UK Firework Laws & Regulations
A guide to the main firework laws and legislation in the UK.
A number of important laws and regulations apply to fireworks, their use and their storage. In this article I will run through the main ones which apply to you as a member of the public.
Note: UK firework laws summarised here apply in the most part only to England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has a more restrictive set of laws which are not covered here. Scotland introduced some tightening of firework laws at the end of June 2021 and again in June 2022 which are noted where applicable and I have added a new section below to discuss this.
This section was last updated on 5 July 2023.
Table of contents:
Firework laws summary for members of the public
- You need to be aged 18 or older to buy fireworks.
- You can buy and use fireworks on any day of the year, not just around Bonfire Night.
- You must let your fireworks off by 11pm (some exceptions apply, see below).
- You do not need any training or a licence to buy and use fireworks in England, Scotland and Wales.
- You must let your fireworks off on private ground or where you have permission to do so; never in the street.
- It is illegal to be in possession of – or let off – fireworks, smokes or flares at a football match.
- New Scottish Laws relating to licensing, training and restrictive use dates are not yet all in force (see below).
Buying fireworks laws
It is legal in the UK for consumers to purchase fireworks at any time of the year but you must be aged 18 or older to buy most types of firework.
Fireworks can be purchased in person at a shop or ordered online for delivery. Fireworks can only be shipped using a specialist explosives courier or by the retailer’s own vans; it is illegal to send fireworks through the normal postal system.
It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in a public place.
Specialist firework shops apply and pay for a licence to sell fireworks all year round. Everyone else – such as supermarkets – only sells fireworks in restricted selling periods in the run-up to Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve.
In Scotland fireworks can now only be sold to you between 7am and 6pm, unless you are buying on behalf of a community or public display or similar, or live outside of Scotland. Also in Scotland, the maximum amount of fireworks which can be sold at any one time is 5kg NEC (net explosive content; this is not the same as the overall weight of the fireworks) unless, again, you are buying on behalf of a community or public display or similar, or live outside of Scotland.
Fireworks available to the general public
You can only purchase fireworks intended for use by the general public. These will be classified as Category F2 (with a safety distance to spectators of at least 8m and often 15m or 20m) or Category F3 (25m safety distance).
All fireworks on sale to the public must also conform to rigorous safety standards and be marked as CE compliant. In addition to maximum permitted amounts of explosives, consumer fireworks must also not exceed 120db in sound.
Note: The CE classification has replaced the old British Standards BS7114 of garden (Category 2) and display (Category 3) fireworks. It is now illegal for retailers to sell fireworks classified under the old BS7114 standards.
For more information please see the Firework Categories article.
Fireworks marked as Category F4 are for use by professionals only. Note that there is no training or licence available in the UK that entitles any member of the public to buy or use Category F4 fireworks.
Fireworks are further classified as 1.3G or 1.4G. This relates to the “hazard” of the firework and has implications on storage if you are buying a lot of fireworks and storing them for a long period of time. See the 1.3G or 1.4G Fireworks? article for further guidance on this hazard classification; storage rules are summarised below.
Certain fireworks which are legal elsewhere in Europe, such as bangers, are outlawed in the UK. Legislation was also passed some time ago banning items such as airbombs, aerial shells and jumping jacks.
Letting fireworks off laws
It is legal in the UK for consumers to let fireworks off at any time of the year, including away from the seasonal Bonfire Night selling periods and on any day of the week.
However, you must not let fireworks off after 11pm at night.
There are four exceptions to the 11pm curfew:
Bonfire Night itself (November 5th): Not after midnight.
New Year’s Eve (December 31st): Not after 1am.
Diwali (varies, 2023 date is 12th November*): Not after 1am.
Chinese New Year (varies, 2024 date is 10th February*): Not after 1am.
Note: These curfews also apply to professionally fired shows.
* Dates as per a Google search on these events; some information seems conflicting with multiple dates shown from different sources, so double-check before firing!
In Scotland you must not let fireworks off before 6pm either.
You must let your fireworks off in your own garden or on land you have permission to fire from. It is illegal to let fireworks off in a public place, such as in the street or a park.
Beaches remain somewhat difficult to advise on because depending on who owns the land it could either be a public or private place. Whether it’s legal to let fireworks off on a beach is therefore hard to answer in a summary of the laws. Caution is advised away from “traditional” times where the public might let fireworks off on a beach en-masse, such as New Year’s Eve, and be aware that you could be prosecuted under other laws such as public disorder or littering. Even if you determine that a particular part of a beach is privately owned you would still, technically, need the owner’s permission to fire on it. When I canvassed my fellow enthusiasts on this exact issue, no definitive answer could be agreed but the consensus was to assume it’s not legal and to be careful fireworks are not mistaken for distress flares.
It is not a legal requirement to notify neighbours about your display but I recommend that you do. See my Responsible Fireworks Use article for more help.
Consumers do not need any kind of training in order to buy or use fireworks. Neither is there any kind of licensing requirement in England, Scotland or Wales (different laws, including the requirement of a licence, may apply in Northern Ireland). Scotland is intending to bring in a licence requirement for members of the public to buy fireworks, I will update this page should this become law.
Note that the spectator safety distances stated on consumer fireworks are exactly that; required distances from the fireworks to the audience, not to structures such as buildings, sheds and so on.
If your display involves the public as spectators you may want to look into insurance to cover yourself in case of an accident. The underwriters may request that any firers are trained. There is currently no formal or recognised fireworks training in the UK for members of the public however many larger retailers run in-house training for their customers.
Laws and legal limits for storing fireworks
Different rules apply depending on whether the fireworks are classified as 1.3G or 1.4G (your retailer will confirm the classification and it is also printed on the side of outer cartons where the firework is sold in its own box).
Storage weight limits relate to the amount of explosives that fireworks contain, known as the Net Explosive Content (abbreviated to NEC), and not their overall weight including packaging. A firework weighing 10kg overall might only have 1kg NEC, as an example.
Where a mixture of 1.3G and 1.4G fireworks are stored, the entire quantity of fireworks is treated as if they were all 1.3G, the most hazardous of the two classifications.
If you are buying fireworks to let off that same day or evening, you are not subject to any storage limits. Otherwise, restrictions apply on overall NEC amounts and the amount of time you can store them. The full details are:
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 50kg NEC – store for up to 21 consecutive days provided they are not for sale or use at work.
Up to 250kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 100kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
Note: Technically, storage is limited by the “hazard type” of the fireworks which is HT3 or HT4. However as there is usually a direct correlation of HT3=1.3G and HT4=1.4G, it is simpler to use that classification to determine storage limits.
I have further information on safe fireworks storage and the implications of the above limits in my Safe Fireworks Storage article.
Fireworks legislation can and does change from time to time. Whilst I try and keep this page updated and accurate, I have to point out that I am a hobbyist and not a solicitor. I accept no responsibility for any incorrect or incomplete information. Please also note this article is based on the non-commercial use of fireworks by members of the public. Additional legislation will apply to commercial operators or those selling fireworks.
Fuse legality and fusing fireworks laws
Consumers can buy additional fuse to link or extend their fireworks. However, some types of fuse are only intended for professionals and are no longer sold to the public.
It is understood to be legal for members of the public to add additional fuse to their fireworks, to modify a firework’s fuse or use fuse to link multiple fireworks together, without requiring any form of licensing. The law, The Explosive Regulations 2014 (part 2-6), states the exception to needing a licence as follows:
“the preparation, assembly, disassembly and fusing of firework displays at the place of intended use;”
Note the term “place of intended use”. In practice this means you’re fine working with fuse at home if you’re having a display in your garden. If your display is elsewhere you should only carry out fusing modifications on site, for example when you are setting up. The safest approach is to set out your fireworks ready to fire (i.e. securing them) in their positions and then do your fusing last.
Scottish Firework Law Amendments 2021
At the end of June 2021, amendments which were made to Scottish Firework laws came into force as follows, subject to the exceptions noted:
- Fireworks can only be sold between 7am and 6pm.
- You can only let fireworks off between 6pm and 11pm (previous exceptions for November 5th and NYE for example, still apply).
- You can only buy up to 5kg NEC (net explosive content) at a time.
Exceptions are in place to allow professional display operators and those organising public displays to buy fireworks outside of those times and without the 5kg restriction. The law notes the exception is for someone: “who is the organiser of a public fireworks display and the fireworks in question are to be used for the purposes of putting on a public fireworks display on behalf of a charitable, religious, youth, recreational, community, political or similar organisation.”
In essence then, members of the public in Scotland are limited to buying up to 5kg NEC of fireworks at any one time but if you are organising a public display (such as for your local community or similar) you should be able to carry on as before. The caveat being at the time of writing no test cases have come to light to confirm how the law will be applied in practice.
These new restrictions do not apply if you live outside of Scotland.
Note that these are amendments to the current UK laws stated above, so the previous rules still apply, for example being able to let fireworks off until midnight on November 5th and 1am on New Year’s Eve.
Scottish Firework Law Amendments 2022
In June 2022, Scotland’s parliament passed the new Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill. This legislation is the most significant change to UK fireworks law in recent years and will bring in major changes to how the Scottish public can buy and use consumer fireworks. Amongst other things, it proposes:
- Restricted dates when the public can buy and use fireworks (a short period in April, around Bonfire Night, New Year’s Eve and also Diwali and Chinese New Year). This is different to the laws in England and Wales which permit all-year firework use.
- The requirement of a licence for the purchase and use of F2 and F3 fireworks. The public are likely to need to pay for this and to complete an online course. There is no licensing requirement in England and Wales.
- The implementation of “no firework zones” for problem ares which will ban fireworks use – consumer or professional – outright unless for an authorised public display or event.
These laws will have a major impact on retail fireworks in Scotland (with proposals to compensate the Scottish firework retailers that will be put out of business). At the time of writing (May 2023) it is still not yet clear when the different elements of these new laws will come into force. The latest news is that firework control zones could come into play for Bonfire Night 2023 but the licensing scheme has been put back to 2024. I will update this page with any significant developments if they happen. If you live in Scotland, your local fireworks retailer is likely to know about any legal changes before I do.
Flares, smokes, fireworks and football matches
It is illegal to let off fireworks, flares or smoke bombs at football matches in the UK. It is also illegal to simply be in possession of them (even if you don’t let them off) or to try and gain entry into a football ground whilst in possession of them, as defined in the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985.
Be warned: Smoke effects, smoke bombs and handheld smokes, regardless of how innocuous they seem, are treated by the authorities with the same strictness as flares or fireworks. Regardless of how widespread their use is (particularly abroad), being caught in possession of these items at a football match in the UK could result in a criminal record and a prison sentence.
Firework laws FAQ
In the UK you need to be aged 18 or over to buy most types of firework.
Yes, in the UK you can let fireworks off on any day of the week and at any time of year, even away from Bonfire Night or New Year's Eve.
You need to finish letting off your fireworks by 11pm at the latest; it is illegal to let fireworks off after this, unless it's November 5th (midnight), New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year or Diwali (1am). In Scotland you must also not let fireworks off before 6pm either.
Yes in the UK you can buy fireworks all year around. It is legal to buy and use them on any day of the year. However, only retailers with a year-long licence are allowed to sell fireworks away from the Bonfire Night and New Year's Eve periods.
It is not a legal requirement in England, Scotland and Wales for a member of the public to need training to buy and use fireworks at home. However those arranging a public display with insurance may need to undertake some training to satisfy the underwriters.
It is not a legal requirement in England, Scotland and Wales for a member of the public to need a licence to buy or use fireworks at home.
You can't, there is no such thing as a licence for a member of the public to use professional fireworks despite persistent urban myths to the contrary. Pro fireworks are only available to bona-fide professional display companies.
No, it is illegal to let fireworks off in a public place such as the street or in a park.
It's complicated. If it's a public beach then no, it would be illegal to let fireworks off in a public place. If it's a private beach you would need permission of the land owner. It's best to assume you cannot unless you very clearly have permission to do so.
There are no laws relating to fireworks use for the general public near to airports, since consumer fireworks do not reach the same heights as professional fireworks.
Yes. Fireworks sold to the general public in the UK (Cat F2 and Cat F3) must not exceed 120db.
In England, Scotland and Wales there are a number of fireworks which are illegal to sell to the public. These include aerial shells, bangers, Chinese crackers, mini or bottle rockets, jumping jacks and anything with an "erratic flight". Limits also apply to the maximum tube size and overall amount of gunpowder.
Bringing fireworks back to the UK from abroad would involve transporting them by sea or air which is almost certainly illegal as they are classed as explosives. In addition you may find yourself in possession of fireworks banned in the UK. The advice therefore is not to try this.
It is illegal to send fireworks in the post (and dangerous), including most sparklers, indoor fireworks and novelty items. Mail order firework websites ship their fireworks using a licensed courier or deliver themselves using their own vans.
It depends on how long you want to store them and how many you have. You can store an unlimited amount for up to 24 hours so if you're buying for a display that night you don't need to worry about limits. Beyond that it's a sliding scale. See my storage guides above for help.
It depends on the quantity (net explosive content) and type (1.4G or 1.3G). You can store under 5kg NEC for as long as you like. Over 5Kg and limits apply, e.g. up to 21 days for up to 50kg NEC 1.4G; see my storage guides above for more help on every permutation.
Currently (June 2022) they are the same as for England and Wales except for: 1. Fireworks must not be sold after 6pm and must not be let off before 6pm. 2. You can only buy up to 5kg maximum explosive content in one transaction. Exceptions include if you're organising a community event or live outside of Scotland. New laws (June 2022) relating to licensing and restricted use dates are yet to come into force.
Not yet. At the time of writing (June 2022) Scotland has only just passed new laws requiring the public to buy a licence to use fireworks but the timetable for this to come into effect is unknown. Until then it's business as usual.
No. It is illegal in the UK to be in possession of smoke effects - such as smoke bombs or handheld smokes - at a football match and illegal to try and gain entry to a match whilst in possession. And of course, illegal to let off smokes, flares or fireworks at a football match.
No. It is illegal in the UK to be in possession of flares - whether distress flares or firework flares - at a football match and illegal to try and gain entry to a match whilst in possession. And of course, illegal to let off smokes, flares or fireworks at a football match.
No. It is illegal in the UK to be in possession of fireworks (including smokes and flares) at a football match; to try and gain entry to a stadium in possession of these; or to let these off during a match.
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 are available to read online here:
New Scottish firework law amendments can be found here:
The Pyrotechnic Articles Safety Regulations 2010 are available to read online here:
The Explosives Regulations 2014 are available to read online here:
And the Explosives Act 1875 (still in force and updated) is available to read online here:
The Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc.) Act 1985 which covers flares, smokes and fireworks at football matches:
The new (June 2022) Scottish firework laws are here:
Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill. Useful explanatory information can be found here.
If you have any questions about firework laws and regulations I recommend you speak to your local all-year fireworks shop if you have one near you, as owners of such businesses are usually pretty clued-up about the law.
For very detailed, legally binding or commercially important advice (for example if you intend to import or sell fireworks) I recommend employing a specialist fireworks consultant. A printed publication called Fireworks Magazine is a good place to source such people.