weather conditions will cause problems. Smoke hangs in the air on damp, windless days and in the evenings and at sunset.
  5. Site the bonfire in a safe place and as far away as possible from your neighbours' property. Do not site near to buildings, fences, hedges, trees etc.
  6. Do not light a fire when smoke will be blown over neighbours' property or over roads.
  7. Do not use flammable liquids such as petrol, paraffin or methylated spirits to light a bonfire or keep it burning.
  8. Keep the bonfire under supervision at all times and ensure that is extinguished completely, by dousing with soil or water, before you leave it.
  9. Keep a hose pipe or buckets of water close to hand and be ready to extinguish the fire if problems arise e.g. a sudden change of wind direction.
  10. There are no times when bonfires are permitted or forbidden. However, it is more important to take into account your neighbours' activities e.g. washing on the line, open windows, sitting in the garden, decorating etc.

Why not compost your garden waste or get rid of bulky waste?

Home composting 

Special collections of bulky and electrical household items

Recycling Centres and Opening Times 

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