Having a bonfire produces smoke especially if the material is damp and smoulders. Bonfire emissions may have a direct effect on residents' health, particularly for those suffering from asthma, lung problems or heart conditions.

We receive many complaints about smoke from bonfires. Smoke prevents neighbours from enjoying their gardens, opening windows or hanging out washing. It may also cause a hazard to motorists using nearby roads as a result of reduced visibility.

There are popular misconceptions that there are byelaws to prevent bonfires or that bonfires can only be lit after 6pm, both of these statements are untrue. The law does not stop you having a bonfire, but we can take action against you under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if you cause a statutory nuisance from smoke.

There are more suitable alternatives for the disposal of household and garden waste such as composting or using the Council's green waste collection service.

If you must have a bonfire then you should follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid bonfires at weekends and on public/bank holidays
  • Burn only dry material
  • Never use petrol to light a fire
  • Never leave a lit fire unattended or leave it to smoulder
  • Never burn items or materials such as plastics, foam, painted wood, rubber or furniture
  • Make sure you have a water supply to douse the fire
  • Never light a fire on days when air pollution levels are high in the area - you can check the levels by telephoning 0800 556677 using quick dial code '53' when prompted
  • Do not have a bonfire when it is damp, on windy days, or in the evening.

If the smoke from a bonfire is causing, or likely to cause, a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, then a statutory notice can be served on the person responsible. If the requirements of the notice are ignored, then the person responsible for the bonfire could be prosecuted in the Magistrates' Court and fined up to £5,000.

Alternatives to bonfires

We encourage residents to use the Council's garden waste collection service, composting or disposing of garden waste at one of the Surrey County Council Community Recycling Centres, rather than having bonfires.

If you are bothered by the smoke from a bonfire, speak to your neighbour and explain the problem. It is possible that your neighbour is unaware that they are being inconsiderate. If a neighbourly approach does not have the desired effect, then you can contact us and make a complaint.