Home > Environment > Pollution


Bonfires can be convenient for getting rid of waste and they can be fun too, especially on occasions such as Guy Fawkes Night. However bonfires can also be a nuisance when the smoke and smell spread to another person's property.

What you should know

Burning any material on bonfires or in containers releases toxic chemicals due to the relatively low burning temperature. While burning can be a convenient way to get rid of waste for you, they can cause pollution and a nuisance to others. The smoke can also cause a more serious health hazard by irritating people's lungs and triggering asthma attacks.

It is against the law to burn any trade waste without an environmental permit or exemption from the Environment Agency. All producers of trade waste must comply with their duty of care for their waste - it must be disposed of appropriately. The best way to do this is to use a licensed trade-waste contractor.

Dark smoke

Dark smoke contains many toxic chemicals. The production of dark smoke from materials associated with commercial activities is also an offence. We do not need to witness the dark smoke - it is sufficient to see the remnants of materials likely to have caused dark smoke. A person found guilty of these offences is liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of £20,000.

Burning in incinerators

Trade waste can be burnt in incinerators specifically designed to burn waste (known as exempt incinerators), under an exemption granted by the Environment Agency, known as D6 (Disposal by incineration) and U4 (Burning of waste as a fuel in a small appliance) exemption. The rules can be complicated and many incinerators require a permit to operate. If you are unsure you should check with us first, or contact the Environment Agency at environment-agency.gov.uk or by calling them on 0870 850 6506.

Burning in the open - bonfires

You may register a D7 'Burning waste in the open' exemption from the Environment Agency at environment-agency.gov.uk. An exemption allows you to burn plant tissue and untreated waste in the open provided that:

  • The waste is burnt at the place it was produced

  • The waste is not treated e.g. treated pallets, wooden door frames

  • You do not burn more than 10 tons of waste in any 24 hour period

The exemptions listed above only apply if the burning is not likely to cause a nuisance.

How do I make a complaint?

You can complete our online form: report a bonfire.

Building sites

The Council receives many complaints about the activities of builders; however, control of noisy building activities is very difficult.

Noisy activities are restricted to:

  • 7:30am to 6pm Monday to Friday

  • 8am to 2pm Saturdays

  • No work on Sundays or Bank Holidays

There is scope for negotiation on these hours especially if there are no immediate neighbours, specialist work has to be undertaken, or if there are particular noise sensitive properties involved. Prior to any major construction projects, the Council requires builders to complete the form below.

Other activities such as dust, waste materials and bonfires can cause problems for properties neighbouring a construction site. If you are affected by issues such as these, please contact environmental protection.  

Filthy and verminous premises

Filthy and/or verminous premises are properties that are considered to be in such a filthy condition so as to be prejudicial to health (this could include rotting foodstuffs or faecal contamination) or, where vermin is present in the property (where rats, mice, insects or parasites including their eggs, larvae and pupae are present in significant numbers to be considered a risk to health).

Filthy or verminous properties are often found to contain accumulations of material (as is common with hoarders) that can make access and egress difficult. Additionally, accumulations within a property can present a fire risk.

What can the Council do?

We are required by the Public Health Act 1936 (section 83 as amended by section 35 of the Public Health Act 1961) to investigate any premises brought to our attention that are suspected to be filthy and/or verminous. Once notified of such, an officer will carry out an inspection of the premises to determine what action may be required.

Filthy and/or verminous premises are often indicative of other underlying issues; although some people are simply unable to properly look after themselves and their property. We deal with such instances sensitively, working in partnership with Social Services and other organisations.

We will offer advice and assistance and try to obtain the agreement of the homeowner to remove rubbish, treat for vermin and to thoroughly clean the property. In the event that we cannot gain agreement we can, where appropriate, serve a statutory notice requiring owners to clean the premises and to eradicate any vermin.

Failing to comply with such a notice may result in prosecution or the Council carrying out any necessary works in default (i.e. by appointing a contractor to clean out the property) and recovering all reasonable costs back from the homeowner.

What we do not deal with

It is unlikely that we will consider premises that are cluttered or untidy, or properties that have rubbish in the garden as potentially filthy and/or verminous.

Odour nuisance

Under the statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we can investigate complaints relating to odour. The act specifically refers to 'any smell arising on industrial, trade or business premises'. Investigating officers will assess whether or regulatory action is necessary or whether advice on best practice can be offered. In assessing complaints of odour, officers will consider the following factors:

  • How often the odour occurs

  • How long the odours persists

  • The cause of the odour

  • The character of the odour

  • The impact of the odour on enjoyment of your home

  • What methods/processes are being used and what other methods/process are available that could potentially eliminate or reduce the occurrence of the odour

Light nuisance

Under the statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we can investigate complaints relating to artificial lighting at domestic or commercial premises. There is no threshold beyond which a statutory light nuisance occurs; the investigating officer must judge each case on its own merits.

Just because a light is annoying to you may not necessarily mean that is a statutory nuisance. Investigating officers will consider the impact of the light on habitable rooms, such as bedrooms or living rooms, whilst any curtains or blinds are drawn. 

What we will not investigate: we are unable to investigate light spill from highways lamps, railways land, airports or ministry of defence land. 

Regulation of industry

Under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 we regulate industries that emit significant levels of pollution by integrating air pollution with water pollution, noise pollution, land contamination, energy usage and accident prevention. The emission limits set out in the authorisation take into account National air quality standards and companies are regularly inspected ensure they are complying with their air quality limits and meeting the conditions of their authorisation or permit.

If an industrial process is required by law to have an authorisation or permit in place, the operating company must make a formal application. This application is required to contain detailed information on exactly what will be undertaken at the site and the effects it may have on air quality. This application will be considered in light of Government Guidance.

To apply to the Council for a permit or to vary or surrender a permit for authorised processes, please contact the environmental protection team via the means set out below. 

Contact us