We encourage people not to have bonfires causing air pollution.
Please do not light bonfires in your gardens and create excessive smoke.
Garden fires can be dangerous and get out of control. Our emergency services are under pressure during the coronavirus pandemic. Please, do not light fires and add to that pressure.
Other ways to dispose of garden waste
- Composting your garden waste
- Making leaf mould from the autumn leaf fall
- Re-using branches from trees to make a log pile or use as stakes for climbing plants
- Our garden waste collection service offers fortnightly collections of your domestic garden waste (with exceptions over the Christmas period).
- Take it to you local tip (Community Recycling Centre). Find out more at: www.surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling
The law on bonfires
- There are no laws prohibiting you having a garden bonfire or burning material on a fire pit, or when they can be lit. However, you must not cause a statutory nuisance to others. A quick burning bonfire that does not emit smoke is unlikely to cause problems. Other bonfires giving rise to smoke are likely to cause problems.
- Sometimes a bonfire may be the most practical way to dispose of some materials such as diseased plant material but you must not cause a statutory nuisance, please consider your neighbours.
- If you have been affected by smoke and/or ash from a bonfire we can investigate the matter. A one-off bonfire would not normally cause a statutory nuisance, but regular bonfires giving rise to smoke can cause a statutory nuisance and we can take enforcement action.
- It is an offence to dispose of domestic waste in such a way that is likely to cause pollution or harm to human health. This would include the burning of plastics, rubber or painted and treated materials, which can generate poisonous fumes.
- Defra guidance on outdoor burning: Reducing air pollution from outdoor burning (defra.gov.uk)
Additional laws for businesses
It is an offence to burn waste material giving rise to dark smoke in connection with a commercial activity, either at the business premises or if the waste is taken elsewhere to burn. Other legislation is enforced by the Environment Agency as all businesses have a duty of care to dispose of their waste in an appropriate manner.
Report a bonfire problem
Talk to your neighbour first
If you are being disturbed by smoke please speak to your neighbour and explain the problem, your neighbour may not be aware of the effects the bonfire is having.
We have no power to deal with occasional bonfires.
We can issue a notice requiring someone not to cause a statutory nuisance. Failure to comply with an abatement notice is a criminal offence and can result in a prosecution via a Magistrates' Court, with a potentially unlimited fine imposed on those responsible.
Complete the online bonfire complaint form
How is a complaint handled?
- An officer will investigate your complaint and try to deal with the problem by visiting or sending a letter to notify your neighbour of the disturbance being caused. We will also ask you to keep a diary to record dates and times of your neighbour's fires and how they are affecting you. This is crucial information as it will allow us to establish if the circumstances are serious enough to possibly be a statutory nuisance.
- The officer will issue an abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, if they consider a statutory nuisance is being caused.
- To be considered a statutory nuisance, bonfires usually need to be a regular occurrence and causing serious interference with your wellbeing. If the bonfire is a one-off, or you are troubled by bonfires from different neighbours, each only burning occasionally, enforcement action would be difficult to pursue.
- The abatement notice may mean your neighbour must stop having bonfires completely and if this is not complied with then they could face a fine.
- The Environmental Protection Act 1990 also allows you to take your own private action in the magistrates' court. The Environmental Health department has further information on how to undertake such action if you choose to pursue this.