Bonfire complaints up in smoke thanks to law

COMPLAINTS about bonfires have been falling in the last three years since a pollution law was introduced.

(Stock image by Shutterstock)
(Stock image by Shutterstock)

It is nearly five years since the States spent most of a day debating restricting when bonfires could be lit, before deciding not to do so.

But pollution legislation, agreed in 2017 and introduced in 2019, now appears to be having the desired effect.

The Office of Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation, which deals with complaints relating to nuisances including noise, smoke, dust, smell, light and flies, has received just 18 complaints to date this year.

Last year it recorded 39 in the year, but previously there were 115 complaints in 2020 and 242 in 2019.

‘This is a declining trend and while [some] neighbours may be subject to frequent fires, this is not on the scale previously witnessed,’ said a spokeswoman.

‘Where there are recurrent problems, these will be reviewed and handled accordingly.’

Complaints tend to rise in the summer but this has been less pronounced in the last couple of years.

However some indiscriminate burning is continuing and islanders are often quick to complain.

One person living in the Forest, who wished to remain anonymous, said they suffered with fires from neighbours.

‘Just this week, trying to relax in my garden was impossible due to the neighbour burning planks of wood, with all the ash flying in the wind into my garden, on me, and onto the washing,’ they said.

‘I’ve come home many a time to find my line full of washing stinking of smoke due to bonfires through the day while I’ve been at work.’

The States was asked in 2017 to stop bonfires at weekends and in the evenings. The complainant said that weekends were often a bad time.

‘They don’t seem to care that it’s the weekend and that after a hard week at work people want to enjoy their garden – also giving no thought to which direction the wind is blowing,’ they said. ‘It’s just inconsiderate and there is no need for this outdated practice with so many options to recycle.’

Since December 2019 the Air Pollution Ordinance has dictated what kind of material can be burned in the open air and how it must be burnt.

This includes not burning any household material such as black bag waste, furniture and electrical goods.

Islanders can burn dry, green waste – only as a bonfire – though they are also asked to consider composting or using the green waste site at Chouet. Green waste must be dry to be burned, as wet waste causes more smoke.

There are powers to serve legal notices and to refer offences for prosecutions, but legal action is generally only taken where there have been significant breaches, or the pollution risk is considered to be significant.

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