A bonfire in a garden

Garden fires fuel anger among neighbours

EH departments report increase in bonfire complaints during COVID-19 lockdown.
03 April 2020 , Sarah Campbell

Bonfires are fast becoming a point of contention between neighbours as good weather lures people into their gardens during lockdown.

While many people are joining community groups to help their neighbours amid the COVID-19 crisis, the goodwill appears to stop when it comes to the smoke from garden fires wafting into their properties.

CIEH ran a small survey of EHPs about noise and other nuisance complaints over 1-2 April. The majority of respondents reported increases in complaints about bonfires.

“Bonfires especially are becoming an increasing issue especially as lots of people at home are vulnerable and many with respiratory issues. They clearly do not want their health to be affected by smoke of all things during this crisis,” said one EHP in a group discussion.

Another said: “We have received a significant upturn in smoke complaints regarding domestic garden bonfires causing significant smoke nuisance or ill-health concerns to neighbours – 14 complaints in 10 days.”

One council has drafted a press release asking residents to stop having bonfires at this time. Many others are putting out statements on social media asking for the public to be considerate of their neighbours.

The problem appears to be exacerbated in areas where garden waste and tip services have been curtailed.

Many EHPs have also seen other changes to the number and types of complaints coming in from the public. Over half of the respondents to CIEH’s survey reported increases in noise complaints – although a significant number of others found decreases. Most, however, mentioned changes in the type of complaints, with fewer complaints for obvious reasons about pubs and clubs, and more about residential noise such as barking dogs, instrument practice, DIY, loud music and children.

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