Burning waste produces smoke that contains pollutants that can have damaging health effects and cause a nuisance to people living nearby.
There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are laws to deal with the nuisance they can cause and there are also restrictions on what you are allowed to burn. You cannot get rid of household waste if it will cause pollution or harm people's health and this includes burning it. Environmental Protection Act 1990.
However, we encourage all residents to be considerate of their local communities and the environment by not having bonfires and using clean fuel for domestic heating.
This is even more important in the current situation where most people are confined to their homes and gardens and cannot go out to escape the smoke from a neighbour's fire.
Before you have a bonfire, please consider the more environmentally friendly ways to dispose of your waste, either in your regular household collections, or if its garden waste, by creating a compost area in your garden.
If you are affected regularly by smoke in your home and/or garden you can report this to us.
Smoke nuisance from Chimneys
Mole Valley is not a smoke control area and therefore residents are able to use the heating fuel and equipment of their choice.
However, we do recommend that residents use cleaner fuels in a cleaner appliance installed by a competent person, as this will benefit air quality by reducing the amount of emitted particulate matter.
If you need to burn solid fuels to heat your home, choosing what you burn and how you burn it can make a big difference to the pollution it creates. We recommend the following steps to residents.
- Consider burning less
- Buy 'Ready to Burn' fuel
- Season freshly chopped wood before burning
- If you use House Coal, use approved smokeless fuels instead - such as anthracite or smokeless coals
- Do not burn treated waste wood (eg old furniture) or household rubbish
- Regularly maintain and service your stove (e.g. annually)
- Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year)
- Preferably buy new equipment e.g. an oven, stove or wood burner, that is suitable for use in a smoke control area (these are called Exempt Appliances), as this helps minimise the amount of air pollution produced which has health benefits both for the owner and also all residents within the borough
Smoke nuisance from bonfires
Having a garden bonfire almost anywhere in the Mole Valley is likely to be seen as anti-social by many residents. Bonfires are also not the best environmental option and produce pollutants that are damaging to human health. There are always more responsible alternatives than burning garden waste.
What's wrong with a bonfire?
- It can cause a nuisance to neighbours from smoke and smells. Each year the Council's Environmental Health and Licensing department deals with over 100 complaints about garden bonfires
- Fires can spread from garden bonfires to fences, trees and property
- Garden bonfires create dioxins and other toxic pollutants
- Smoke and smells from bonfires can aggravate respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis and affect those with heart complaints
- Bonfires produce carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming
- Animals often take shelter in piles of garden waste, such as prepared bonfires
Report nuisance from regular bonfires
It is an offence to cause a statutory nuisance from regular bonfires. Persistent offenders could be prosecuted by the Council and be fined up to £5000.
How to get rid of your rubbish
Rather than burning your rubbish in a bonfire, use the following options to dispose of it:
- Take your rubbish to your nearest Community recycling centre
- If you need to get rid of garden waste regularly, sign up to our garden waste service
Bonfires on commercial sites
Open burning on commercial sites is generally prohibited by Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, enforced by the Environment Agency. However, the burning of clean wood on demolition sites is exempt from licensing, provided the wood is produced as a result of demolition work and is burned on the land where it is produced. There is a similar exemption for tree waste from landscape maintenance. However, if such burning is causing a statutory smoke nuisance to local residents, we can take action to ensure the nuisance is abated.
You can report issues with bonfires on commercial property.
Under the Clean Air Act 1993, it is an offence to cause or permit emissions of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises (includes building and demolition). Burning can be deemed to have taken place (without witnessing a bonfire) if the materials that have been burnt on the premises are likely to give rise to dark smoke, e.g. tyres, plastic, paint, etc. Cable burning is also a specific offence unless authorised