Information about bonfires in Surrey Heath.

Domestic Bonfires

SHBC has requested residents not to have bonfires, as they can release smoke, odour and ash, cause neighbour disputes, and potentially create a fire hazard.

As an alternative, garden waste can be disposed of via the Garden Waste Collection Service(external link).

Garden waste can also be composed, visit Surrey Heath Environment’s Partnership website for more information on
composting Surrey Environment Partnership(external link) For further info on bulky item collection etc., please visit the Recycling & Waste page.

It is not illegal to have bonfires, but SHBC can use statutory powers to stop bonfires that are causing a nuisance. A nuisance is caused when smoke detracts from people enjoying their gardens, prevents them opening windows or hanging out washing or obscures visibility in the area or on roads.

For the smoke to be considered as a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises 
  • Injure health or be likely to injure health

A quick burning and smokeless bonfire, or a one-off bonfire would not ordinarily cause a statutory nuisance. However, certain items should not be put on a bonfire as they could release harmful fumes, such as plastics, rubber, materials with coating or  paint.

If a statutory nuisance is happening, has happened or will happen, the Council could serve an abatement notice to stop or restrict the smoke.

Report a bonfire problem to sends email)

Bonfire considerations

If you must light a bonfire, the following points must be taken into account before doing so:

  • Burn only dry material - this limits the risk of smoke nuisance
  • Do not burn household rubbish
  • Do not burn rubber tyres
  • Do not use petrol or oil to light a fire
  • Do not light a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening
  • Never burn when the wind will carry smoke over roads or other people’s property. You could be liable for injury or damage caused
  • Avoid burning at weekends and on bank holidays when your neighbours have a right to enjoy their gardens
  • Never leave a fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - douse it with water if necessary.

Commercial bonfires

Commercial waste and industrial waste shall be managed and disposed of properly under Waste Duty of Care. Burning of commercial and industrial waste is an offence, unless specifically permitted or exempted. Exemption and Permit must be sought from the Environment Agency, and restrictions on the type, quantity, burning conditions, etc must be followed. In addition, burning under Exemption must not put human health in danger or cause harm to the environment, including not causing a nuisance through noise and odour. Furthermore, if these bonfires cause dark smoke, the Council may investigate under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Air Act 1993. On conviction, this could lead to monetary penalties and/or imprisonment.