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Report a bonfire problem - 2015

Why important

Queries about environmental health account for around 1.5% of all visits (18th highest topic for visits in 2014). Problems related to bonfires are a seasonal issue at the time of the survey.

This is the first time we have tested a task related to environmental health.

Date of assessment


All shire districts (200 councils in all). Note: this service is also provided by single-tier councils, but not tested in this survey in the interests of maintaining survey balance.


Just about one-third of shire districts handle this task well enough to achieve our standard.

Find your council report

Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results

Headline results


Achieved standard

The standard
  • At least 6 questions from 10 answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q135 must be answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q143 must be 'No' (content must not be out of date)
  • Promotion of task rated satisfactory or very good
  • Customer journey rated satisfactory or very good


Log in to view question set or View sample question set from 2016-17 (pdf)

Task report

Good practice

Finding the task

  • Find the task by entering council name’ bonfire smoke problem into Google (or other search engine).
  • Provide a direct link from the ‘Report it’ section, if you have one, and consider providing a link from your complaints section.
  • Provide a link from pages about pollution.
  • Ensure that internal searches for ‘bonfire smoke problem’ and alternatives lead to pages about regular bonfire nuisance, and not just information about bonfire night.
  • Take visitors to the same page from any site search result or A to Z entry.
  • In two-tier areas, signpost the task from the appropriate district council sites.

Completing the task

  • Explain the reasons why, and circumstances in which, bonfires may cause a nuisance.
  • Offer advice about how to have a safe bonfire and also how to avoid causing a smoke nuisance – including alternatives to burning waste.
  • Provide information on the legal position and under what circumstances the council, or the police, can get involved.
  • Provide suggestions on how to approach a neighbour informally to ask them to desist from causing a smoke nuisance.
  • Provide a prominent link to an online form and/or other means of reporting a bonfire nuisance to the council.
  • Set up dedicated form for this task with appropriate fields, rather than rely on a generic nuisance form.
  • Provide downloadable log sheets and instructions for residents to monitor the problem.
  • Explain clearly and concisely the steps the council will take after a problem is reported, including investigation, visits, issuing of an abatement notice, fines and court action.
  • Mention the possibility of private legal action.
  • Explain any special rules such as for bonfires on allotments, or close to highways, or clauses within council tenancy agreements prohibiting bonfires.
  • Supply a contact number for further advice.

Poor practice

  • Some councils did not provide any information on this topic whatsoever.
  • Internal search failed to direct users to the correct page.
  • No clear link to report the problem online or contact details provided for this purpose.
  • Often the online form for reporting the nuisance was a general environmental health form with multiple options, which made the customer journey disjointed.
  • Lack of clear information on what the council will do after a problem is reported.
  • The site provides detailed information that is only available in ‘pdfs’.

Reviewer's tip

Although a couple of sites helpfully suggested other ways to dispose of rubbish, I was disappointed not to find a single site that offered diary log sheets to download and record incidents on bonfires. Especially in describing what they would do upon a nuisance being reported, many sites indicated that they would ask the complainant to keep a diary. Here, surely, is a way that the council could short-circuit the complaint process and readily identify a genuine regular nuisance from the occasional bonfire incident.

Sites that we recommend

Chichester DC

Well explained and succinct, setting out both the legal position and how one might resolve a smoke problem amicably. Clear invitation to report online, and online form itself is tailored to reporting a smoke nuisance, which is a definite plus. Additional value added with a prominent link to information available on GOV.UK too. This website is rapidly becoming my benchmark for other councils to emulate!

East Northamptonshire DC

Really clear and comprehensive information about the steps the council will take and in what order. Well done!

South Buckinghamshire DC

Very well signposted; I could find the information easily from all navigation entries. Good descriptions of how to have a safe fire, legislation and what you need to do such as talk to neighbour, complete log sheets. Nice form which checks whether you have spoken to the neighbour first before reporting the nuisance.

South Northamptonshire DC

Good detailed information here – well done.

Waverley BC

Easy to find and complete task. Good level of explanatory information about what the council can do if the customer needs to report a nuisance. Log sheets would be a useful addition for customers.

Further information

We assessed this task primarily using the council’s search facility.



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