Skip to main contentAccessibility Statement

Smoke pollution

We have powers to deal with smoke nuisance from any bonfire and for dark smoke offences on commercial and industrial premises.

For a bonfire to be a legal nuisance we would consider the following:

  • how much smoke is being created and does it affect nearby properties?
  • what is being burnt? - the type of material being burned affects how much smoke is being produced/ how noxious the fumes from the smoke are
  • how often do the bonfires occur? A single bonfire is unlikely to be a nuisance even though it may cause annoyance to one or more neighbours

If a bonfire gets out of hand and becomes dangerous call 999 and ask for the Fire Service immediately.

Find out where there is a smoke control area

A significant proportion of Northampton Town is in a smoke control area (SCA). If you want to find out if you live in an SCA you can use the Defra mapping system.

The maps show those areas that are within SCAs as shaded and those outside are displayed in the standard mapping format.

We offer this advice to minimise the impact that bonfires can have on neighbouring properties. However with the current Coronavirus pandemic we would strongly urge that bonfires are not lit at this time. Coronavirus is a respiratory disease and people’s breathing could be worsened due to smoke inhalation. Smoke can pose a risk to people’s health, so avoiding fires will reduce the chance of people having their airways affected and avoid further burden on the NHS.

If a bonfire is a necessity then please follow the guidelines:

  • when lighting a bonfire, only burn dry material
  • avoid burning damp vegetation as it produces large volumes of smoke and smoulders for long periods of time
  • before having a bonfire, let your neighbours know. This gives them an opportunity to shut their windows and bring any washing indoors
  • never burn household rubbish, rubber tyres, anything containing plastic, painted materials, plywood and chipboard, foam or paint
  • never use old engine oil, meths or petrol to light the fire or encourage it
  • avoid lighting a fire in unsuitable weather conditions - smoke hangs in the air on damp, still days and in the evening. If it is windy, smoke may be blown into neighbours gardens and across roads
  • never leave the fire unattended or leave it to smoulder - put it out

If a bonfire held on commercial or industrial premises gives rise to dark smoke an offence is committed. The occupier of the land and the person who caused or permitted the smoke can be taken to court and may be fined.

Using wood and coal for home heating can be a cost effective way of heating your home and providing hot water. However we can investigate complaints about smoke from domestic chimneys. It is possible to reduce environmental and health impacts whilst maximising efficiency, reducing maintenance costs and keeping your chimney in a better condition by undertaking certain measures

Legislation changes for purchasing house coal and wet wood came into force in May 2021 to help cut air pollution.

Chimney height, new furnaces and dust arrestment plant

Unless the height of the chimney has been approved by us and any conditions attached to approval adhered to, it is an offence to cause or knowingly permit a boiler/furnace to be used to:

  • burn pulverised fuel
  • burn at a rate of 45.4 kg or more an hour any other solid matter
  • burn at a rate equivalent to 366.4 kW or more any liquid or gaseous matter

Please note that any new boiler, chimney or arrestment plant may require planning permission. If planning permission is required you should submit a planning application alongside your application.

It is an offence to cause or permit the emission of dark smoke from a chimney or flue at an industrial or trade premises. This also applies to burning materials on a site that you own or a site where you are working such as a building or demolition site or land used for commercial agriculture or horticulture.

It is not necessary for us to have witnessed the emissions of dark smoke to take action against you: evidence of the burning of materials that potentially give rise to dark smoke is sufficient. This way the law aims to stop people creating dark smoke at night and using the lack of visual evidence as a defence.

Dark smoke offences do not apply to domestic premises "except where trade or industrial waste is burnt on domestic premises". However we all have a duty of care to ensure our waste is disposed of properly.

Last updated 13 October 2023