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Bonfires and garden fires

Garden bonfires are not illegal, even in a smoke control area, but there are laws for the nuisance they can cause.

Burning domestic waste

You cannot burn household waste if it will cause pollution or harm people's health. Household or garden waste can be disposed of using our garden waste collections, our weekly bin collections, our bulky waste collection service and at our recycling centres.

If you do choose to have a fire:

  • build your fire well clear of buildings, roads, garden sheds, fences, trees and hedges
  • make sure that smoke from the fire will not drift across a road and become a danger to traffic
  • check to make sure there are pets or wildlife in the fire pile before lighting
  • never burn household rubbish, tyres, anything containing plastic, foam, paint, batteries or aerosols
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - damp or windy days are often unsuitable for bonfires
  • only burn dry material
  • do not leave a fire unattended and make sure that it is extinguished before you leave it - pour water on the embers to stop it re-igniting

Smoke nuisance

Fires can be classed as a statutory nuisance if they are held frequently and if they interfere with the normal use and enjoyment of a neighbour's property.
For the smoke to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injure health or be likely to injure health

If you are concerned about a bonfire or garden fire, we recommend that you approach the owner of the fire and explain that it is causing you a problem before you contact us. We find most issues can be resolved informally without the need for our involvement.

If you do report a smoke problem to us we will consider the nature, frequency and effect of the fire. 

If the fire is found to be causing a nuisance then we can issue an 'abatement notice'. This requires whoever's responsible to stop or restrict the smoke. 

Report a bonfire problem

Bonfire removal

We can remove unlit bonfires that are located on public land before they cause a larger issue once lit. Bonfires that have been extinguished can also be removed if they are having a negative impact on the environment. 

Contact us

Environmental Health Team
Economy, Innovation and Growth
Gateshead Council
Civic Centre
Regent Street

0191 433 7007