A new community group lobbying for bonfires to be banned in Bromley during the coronavirus pandemic has been set up to combat nuisance blazes being lit in the borough.

Bromley resident Stephen Sangster and Downham park warden Ray Holgate set up the group last month, as their concerns grew about the impact of backyard bonfires in the area during the lockdown.

“For me it was seeing the adverse impact that local bonfires had on my pollution monitors first-hand,” Mr Sangster said of founding the group.

He added he had his own concerns over “dangerous levels of toxic smoke that would be damaging my family and neighbour’s health, particularly during a respiratory pandemic”.

“I was introduced to Ray and some other concerned residents and we had a few Zoom calls and decided to set up the campaign group,” he said.

Mr Sangster said they hoped to replicate Mr Holgate’s previous experience of lobbying neighbouring Lewisham Council to issue an alert asking residents not to light bonfires during the pandemic.

An online petition set up by the Bromley group asking for stronger action on bonfire enforcement by Bromley Council has gathered more than 350 signatures.

Although buoyed by initial community support, Mr Sangster acknowledged there were residents who were against a total ban on bonfires in the borough.

“There have been a small minority of vocal residents against a ban, citing the lack of alternative green waste disposal options,” he said.

“I understand their position, I have been known to have bonfires in the past but I am asking residents to think very carefully given the growing evidence about the consequences a bonfire has on local air quality, especially whilst their neighbours could be battling Covid now or in the future.”

Bonfires are not illegal unless it can be proved they are causing a statutory nuisance – meaning the council would have to assess the impact of a backyard fire on neighbours – making offenders difficult to prosecute.

The group hope their movement would see all bonfires banned for the duration of the pandemic.

Bromley Council were contacted for comment on the group.

The authority has previously rejected notions that an increase in bonfires during the pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on air quality, but has appealed for residents to be considerate when thinking about lighting up during the lockdown.

“I think we…need to say that it’s extremely inconsiderate at such a highly sensitive time due to Covid-19, when so many people are using their gardens in the fine weather, to be having bonfires,” Bromley’s executive member for public protection and enforcement, Kate Lymer, said in April. 

“It is quite wrong though to suggest that small bonfires are having an adverse major impact on air quality with many factors to consider here but with the current Covid-19 situation recognised as generally having the effect of reducing pollution.”