The Heather and Grass etc. Burning (England) Regulations 2021

Jurisdiction: England

Commencement: 1st May 2021 


These Regulations add to the prohibitions on burning specified vegetation set out in The Heather and Grass etc. (Burning) Regulations 2007, by prohibiting burning activities on deep peat (over 40cm depth) from 1st May 2021.

Individuals are prohibited from burning any specified vegetation* on areas of peat over 40cm deep, on a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is also a Special Area of Conservation unless an exception applies, or the burning is carried out under and in accordance with a licence issued by the Secretary of State.

*Specified vegetation includes any of the following:

  • heather;
  • rough grass;
  • bracken;
  • gorse; or
  • vaccinium.

n.b. For the purposes of these Regulations, ‘Sites of Special Scientific Interest’ and ‘Special Areas of Conservation’ are also known as a ‘designated site’.

These Regulations do not apply where land is cultivated as a private or allotment garden.


Prohibition of burning on peat over 40cm deep

A person must not burn specified vegetation on a designated site on peat that is a depth of more than 40cm, unless this is done under a licence issued by the Secretary of State (see further below on how to apply for a licence).

This does not apply to where specified vegetation is to be burned in 1 burning season* in an area which:

  • has a slope of more than 35 degrees; or
  • where more than half or that area is covered by exposed rock or scree.


  • is a single area of 0.5 hectares or less; or
  • is on 2 or more areas within 5 metres of each other with a combined area of 0.5 hectares or less.

*The burning season takes place between:

  • 1st October to 15th April for land within an upland area.
  • 1st November to 31st March for land which is not within an upland area

Applying for a licence to burn

Individuals may apply to the Secretary of State for a licence allowing the burning of specified vegetation.

Applications may be made in relation to burns in more than 1 burning season or calendar year (i.e. for multiple subsequent years).

Applications must be made no less than 28 days before the date (or the first date if multiple applications are made) on which the applicant proposes to burn during the burning season.

Where burning takes places outside the burning season, applications must be made no more than 56 days before the date on which the applicant proposes to burn.

The Secretary of State may grant a licence where it is necessary:

  • for the conservation, enhancement or management of the natural environment for the benefit of present and future generations;
  • for the safety of any person;
  • to reduce the risk of wildlife; or
  • because the specified vegetation is inaccessible to mechanical cutting equipment and any other method of management is impracticable.

The Secretary of State must give notice in writing to the application if they:

  • refuse to issue a licence;
  • issue a licence in respect of only part of the land to which the application relates; or
  • issue a licence subject to any conditions.

Where a licence has been granted for burns in more than 1 burning season or for burns outside the burning season in more than 1 calendar year, the Secretary of State may amend or revoke that licence.

Regulation of burning

Where a licence is granted, a person must not:

  • commence any burning between sunset and sunrise;
  • carry out any burning, unless:
    • there are sufficient people and equipment to control and regulate the burning during the entire period of the burning activity; and
    • all reasonable precautions are taken before burning to prevent injury or damage to any adjacent land or to any person or thing on that land; or
  • leave soil smouldering, where that is connected to the burning activity, for more than 48 hours, unless allowed to do so by the licence.

Burning notices

Natural England may serve a burning notice on the occupier of the land if it is believed that specified vegetation has been burnt in contravention of these Regulations.

Where a burning notice is served, that person is required to notify Natural England of any proposed burning of any specified vegetation, beginning with the date on which the notice is served.

A burning notice has effect until it is revoked by the Secretary of State, withdrawn by Natural England or the notice expires.


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