Northampton Borough Council
Northampton Borough Council

Can I have a garden or allotment bonfire?

Bonfires are permitted in Smoke Control Areas sometimes called 'Smokeless Zones', but the Council does not encourage people to light fires as they may cause a nuisance to neighbours.

Allotment bonfires must also be approved by allotment management.

It is better if you can recycle the garden refuse by composting, chipping woody material or taking it to a civic amenity site. The following items can be composted:

  • Leaves,
  • Grass, 
  • Kitchen scrap,
  • Paper & cardboard

Many households in Northampton also have a fortnightly brown wheelie bin collection where you can leave your garden waste.

NBC can also arrange for the collection of bulky household waste.

What are the guidelines for having a garden bonfire?

If you do have a bonfire then ensure that:

  1. The material is dry & clean e.g. not oily or painted
  2. You do not use oil or tyres to light the fire or leave it unattended
  3. You do not light the fire in the evening or when it is windy as weather conditions at this time of day often cause smoke to hang in the air 
  4. You do not burn other material such as household refuse, plastics, foam, polystyrene or aerosol cans 
  5. You keep the fire small and hot and feed it a little at a time to maintain the heat - this minimises smoke emissions. If the fire is kept hot a large amount of material can be burnt in a short time. In this way a fire should last no longer than an hour
  6. You are considerate to your neighbours - have they windows open or washing on the line?
  7. You do not light a fire if the wind will blow significant amounts of smoke or ash onto nearby houses properties or roads
  8. You do not allow the fire to smoulder, it should be doused with soil or water
  9. Do not use petrol or any other flammable liquids to light bonfires as this can be extremely dangerous

If we get a complaint about your bonfire an officer will visit you and, if it is causing a nuisance, ask you to put it out. If the fire causes excessive problems, due to smoke or ash, we will serve an abatement notice requiring you to put out the fire.

In addition, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Council is obliged to take formal legal action if they are satisfied that a nuisance, due to smoke, exists or is likely to occur or recur in its area.

The maximum penalty for these offences is £5000.

It is an offence under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986 to light a fire and allow smoke to drift across a road.

You can make a complaint about a nuisance bonfire contacting Regulatory Services on 0300 330 7000 or by emailing ehealth@northampton.gov.uk.  Please note that if you ring out-of-hours the complaint will be dealt with on the next working day.