Bonfires, smells and lights

If you are experiencing a problem with smoke, ash, dust or light or odour from a commercial premises 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, if after at least 2 weeks you have noticed there is a pattern to the problems, please report the complaint to us using the link above.

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


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 or ash 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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