NUISANCE bonfires have been getting people hot under the collar, prompting a call for them to be banned as antisocial health risks.

Southend’s Older People’s Assembly has called for tougher rules on bonfires, which it claims has a knock-on effect on people’s health.

The group wants Southend Council to create bylaws to prevent people burning household rubbish, with tough penalties for those who make others’ lives a misery through inconsiderate bonfires.

Chairman Simon Morton said: “The assembly has had a lot of representations made about antisocial bonfires which are being lit by residents, despite the fact there are recycling services that are freely available to help people get rid of household and garden waste.

“This authority must take note of people’s concerns and address the problem.”

The assembly is calling for a series of changes, including increased recycling to cut down on the amount of rubbish and garden waste burned, and it would like to see antisocial behaviour orders used to stop persistent offenders.

The assembly believes the action would cut the workload of the council’s environmental health teams, and also give householders affected by problem bonfires a direct way to address the problem.

Mr Morton said: “I have been told by the council it had 160 complaints in 12 months.

“If people are only lighting bonfires when the weather is good enough to do so, that is a lot of complaints.

“Things do need to be changed, because people with asthma or breathing problems suffer as a result, and you also have to do things like bring the washing in or close the windows.”

The group also believes bonfires can have a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of those in poor health, and feels action on the issue could help ease pressure on the NHS.

The assembly will be debating the issue at its next meeting on May 26, which will be held at 1.30pm in the council’s civic chamber, in Victoria Avenue.

For more information, call 01702 510316.

* SOUTHEND Council says it has a duty to act if a bonfire causes nuisance through smoke, fumes or gases.

Head of public protection, Dipti Patel, said: “Over the past year, the council received 160 complaints about bonfires. If the bonfire is still under way, officers would advise those responsible to stop adding fuel and let the fire burn itself out. This is because trying to extinguish it might make it even more of a nuisance. If officers did not witness the offending bonfire, then advice letters would be sent to the alleged perpetrator.

“If the officers’ advice was ignored, then an abatement notice would be served, in line with our enforcement approach, and it would be a criminal offence to ignore such a notice.” She added the council had no powers to prohibit bonfires.