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Is it illegal to have a barbecue in your front garden? What the law says about BBQs & smoke nuisance

WHEN the sun comes out, there’s nothing us Britons love more than firing up the barbecue and cooking up some burgers with friends and family.

Read on to find out more about the rules on having a barbecue in your front garden and causing excessive amounts of smoke.

Young happy woman and cute cheerful girl grilling meat and corn on a barbecue grill in the backyard of their house.
Many families in the UK enjoy getting out the barbecue when the weather is nice

Is it illegal to have a barbecue in your front garden?

First of all, the good news – it’s not against the law to have a barbecue in your front garden.

That’s as long as you use it considerately and don’t end up creating so much smoke that it becomes a nuisance for your neighbours.

Keep an eye on the smoke levels; consistently producing lots of smoke is a nuisance, and you can run into problems with your council.”

AdmiralInsurance company

Many parts of the UK are “smoke control areas” – these are places where it’s not allowed to release excessive amounts of smoke into the air.

However even in these areas, the Government says outdoor barbecues, chimineas, fireplaces and pizza ovens are allowed.

Barbecues should never be left unattended.
They should always be used on a flat surface.”

West Yorkshire Fire Service

The main thing to remember is your barbecue should be in a safe, flat area, well away from anything that could easily catch fire.

What is smoke nuisance?

Local councils are the people who’ll investigate any complaints of smoke nuisance.

Sausages and kebabs on bbq in summer
Sausages and kebabs are a summer barbecue staple

The Government guidance says that for smoke to count as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injure health or be likely to injure health

Part of what the council’s environmental health team will look at is how unreasonable the amount of smoke is.

They’ll look at how much is being produced, as well as for how long and how often is happens.

Councils can serve what’s known as an abatement notice if they think something’s causing enough of a nuisance that it needs it.

This will either mean the activity has to stop completely, or can only take place between certain times.

How much can I be fined for smoke nuisance?

A Nuisance Abatement notice can be served under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if any levels of smoke produced are too high.

The maximum fine for breaking this order is £5,000.

Smoke contains a range of pollutants that can have damaging health effects, as well as being a nuisance to people living nearby.

Government advice on BBQ safety

The UK Government have issued some guidelines for staying safe whilst using a barbecue:

  • Keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.
  • Follow the safety instructions provided with your gas, charcoal, or disposable barbecue.
  • Never use a barbecue indoors, in a tent, under an awning or in a caravan.
  • Use enough charcoal to cover the base of the barbecue, but not more (normally around 5cms or 2 inches).
  • Keep children, pets and garden games away from the cooking area.
  • After cooking, make sure the barbecue is cool before moving it.
  • Empty ashes onto bare garden soil, not into dustbins or wheelie bins. If they’re hot, they can melt the plastic and cause a fire.
  • Make sure your barbecue is well away from sheds, fences, trees, shrubs or garden waste.
  • In the countryside or public park areas, only use disposable barbecues where there are specially designated areas and carefully follow the safety guidance.
  • Enjoy yourself, but don’t drink too much alcohol if you are in charge of the barbecue.
  • Never use petrol or paraffin to start or revive your barbecue; use only recognised lighters or starter fuels on cold coals.

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