I often get asked about the legality of residents having bonfires in their gardens and what can be done about these. The Council has a Bonfire Guidelines leaflet which explains that “it is a common misconception that there are specific byelaws prohibiting garden bonfires or specifying times they can be lit – there aren’t. However this is not licence for indiscriminate burning. Sometimes it is the only practical way to dispose of woody or diseased waste that cannot be composted. Only dry garden material should be burned, never household rubbish, tyres or anything plastic, foam or paint. Fires should be kept away from trees, fences and buildings.”

Residents can complain to the Council’s Environmental Health department who must investigate the complaint and issue a notice under the Environmental Protection Act if they feel a nuisance is being caused. Private action can also be brought under the Act. However, neighbours should try to speak to each other about any bonfire nuisance as they may not be aware of any distress being caused. Barbeques can also cause smoke and odour problems.

I am advised that “Local Authorities receive around 30,000 complaints about bonfires each year. Smoke prevents neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging out washing. One alternative is composting and a compost bin will produce useful soil conditioner.”