Court bans Bracknell resident from having bonfires

Published: 3 Mar 2014 09:000 comments

A RESIDENT has lost a three-year legal battle to light bonfires in her back garden, after neighbours complained about smoke billowing on to their properties.

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Meetali Warma-Gray, of Westmorland Drive, Warfield, was hit with a nuisance abatement notice by Bracknell Forest Council in July, 2011.

But Ms Warma-Gray, 53, told London’s Civil Appeal Court last Thursday that she only ever burned leaves, twigs, and the occasional tree branch, using a dustbin-sized incinerator.

She said: “I know the complaints said this was acrid smoke but it couldn’t possibly have been because I was only burning twigs and leaves – not smelting iron or burning animal carcasses.”

She claimed no immediate neighbours had complained and added: “I wasn’t burning bonfires in the foyer of the Royal Opera House or some tenement flat; I was doing it in my own garden in a rural setting.” She said her bonfires took place only a few times a year and she had tried to stage them when neighbours were away.

Ms Warma-Gray insisted there was “insufficient evidence” the “nuisance threshold” had been crossed.

However, Lord Justice Elias said it seemed as though the neighbours “were at the ends of their tethers”.

He added there was evidence one neighbour’s Father’s Day barbecue had been blighted by a backyard blaze, while one seven-year-old boy complained “he wished he didn’t live there any more because of the difficulty created by the smell”.

It is estimated that Ms Warma-Gray’s legal costs have reached £20,000. She appealed against the abatement notice first to Bracknell magistrates but lost in November 2011 and then to Reading Crown Court but lost again.

Lord Jusice Elias said: “I can see no possible error of law” and refused Ms Warma-Gray permission to appeal further.

Outside court, Ms Warma-Gray accused the council of pursuing her “like feudal lords.”

However, following the case, Vincent Paliczka, director of environment, culture and communities at Bracknell Forest Council, said: “If residents complain to the council that bonfires are creating a nuisance then we have a responsibility to look into the issue and take appropriate and measured action to protect them if necessary.

“In this case, we simply asked Ms Warma-Gray to stop burning bonfires which created nuisance to her neighbours. It is regrettable that the council has had to describe its decision to three different courts, all of which upheld the council’s stance.”

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