Why worry about fireworks?
Fireworks can frighten people and animals. In particular, children and the elderly can be intimidated and scared by firework noise.
The bright colours and effects in fireworks are produced by a mixture of chemicals. Fireworks emit light, heat and sound energy along with carbon dioxide and other gases and residues. The exact emissions will depend on the firework, but as gunpowder is a main component sulphur compounds are emitted along with small amounts of particulates, metal oxides and organic compounds (including minute amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans). On and around Guy Fawkes Night (November 5th), there is often a noticeable increase in pollution.
Fireworks are explosives and must be used with caution. For information on firework safety, please visit the Fireworks Safety Page on the Health and Safety Executive website (external link).
What is the law on the supply of fireworks?
Under the "Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997" all fireworks for use by the public must meet British Standard BS7114. Under these regulations the sale of fireworks to anyone under 18 is banned, and of caps, cracker snaps and party poppers to anyone under 16. The supply of bangers, mini rockets, fireworks that fly erratically (squibs, helicopters etc) aerial shells and maroons and mortars and some large powerful display fireworks are banned from supply to the public. These regulations are enforced by Council Trading Standards officers. Suppliers/shopkeepers in breach face a fine of up to £5000 and/or 6 months in prison.
Storage of fireworks
Under the Control of Explosives Regulations 1991 it is an offence to keep fireworks (except those for private use) on premises that have not been registered for this purpose. Individuals can store fireworks for private use for up to 14 days, provided they are kept in a safe place.
What laws cover nuisance and danger caused by fireworks?
If a local authority officer judges noise from fireworks to be a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, they can issue an abatement notice. Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 local authorities have the power to issue an anti-social behaviour order to anyone causing "harassment, alarm or distress". Disobeying an order carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
Under the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 the Council can also consider legal action against perpetrators if there is sufficient evidence available.
Fixed Penalty Notices
Throwing or setting off fireworks in the street is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875. This is enforced by the police, and a fixed penalty notice of £80 applies. Police can enforce a fixed penalty notice of £80 to anyone under 18 possessing a firework in a public place and for breach of the 11pm curfew on letting off fireworks.
It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. A penalty of up to £5000 and/or 6 months in prison is enforceable by police, trading standards or the RSPCA.
When can I use fireworks?
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks. The regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks at night (11pm - 7am) in England and Wales, with extensions for the following festivals:
- Until 1am on the night of Chinese New Year
- Until 1am on the night of Diwali
- Until 1am on New Year's Eve
- Until midnight on 5 November
These regulations are enforced by the police. There is a penalty of up to £5,000 or 6 months in prison for breach of curfew.
Fireworks add excitement to celebrations and are enjoyed by many. Large organised displays are used to celebrate state occasions, sporting events and also for family celebrations. Fireworks don't have to be ear splitting to be fun. We can enjoy them in safety, without causing annoyance to our neighbours and their pets and livestock or to wildlife. If you have your own firework display, remember that too much noise can frighten people and animals and that fireworks cause smoke and pollution. Follow these simple guidelines to reduce the risk of nuisance:
- Give neighbours a few days notice of your display - particularly important if they are elderly, have children or pets
- Use appropriate fireworks - when buying fireworks, try to avoid really noisy ones. Your supplier should be able to tell you what they are selling
- Make sure pets and other animals are safely away from fireworks
- Consider timing. If you are using fireworks for a celebration, a Friday or Saturday is preferable, and make sure they finish 11pm
- Avoid letting off fireworks in unsuitable weather - if it is still and misty or air quality is poor pollution could be a problem. Check air quality on 0800 556677 or on the Air Quality website (external link)
- Let off your fireworks in an open garden area - noise bounces off buildings and smoke and pollution can build up in enclosed spaces
- If a neighbour complains that you are disturbing them, their pets or livestock, be considerate
- After your display, clear up firework fallout and dispose of it safely
The Blue Cross, Britain's pet charity is offering advice and support to pet owners whose animals are terrified by the bangs and flashes caused by fireworks. You can visit their website in the external links section below.
Write to us at:
- The Enforcement Response Service
Level 6 - Alexandra House
10 Station Road
- Tel 020 8489 1335
- Out of Hours 020 8489 0000
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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