Wokingham Borough Council has declared war on illegal bonfires.

Over the last six months, the council’s Environmental Health Team has seen a 622 per cent increase in bonfire complaints, compared to the same period last year.

The Conservative-run council says people are burning commercial waste that produces “acrid smoke” and a quarter of complaints received this month are linked to just 18 locations in Wokingham.

It has been carrying out regular inspections of these locations and vowed to track down the culprits.

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Parry Batth, executive member for environment said: “I am declaring war on the culprits who are burning commercial waste late in the evenings and weekend.

“The foul smells created are blighting the lives of many residents – and could cause health problems, in particular those with respiratory conditions.

“We have the powers to catch and punish those responsible – and we won’t hesitate to do so.”

He added: “We do need the public’s help because it is obviously essential to get evidence, and the best evidence is to catch them red-handed.

“If you are aware of illegal burning of commercial waste, please contact us on the appropriate channel – just posting something on social media will never help us take action, but reporting the incidents can do.”

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In the UK, councils have few powers to take action against people having small bonfires on private property.

However, it is a criminal offence to burn trade waste and people who start fires that produce black, toxic smoke can be fined up to £20,000 under the Clean Air Act 1993.

Anyone who witnesses an illegal bonfire can report it by phoning 01635 503 242.

The council said reports should include information on times, locations and if possible photographs of the fire and smoke.