Brookmans Park Newsletter
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Anger over summer evening bonfires
Concern is being expressed in this site's Have Your Say section about the number of bonfires being lit in Brookmans Park on warm summer evenings.
Some correspondents are angry that they are forced to close all their windows to prevent the smell of the smoke getting into their homes.
Others are worried about the health aspects. Two have mentioned the affect the smoke has on their asthmatic children.
If you want to join the debate please click on the link to the form in the Have Your Say section and fill in your details. Please add your name, address and e-mail details. What you write will be published immediately on the site.
Alternatively you can take part in the poll on the left and cast your vote.
Please only vote once.
The following are a few of the comments already posted by four local residents.
Hertfordshire County Council's website says that bonfires and their related problems i.e. smoke pollution, are the responsibility of District and Borough Councils and urges people to contact them directly.
The Welwyn Hatfield District Council website does not contain any information about burning garden waste but they have a leaflet which they are happy to post to anyone who telephones the office. The number is 01707 357000. A spokesperson for WHDC said there are no by-laws about burning garden rubbish.
Legal and health issues
So what is the legal position regarding bonfires and are there any health implications?
The National Association for Clean Air and Environmental Protection, NSCA, has several pages dealing with the issue of burning garden waste.
The following are some of the quotes taken from the NSCA site dealing with this issue...
The Environment: Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp and smouldering. This will contain pollutants including carbon monoxide, dioxins and particles. Your bonfire will also add to the general background level of air pollution. Air pollution in the UK often reaches unhealthy levels - do you really want to make it worse?
Health: Emissions from bonfires can have damaging health effects. Serious harm is unlikely if exposure to bonfire smoke is brief. However problems may be caused for asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions and children.
Annoyance: The smoke, smuts and smell from bonfires are the subject of many complaints to local authorities. Smoke prevents your neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging washing out, and reduces visibility in the neighbourhood and on roads. Allotments near homes can cause particular problems, if plot holders persistently burn waste.
Safety: Fire can spread to fences or buildings and scorch trees and plants. Exploding bottles and cans are a hazard when rubbish is burned. Piles of garden waste are often used as a refuge by animals, so look out for hibernating wildlife and sleeping pets.
Bonfires and the Law: It is a common misconception that there are specific bye-laws to prohibit bonfires - there aren't. An outright ban would be difficult to enforce and very occasionally a bonfire is the best practicable way to dispose of garden waste.
If used sensitively, the occasional bonfire should not cause a major problem. However, where a neighbour is causing a problem by burning rubbish the law is on your side. Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, a statutory nuisance includes smoke, fumes or gases emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
"In practice, to be considered a statutory nuisance, a bonfire would have to be a persistent problem, interfering substantially with your well-being, comfort or enjoyment of your property.
"If bothered by smoke, approach your neighbour and explain the problem. You might feel awkward, but they may not be aware of the distress they are causing and it will hopefully make them more considerate in the future.
"If this fails, contact your local council's environmental health department.
They must investigate your complaint and can issue a nuisance abatement notice under the EPA.
"The Act also allows you to take private action in the magistrates' court.
If the fire is only occasional it is unlikely to be considered a nuisance in law.
"Similarly, if you are being troubled by bonfires from different neighbours, each only burning occasionally, a nuisance action would be difficult as there are several offenders. In this situation encourage them to consider the alternatives - give them a copy of this leaflet!
Finally, under the Highways Act 1980 anyone lighting a fire and allowing smoke to drift across a road faces a fine if it endangers traffic. Contact the police in this case.
Bonfire Guidelines: "If a bonfire is the best practicable option for disposing of garden waste, follow these guidelines and the chances are you won't annoy your neighbours or cause a serious nuisance.
Alternatively you can take part in the poll at the top of this page and cast your vote.
July 24, 2001