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Smoke control and bonfires

Smoke control

Richmond Council’s Environmental Health Team is responsible for controlling smoke and bonfires to improve air quality in the borough. We discourage all forms of burning as it causes air pollution, can upset neighbours and can damage health (particularly of children, older people, and those with breathing and heart conditions).

Indoor burning

We encourage all residents to avoid or reduce indoor burning. If you have an exempt stove or an open fireplace please keep it for special occasions and ensure you always burn an authorised dry fuel.

Smoke Control Areas

The whole of the borough has been designated as a smoke control area (SCA) since the first Clean Air Act of 1956. This means for all smoke emitted from a chimney you must use either:

  • An exempt appliance: exempted by the SCA (Exempt Fireplace) Regulations. DEFRA has confirmed that these appliances are capable of burning an unauthorised solid fuel without emitting dark Please note that older appliances approved before 2010 may be considerably less efficient and more polluting than newer models

and/or

  • An authorised fuel: approved by DEFRA under the SCA (Authorised Fuel) Regulations. These fuels have reduced moisture content and are capable of burning in an open fireplace without producing dark smoke. Please note it is an offence to burn unauthorised fuel, not to sell, so please check packaging at point of sale

This means you could have an exempt wood burner burning non-authorised fuel, such as untreated wood; or an open fire burning an authorised dry, smokeless fuel.

The regulations mean that once a fire is established there should be hardly any smoke visible, and certainly no grey or dark smoke. Dry storage of fuel is very important because burning damp fuel may produce smoke. If you are storing outside, please ensure it is completely dry or you will negate attempts to buy the correct dry fuel and it may cause smoke, harmful to yourself and the environment.

The Government has produced an information guide to help you get the most from your fire and fuel, which provides further advice on the procedures to follow when lighting a fire so as to minimise smoke emissions.

Fires in your home are not a cost effective way to heat your house and can negatively impact local air quality. You can get advice on energy efficiency and ways to save money from our website and other organisations including the Energy Saving Trust.

Upcoming changes from 2021

Authorised fuel

From 1 May 2021, it will become an offence to sell, rather than to burn, unauthorised fuel. The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 became law on 7 October 2020. This means that from 1 May 2021 it will become an offense to sell unauthorised fuel. Authorised fuel has been dried and the moisture content reduced, so that when burned, it will produce less smoke and harmful pollutants. Dry storage of fuel is essential.

Multi-fuel stoves and wood burners

From 1 January 2022, all new wood burning and multi-fuel stoves and fireplaces will have to adhere to strict new regulations known as eco-design. This is an efficiency accreditation scheme where wood burners and stoves pass rigorous tests to determine their emission and efficiency outputs. Appliances are given a rating from 1 to 5 based on their emissions and efficiency.

For anyone planning to install, replace or retrofit a wood burner in this borough, we encourage you to choose appliances with a rating of 4 or 5. From 2022 the minimum rating allowed in Smoke Control Areas (SCA) will be Level 3 because these appliances meet eco-design standards. The whole of our borough is a SCA.

Bonfires

We strongly encourage you not to have bonfires because smoke from bonfires is harmful to health, especially for people with breathing difficulties, including those with or recovering from coronavirus. You are encouraged to use our green waste collection service or compost your garden waste at home.

Domestic bonfires

Although there are no byelaws covering bonfires in the borough, if a bonfire is considered to be a statutory nuisance the council could take formal action. Having a bonfire is unnecessary and can affect neighbours as well as contributing to poor air quality. If you do have a bonfire, please follow our guidance on the precautions you should take.

There are environmentally friendly ways of disposing of garden waste and household items. Rather than causing unnecessary pollution by burning items and waste, you can:

Bonfires on allotments

Bonfires are not permitted at any time on Council allotments. Information about allotments including the terms and conditions for plot holders is given on our Allotments page.

Bonfires are discouraged on private allotments. Please compost your waste, take it home or take it to Townmead Reuse and Recycling Centre.

Commercial waste and bonfires

Commercial waste must not be disposed of by burning.

Contractors carrying out work at your property must not use bonfires to burn waste and you must ensure that they arrange for proper disposal of waste from your property.

Please see our commercial bonfires page for more information.

Barbecues in public places

Barbecues are not permitted at any time in any Council or Royal park in the borough. Please always check the restrictions for other open public spaces owned or managed by private organisations, such as Marble Hill House Park (English Heritage), Kew Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens) and Hampton Court Palace Grounds (Historic Royal Palaces).

Tobacco Smoking

From 1 July 2007, virtually all enclosed public places in England became smoke-free. The total ban on smoking extends to all enclosed public areas, with a few designated exceptions. Private dwellings do not have to be smoke-free.

Please see our Smoke-free legislation page for more details.

Report a problem

You can report a smoke or bonfire problem via a form on our website where you can also read our statutory nuisance guidance.

If smoke from a bonfire is causing a danger to traffic please contact the police. If you feel that the bonfire is a danger to people and property you should call the fire brigade. The emergency services number is 999.

Updated: 23 March 2021