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Garden waste bonfires: A burning issue

Garden waste bonfires: A burning issue

March 31, 2017
Bonfire close-up. By Janne Karaste (via Wikicommons)

There are three main ways to get rid of garden waste: Composting it, taking it away to one of the borough’s recycling centres or by signing up to the council’s collection service. It is sometimes, however, also burned on bonfires by people during garden ‘spring cleans’ – but this can be a risky option.

Guidelines exist around bonfires that you should be mindful of, which protect against damaging air quality and also against causing a nuisance to neighbours.

Smoke from bonfires can cause severe distress to sufferers of respiratory conditions such as asthma, and other diseases, and can be a nuisance to neighbours drying laundry outside or enjoying their gardens.

There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws for the nuisance

they can cause if prejudicial to health or deemed a regular nuisance to the neighbourhood. The council can take offenders to court if their bonfires cause a nuisance to neighbours, including having an unreasonable effect on their enjoyment of their home or garden. Offenders can be fined £5,000.

Action can also be taken if a bonfire on industrial or trade premises causes dark smoke. This is an offence under section two of the Clean Air Act, with a fine of up to £20,000.

So, before lighting a fire in the open, it is best to observe the following guidelines:

  1. Check weather conditions and wind direction so that smoke and ash will be carried away from neighbours’ windows and gardens, and make sure that there is no laundry hanging in adjoining gardens
  2. Burn material quickly in small quantities so that a minimum of smoke is created
  3. Only burn dry, natural and untreated materials – and do not burn oily rags, rubber and other man-made materials because they could prove toxic
  4. Do not leave your fire unattended or smouldering for long periods, and hose it down until the bonfire is cold before you leave it
  5. Advise neighbours before you light a bonfire
  6. Site your bonfire well away from trees, fences and windows, avoid windy days, and have a hosepipe or buckets of water ready nearby
  7. Rake ashes into the soil when cold, picking out larger pieces of charcoal first.
More information and reporting concerns

You can find out more at www.ealing.gov.uk/airquality

Or, to report concerns about air pollution, you can call the council’s response team on 020 8825 8111 (including during afternoons or evenings at the weekend) or you can report it online.

A ‘Cleaner Air’ borough

Ealing Council was awarded the ‘Cleaner Air Borough’ (CAB) accreditation by the Mayor of London last year following a range of initiatives designed to monitor and reduce pollution in the borough.

All London boroughs are required to monitor air quality in their areas and take actions to improve it. They have to report on their progress every year. The CAB status is only given to boroughs that can prove they are effectively tackling the issue.

Picture of bonfire by Janne Karaste (via Wikicommons)