Public Health - Air Pollution
Clean Air Act
Commerical Business/Industrial Bonfires and Dark Smoke
Bonfires on commercial premises are a frequent cause of complaints to Environmental
Health because of annoyance and nuisance caused to neighbours from smoke, and health
concerns about air pollutants in smoke, including carbon monoxide, dioxins and particles.
Contractors are discouraged from disposing of any waste by burning, and in many
cases burning waste may be illegal
How We Can Help
If you witness dark smoke being emitted from industrial or trade premises, please
contact Environmental Health immediately.
If smoke from a fire is drifting across a road and endangering traffic, contact
the local Police.
Burning of Waste on Building or Demolition Sites
Bonfires on building or demolition sites are subject to the controls outlined above.
There is an exemption from the usual waste management requirements which allows
developers to burn untreated wood, bark and plant matter only, provided it does
not cause pollution or a nuisance, and subject to certain other conditions.
Developers must apply to
SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency – local office Miller Road
Ayr Tel: 01292 294000) for such an exemption. Waste timber which has been treated
for wet or dry rot must not be burned due to the release of harmful pollutants (dioxins).
Only waste from that site may be burned - it is not permitted to import waste from
another site for burning.
Legal Position - Bonfires
The law controlling bonfires associated with commercial activities is stricter than
for domestic situations and the penalties for breaking the law are much higher.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows local authorities to take actions against
offenders if bonfires are considered to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance due
to the emission of smoke. This includes nuisance from soot, ash, particulates and
the smell of smoke. The local authority may serve an Abatement Notice on the offender.
If this is not complied with, the local authority may choose to prosecute the offender
or instead, serve a fixed penalty notice. This is currently £150 for domestic
premises and £400 for industrial, trade or business premises.
The emission of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises is an offence under
the Clean Air Act 1993 and is subject to a fine of up to £20,000.
There is no requirement for the local authority to serve notice first for dark smoke
offences. There is no requirement for Environmental Health Officers to witness the
smoke first hand provided there is evidence that a deliberate fire would have been
likely to have produced dark smoke, e.g. evidence of burnt plastic, rubber, foam
and painted or otherwise treated wood. It is a specific offence under the Clean
Air Act 1993 to burn insulation from a cable with a view to recovering metals, unless
the burning is part of a process authorised by SEPA under the Environmental Protection
Bonfires and Smoke Nuisance from Domestic Premises
Bonfires are a frequent cause of complaints to Environmental Health because of annoyance
and nuisance caused to neighbours from smoke, and health concerns about air pollutants
in smoke, including carbon monoxide, dioxins and particles. Burning waste can prevent
people from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging out washing, and
the smoke and fumes created affect air quality and can be damaging to health in
the longer term.
How We Can Help
If you are bothered by smoke, you may wish to approach your neighbour first and
try to resolve the problem amicably - they may not be aware that their actions are
causing you concern. If this approach fails, you should contact Environmental Health
and we will investigate your complaint and take appropriate action. Not all bonfires
will be considered to be a statutory nuisance, but all complaints will be assessed
on a case by case basis.
Alternatives to Burning
Instead of having a bonfire, consider other disposal methods which are less environmentally
- Shred woody waste for use as a mulch or for composting
- Recycle newspapers, glass and cans
- Use the Council's garden waste collection (brown bins)
- Use the Council's special uplift for the removal of bulky household refuse
If you are going to have a bonfire, do so responsibly and advise your closest neighbours
in advance so they can be prepared for any inconvenience it may cause.
Make sure your neighbours do not have windows open, and are not drying washing or
enjoying their garden.
Avoid burning in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp,
still days and if it is windy, may be blown into neighbours' gardens and across
- Check piles of garden waste for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets
- Burn in an area away from fences, buildings and windows and beware scorching trees
- Only burn dry material
- Never burn household rubbish, aerosol cans, tyres, plastics, foams or painted items
- Never use old engine oil, methylated spirit or petrol to light or fuel the fire
- Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - hose it down cold before
you leave it.
However, please note that even if you do follow the guidelines given above, you
may still cause a nuisance - any complaints about your bonfire will be investigated
by Environmental Health and may be subject to enforcement action.
Smoke from Chimneys
The Clean Air Act 1993 makes it unlawful to emit smoke from the chimney of a private
dwelling in a Smoke Control Area. In South Ayrshire there is currently only a small
part of Dundonald that is designated as Smoke Control Area. Complaints about smoke
from chimneys outside a Smoke Control Area can be investigated under nuisance legislation
in terms of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as outlined above.
Dundonald smoke control area
Are farmers Permitted To Burn Stubble On Their Fields?
Yes, provided it is controlled, does not become a nuisance to neighbours and does
not produce dark smoke. If a complaint is made regarding smoke nuisance or dark
smoke it will be investigated in terms of the Environmental Protection Act 1990
and appropriate action taken.
Are Industrial Premises Permitted To Burn Material?
In terms of the Clean Air Act 1993 it is unlawful to emit dark smoke from any industrial
or trade premises unless the burning is part of a process authorised by SEPA in
terms of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Many complaints arise from burning
of waste material on building or demolition sites. Almost always such burning will
give rise to dark smoke emissions. If a complaint is made regarding dark smoke being
emitted then these complaints are investigated in terms of the Clean Air Act 1993.