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Environmental Protection - Bonfires

Garden bonfires produce smoke and smells, which can annoy neighbours as well as damage the environment.  Garden trimmings that are still green give off lots of smoke, and materials like plastics and rubber create poisonous chemicals when they are burnt.

How do I complain about a bonfire?

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If a bonfire is causing smoke to drift across a road, please contact the police. 

There are no bylaws in the county regarding domestic bonfires and there are no specific times of day when bonfires are prohibited.

If bothered by smoke from a bonfire, first approach your neighbour and explain the problem.  You might feel awkward but they may not be aware of the distress they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate in the future. 

If this fails, contact the environmental protection team using the contact details on this page.

If a fire is a one-off it may be difficult to prove a nuisance.  Similarly, if you are troubled from bonfires from different neighbours, each only burning occasionally, a nuisance action would be difficult as there are several offenders.

If we receive a complaint, we will normally write to the alleged offender bringing the matter to their attention and enclosing a leaflet regarding bonfires, and send you a diary to keep from this point, any action we take would be dependant on the information received from you.

You are able to take private action in the magistrates court if you wish.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, if someone persistently causes a nuisance through lighting bonfires, the Council can take action to prevent further problems.

Bonfires are definitely not the most environmentally friendly way of getting rid of waste.  We recommend that you dispose of garden waste in other ways:

If you must have a bonfire to burn any waste that cannot be composted or perhaps you want a bonfire just for fun for example Bonfire Night then it is advisable to follow these guidelines.

  • Warn your neighbours - they are much less likely to complain
  • Warn Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service
  • Only burn dry material
  • Never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres or anything containing plastic,foam or paint
  • Avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days. If it is too windy, smoke blows into neighbours' gardens and windows and across roads
  • Avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high. You can check air quality on 0800 556677 or at
  • Keep your fire away from trees, fences and buildings
  • Never use oil, petrol or methylated spirits to light a fire - you could damage yourself  as well as the environment
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out

Commercial premises have the added responsibility to ensure that smoke from bonfires on their premises does not emit ‘dark’ or ‘black’ smoke and that any bonfires are properly contained.