Householders can burn garden waste, hedge clippings or prunings as long as garden fires do not create smoke that is that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If garden waste is damp it can produce smoke. We receive many complaints about smoke, smuts and smell from bonfires. Smoke can prevent you and your neighbours from enjoying your garden, opening windows and hanging out the washing. If smoke gets into a house it can be difficult to eradicate as the smell can impregnate soft furnishings and clothes.
Bonfires tend to be one-off events and in nearly all circumstances WRS will be limited in what action can be taken. We would therefore encourage affected parties to informally engage with their neighbours in such circumstances.
To assist members of the public in instigating successful neighbour engagement we have developed a toolkit to assist you in the process of communicating with your neighbours without causing unnecessary conflict.
The best form of communication initially is in person. WRS advocates such engagement as many problems are caused inadvertently due to a lack of foresight, change in weather (wind direction), fire being larger than anticipated etc. In our experience this is often the most successful means of resolving problems and preventing them recurring.
- Do not approach your neighbour in the heat of the moment or late at night concerning your problem. Try to engage them at times of the day such as the weekend to discuss your concern.
- Do not tell your neighbour what they should do or threaten them with the local authority.
- Try to engage in casual conversation prior to raising your concerns as an ice breaker to introduce your problem this is less likely to instigate a defensive response. Possibly suggest that they should inform you when they next have a bonfire so that you can make plans to be out or so that you can shut your windows, take your washing in, etc.
- Listen to your neighbour try to be understanding their circumstance also. By doing this it is likely to lead to common ground and an agreement of what will be done to ease the problem.
On occasions neighbourly communication may be unsuccessful due to a number of reasons and an alternative method of communicating may be through a friendly letter.
WRS have prepared 3 sample letters that you can download and edit to suit your particular circumstance. They are graded in order of formality from friendly request to a final demand:
- Letter 1 - Friendly request
- Letter 2 - Intermediate request
- Letter 3 - Final request prior to formal complaint
At the same time begin keeping an accurate record of the problem using diary record form.
If all informal processes of engagement have failed then you can make a service request for assistance. You can only progress if you can demonstrate that you have made reasonable efforts to engage your neighbours in an attempt to resolve the problems that you are experiencing.
To make a service request please follow the link to our Service Request form.
It is not always necessary to have bonfires and there are many alternatives that we encourage the public to consider:
Composting and Recycling
Rather than burning garden waste or putting it in the dustbin where it will end up buried or incinerated, a compost bin will produce a useful soil conditioner, saving money over commercial products. If you do use a compost bin, you should not put food waste in it, as the smell can attract rats and mice. Woody waste can be shredded to make it suitable for composting or mulching. You can buy or hire shredders and some allotment societies have their own. If using a shredder be considerate; they can be very noisy. Take care not to replace one nuisance with another. Household waste should certainly not be burned on a bonfire. Many items can be recycled. Garden waste should not be mixed with other household waste. Old beds and sofas are not suitable for burning as they give off toxic fumes. Some voluntary groups collect old furniture for repair and re-use.
Information on compost bins and recycling is available from your local council. Garden waste can also be disposed of in some districts via their garden waste collection service. For further information or advice, including information on what you can recycle locally at various recycling points, contact Worcestershire Hub on 01905 765765.
- Taking items to the local waste disposal site
- Arranging for a special collection eg. by your local council
- Placing garden plant waste in a special green-waste bin provided by your local council (this may only be available in some areas)
- Chipping larger items of garden waste, such as tree branches
Worcestershire Regulatory Services advises residents to participate in events organised by local councils to ensure Bonfire Night is enjoyed safely.
We advise you to read the information provided on our website regarding domestic bonfires. This also applies for Bonfire Night.
If you are considering fireworks, we remind you that it is a criminal offence to set off fireworks in a public place such as a street or park which can result in fines and up to a six month prison sentence.
Fireworks to be used in private gardens should be bought from reputable sellers and should only be purchased and handled by someone over 18.
It is against the law for anyone to set off fireworks between the hours of 11pm and 7am, except on certain occasions which include Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight.
Other tips on handling fireworks include:
- Keep children and animals inside during the display, let them watch from the windows. People outside should stand well back from the fireworks
- Never go back to a firework once it has been lit and keep them away from fire risks like fences and sheds.
- Wear gloves when handling sparklers and placed in a bucket of water once finished.
For more information on how to safely handle and dispose of fireworks, please visit the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service website.