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Rules for chimneys, bonfires, open fires and wood burning stoves

On this page you can find out what the rules are if you live in a smoke control area.

The borough of Lewisham is a smoke control area. This means you can’t emit smoke from a chimney unless you’re burning an authorised fuel or using an exempt appliance.

Rules for open fires and wood burning stoves

If you have an open fire, furnace or boiler you must use smokeless fuels, such as fire logs or briquettes, or use an exempt appliance. If you already have or want to buy a wood burning stove then you must use an exempt appliance

It is important to remember that wood burning stoves emit high levels of particulate matter (PM) which is one of the causes of increased pollution. Burning wet, seasoned, or dry wood releases large amounts of pollutants and has a knock-on impact on respiratory health.

Reducing air pollution through less wood burn can help reduce the contribution air pollution has on the levels of COVID-19 infection rates.  

Find out how you can burn wood safely in order to reduce environmental and health risks.

Rules for chimneys, furnaces and boilers

In a smoke control area, it is an offence to produce smoke from a chimney, furnace or boiler.

However, there is a list of exempt appliances and approved fuels.

Rules for bonfires

The law on domestic bonfires in England and Wales is very simple: there isn’t one; there is, however, a law against any subsequent nuisance that having one might cause. As the Government states:

You can’t get rid of household waste if it will cause pollution or be prejudicial to health. This includes burning it.

However, the legal principle is that any nuisance must usually happen on a regular basis to be considered so:

Lewisham council can issue an ‘abatement notice’ if a neighbours bonfire is causing a nuisance. A bonfire must happen frequently to be considered a nuisance.

Your neighbour can be fined up to £5,000 if they don’t comply with the terms of the notice.

So, the occasional bonfire should be fine as long as you abide by the following two points:

  • You must make sure that the smoke from your bonfire doesn’t blow across a road and so cause danger to the traffic on it, also make sure it doesn’t cause a nuisance to neighbouring properties on a regular/frequent basis.
  • You don’t burn anything that could cause pollution or be prejudicial to health. That rules out burning anything like plastic, rubber, old engine oil, and anything else that might produce poisonous fumes. Burning items like this won’t just harm your health and that of anyone else around you, it is also likely to be a criminal offence.

The rules around bonfires have not changed during lockdown, but we advise people not to light them, they are not illegal to have providing the points above are followed and they do not occur on a regular/frequent basis.

If you decide you would still like to complain about a neighbours bonfire and the points raised above are not being adhered to, and that this is occurring on a regular/frequent basis, please contact the Safer Communities Service on the details below.

Please note when making a complaint you must provide the address of the property allegedly causing the nuisance for us to action your complaint.

Please report incidents via the Lewisham council online form found by following the link below.  

Report a bonfire 

Alternatives to bonfires

Look at our rubbish and recycling pages for advice on how to dispose of waste in other ways.


Safer Communities Service