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Smoke and fire

Burning waste

In most situations, burning of waste is against the law. The burning leaflet outlines the laws and exemptions concerning the burning of waste.

Burning Leaflet

Smoke control areas

Plymouth does not have any designated smoke control areas. This means there is no requirement for any solid fuel fires or appliances within Plymouth to be exempted under the Clean Air Act or for only authorised smokeless fuels to be used.

Smoke complaints

Bonfires, wood burners and other similar appliances can cause smoke and odour. This may cause annoyance for your neighbours as well as potentially increasing air pollution which can affect your health.

Environmental Health can investigate complaints of smoke, fumes and gases under the remit of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to determine whether a statutory nuisance exists. Should a nuisance be proven, the Council has powers to ensure that the problem is reduced or stopped.

If a neighbour is creating smoke which you believe is causing a nuisance, speak to them about it first. Smoke (including bonfires) must happen frequently to be considered a nuisance and must be having a material impact on the use and enjoyment of your property. You can report this using the button below or by calling us on 01752 668000.

Please don't burn household waste. You can get rid of your rubbish responsibly by taking it to a recycling centre or by composting it.

Domestic wood burning stoves

There is an increasing concern amongst air quality and health experts about the impact that wood-burning stoves and open fireplaces can have on indoor and outdoor air pollution and your health especially if not used correctly, for example by burning the incorrect fuel (such as painted or treated wood waste) or using damp/wet wood that has not been properly dried. It is estimated that burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves makes up 38% of the UK’s primary emissions of PM2.5 (Clean Air Strategy). As a result, the Government has started introducing new controls with restrictions on the sale of polluting fuels, with additional measures planned.

People with log burners and open fires can still use them, but will be required to buy cleaner alternative fuels – if they are not already – such as dry wood and manufactured solid fuels which produce less smoke. Both of these cleaner options are just as easy to source and more efficient to burn, making them more cost effective. Burning dry wood also produces more heat and less soot than wet wood and can reduce emissions by up to 50%.

In order to prevent the likelihood of smoke related complaints, it is recommended that exempted appliances are installed and all smokeless fuel to be used where possible. Further information including a list of exempt appliances and authorised fuels are available at: UK Smoke Control Areas - Information 

Wood burners checklist


Follow the advice on the Burnright website

Have the appliance installed by a professional - if you do it yourself then be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions

Have the chimney checked and swept before installation, installing a liner if necessary (otherwise the fumes won't go up the chimney properly). Some properties may need building regulations approval, depending on the appliances and if works need doing to the chimney.

Make sure the wood burner is certified for use in the UK.

Make sure you burn the manufacturer recommended fuel. This could include wood pellets or well-seasoned, clean, dry fuel. Damp or unseasoned wood will smoke excessively.

Use a fuel supplier approved under the Woodsure Certification Scheme. 

Go outside regularly and check what is coming out of the chimney. After 10 minutes the smoke should be clear. A fire that is burning brightly without visible smoke is a sign of good combustion. Smouldering fires are the worst polluters because they burn at a temperature too low for efficient combustion.


Install without checking the chimney first, many chimneys are capped or blocked off if they haven't been used for years.

Buy off the internet without checking that the appliance is suitable for use in the UK - what may work in the forests of Scandinavia may not be suited to a terraced house in Plymouth!

Burn pallets, wet or contaminated wood (anything that might have paint or varnish on it could damage the burner and cause dark smoke; this is an offence and could lead to a fine).

Fumes and smoke from wood burners can affect people's health and breathing - those, especially at risk, are children, pregnant women and the elderly. People with asthma or existing respiratory or chest conditions may be affected as very fine particles can penetrate deep into the lungs.

It is important to know where fuel, logs and wood pellets are being sourced from when considering the eco-credentials of the wood burner. Imported fuels will have a significant environmental impact.

Do not burn household waste, Defra have produced a list of authorised fuels Authorised/Certified Fuels for England.

For further advice, please view Defra’s guide to ‘open fires and wood burning stoves’.