Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Updates on council services, health advice, and support available for residents and businesses.

Report disturbance by bonfire or other smoke

COVID-19 - lighting of bonfires

Please note: At this time of national emergency, it is important that we all take extra care not to disturb our neighbours or jeopardise their health. Many are self isolating with serious respiratory conditions, or are compelled to stay in or work from home. It is for this reason that we ask all Swindon residents to think extremely carefully before lighting bonfires of any kind.

Environmental Health Officers are taking a more proactive approach in investigating such disturbances or nuisances in order to protect our vulnerable residents. It is against the law to burn household waste, treated timber and plastics so for further advice on how to store and/or dispose of waste during this period, visit the following:

If your neighbour has bonfires on a regular basis, you may wish to print the bonfire advice leaflet and post it through their door before raising a request for service.

There are no laws which dictate that a bonfire or other burning device may only be lit at certain times. In principal, a bonfire may be lit at any time.

Smoke coming from one premises and significantly impacting another can however, be a significant and excessive disturbance at any time, and enforcement mechanisms exist to control this. Where disturbance from visible smoke is significant, regular, or persistent over time, the Council may be able to intervene formally.

For the purposes of enforcement; smoke is the visible part of the plume. We are not generally able to act on the smell of smoke. In order to be enforceable, visible smoke must be impacting directly on one premises from another.

One exception to this general rule however is when the odour of smoke is regularly and/or persistently coming from commercial premises. In general, waste from commercial premises should never be burned, unless covered by a formal exemption from the Environment Agency. Waste exemptions and permits may be checked on the Environment Agency website below:

Different parts of the Council may be responsible for investigating smoke, depending on what the issue is and where it is coming from. In all cases though, we need you to complete a diary of the issue and how it affects you. The information you provide will ensure we direct your complaint to the correct team.

A set of diary sheets and an information pack to record your issues are available to download below. We ask that you follow the instructions in the pack, and complete the diary sheets for a period of three weeks before submitting your complaint using the online form below. We cannot investigate your complaint without these:

We will copy parts of the information you supply in your diary sheets to the person/business that is disturbing you if/when we write to them. In all cases we pursue, we will ultimately need to witness the issue ourselves, and so we will need to visit your home, potentially a number of times.

We will generally also expect you to have tried to resolve the issue yourselves by speaking or writing to the person/business. If you have done this, and the information you have submitted indicates that this is something we can act on, we would generally write to the person or business said to be causing the disturbance, and then investigate further if this alone does not resolve the issue.  

We find that informal interventions are effective in the very great majority of cases. In a small number of the cases however, we may have to serve formal warnings or Notices, or more serious actions such as prosecution, a licensing hearing, or seizure, for instance. You may be asked to be a witness in such proceedings, and investigations like this will inevitably take a number of weeks or months to complete.

If you have already tried to resolve this issue with the person/business and you have completed diary sheets detailing the problem for a period of three weeks, please complete the following online form and ensure you upload your completed documents: 

Report a smoke or bonfire nuisance online

If you have provided a completed diary sheet pack, and confirmed that you have attempted to resolve the issue with your neighbour directly; we will be in touch within 5 working days.  

If you do not upload the required documents, you will be automatically reminded by email after 3 weeks to do so, and your case will be automatically closed after 6 weeks if we do not hear from you with completed documents.

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