Bonfires, smells and lights

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In view of the latest Government advice regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Pollution Team are currently unable to make personal visits. Officer constraints also mean it is not possible to respond to complaints in the usual way. We are, therefore, asking for our residents to be considerate during these unusual times and while it is not illegal, to please refrain from burning your garden waste.

Garden waste collections are taking place as normal, so rather than burning, why not sign up for a garden waste collection

The COVID-19 position is changing rapidly and we will update this page when new procedures are in place. 

For further information, please see our Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.

If you are experiencing a problem with smoke, noise, smells, dust or light you can report them to us.

For us to take action a problem needs to be a ‘statutory nuisance’ which means it happens more than once, occurs over a period of time and affects you on your own property/premises.

We cannot investigate one-off occurrences.

If you experience a problem:

  1. Try to find out where it’s coming from and if possible, either discuss the problem with the property owner or write a polite letter (remember to keep a copy).
  2. If there is no improvement, you will need to gather evidence to support your case. Use the nuisance record sheets (Bonfire or Noise) to record incidences - photos/videos are always useful.
  3. Lastly, once you have 3 or more weeks evidence you can register your complaint.

We will then make contact with the person/business being complained about and begin an investigation. Your evidence can be submitted to court during this process and you may also need to attend. If a 'statutory nuisance' is confirmed then an abatement notice preventing further nuisance can be served.


The Law

A common misconception is that there are byelaws that prevent garden bonfires or that stipulate they can only be lit after 6pm. These are both untrue. However, legal action can be taken by the Council if the smoke, ash or smell produced from a bonfire causes a statutory nuisance.


Elmbridge receives many complaints about smoke from bonfires. They can cause inconvenience and have a negative effect on the environment.  We have produced some guidelines to follow if you are considering having a bonfire:

  • only burn dry material
  • never burn rubber, household rubbish or anything which contains plastic, foam or paint
  • never use petrol, paraffin, diesel or lighter fluid to start the fire
  • avoid burning on very windy days, damp or still weather conditions or when pollution levels are very high
  • never leave a bonfire unattended


Help improve air quality in the borough and prevent the inconvenience and nuisance that burning can cause. Please think twice before you light up!


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