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Fireworks – what is the law?

The Fireworks Act 2003 and the Fireworks Regulations 2004 are the main pieces of legislation concerned with regulating firework usage and the powers to enforce are with the police and Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards.

The district council has no enforcement powers regarding these regulations. 

The 2003 Act was introduced with the aim to reduce noise, nuisance and injuries by the misuse of fireworks. The main regulations prohibit the use of fireworks between the hours of 23:00 and 07:00 except on specific dates and festivals (Bonfire night, New Year’s Day, Diwali, and Chinese New Year). They also impose a maximum decibel level (120 decibels) for fireworks intended for public sale. There is no maximum decibel level for professional grade fireworks that are used in large open spaces (Category F4 fireworks).

While the council has other legal powers, they are not appropriate for matters concerning firework displays.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty on the local authority to investigate for statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance is assessed using a number of factors including the frequency of occurrence, duration, timing and nature of such events and an average person’s sensitivity to noise. Whilst firework events are inherently noisy, they are short-lived and unlikely to meet the threshold for statutory nuisance.

The Licensing Act 2003 regulates the sale of alcohol and other licensable activities. However, a firework display is not a licensable activity and is therefore cannot be used to regulate or prohibit displays at events.  It is therefore not regulated under a premises license or a temporary event notice.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 contains no specific offences relating to setting off fireworks. Evidence of malicious intent would be necessary in any case being brought as part of a criminal prosecution.