How to report air and smoke pollution, how we deal with your complaints, smoke control areas and advice on burning solid fuel.
You can report air pollution online
Report air pollution
The council can deal with complaints about smoke where it could cause a 'statutory nuisance'. For smoke to count as a statutory nuisance it must either:
Read more about statutory nuisance laws:
Environmental Protection Act 1990 - Legislation.gov.uk (external website)
It is also an offence for a business or industrial premises to emit dark smoke, for example from a chimney or furnace, or to burn waste from a trade or business activity.
Read more about the Clean Air Act:
Clean Air Act 1993 - Legislation.gov.uk (external website)
If you are being affected by smoke from the regular burning of garden waste, or from chimneys and other fires, you may be able to resolve your complaint by first talking to your neighbour to make them aware of the problem.
An informal approach is usually preferable, as involving the council can sometimes damage relations with your neighbours.
If you do not feel comfortable speaking to them directly at first, we have provided an example template letter which you can amend for your situation.
Neighbour bonfire smoke letter (word 24kb opens in new window)
Please note: The council has legal powers to investigate and deal with serious problems caused by air pollution, such as smoke and fumes.
If you have tried sending a letter and it hasn't helped to resolve the situation, or you don't feel comfortable sending a letter, you can report an incident of pollution to the council and we will investigate. See the information below about reporting online.
In cases where you believe a fire is out of control and endangering public safety you should contact the emergency services by dialling 999.
Please note: This number should only be used in emergencies.
You can report problems with smoke and other types of air pollution below. Upon investigation, certain cases may also be treated as an anti-social behaviour issue:
Report air pollution
You will need to provide a brief description of the problem, the name of the person causing the problem (if known or applicable), the address of the problem (if known) and your contact details so that we can contact you.
Please note: It is mandatory that you provide us with your first and last names, your email address and telephone number and your home address.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, we will usually respond to standard smoke nuisance complaints within 5 working days.
You can report urgent issues by calling:
Tel: (01482) 396301
(office hours Monday - Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm and Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm)
Any large waste left over on council land after an unofficial bonfire should be reported as fly-tipping. This includes items such as unburnt logs, metal structures and other unburnt items, but not ash.
Report fly-tipping on council land
Any waste left on private land will be the landowner's responsibility to remove.
You can find information about smoking of cigarettes in public places from another section of the site.
If you report air pollution you will need to provide your contact details, so we can discuss your complaint before we investigate further, and decide what action can be taken.
We will not usually gather formal evidence until we have written to the person responsible for the alleged problem, to inform them that a complaint has been made.
However, you may wish to start keeping a diary of when the problem is occurring. We have provided an initial diary sheet that you can use, which will also help us determine the most appropriate course of action:
Smoke nuisance diary sheet (word 38kb opens in a new window) Once a formal complaint is submitted, we will write to the person responsible for the alleged problem, and will send you a more detailed diary sheet to fill in and return to us. Our officers will also try to witness the problem themselves and gather any further evidence as necessary.
One-off incidents can be reported, but any investigation will depend on the severity of the problem and whether it is ongoing.
If you report a problem with pollution all your supplied details will be kept strictly confidential. However, if a case does end up going to court, you may be asked to give evidence, depending on the nature of the investigation.
It is a common misconception that there are specific byelaws within the East Riding prohibiting garden bonfires or specifying times when they can be lit – there is not.
However, this is not a licence for indiscriminate burning!
We have produced a general bonfire advice leaflet
Bonfire advice leaflet (pdf 1.15mb opens in new window)
Read more in-depth bonfire safety advice.
Please note: It is illegal to dispose of waste that has not come from your property, so trade or business waste must not be burned at home. Read more about bonfires and the law.
The council has powers to create smoke control areas, if air quality problems get particularly bad. This would mean that no one in that area would be allowed to produce smoke from a chimney or furnace.
There are currently no smoke control areas within the East Riding of Yorkshire.
You should get specialist advice from an experienced installer if you are considering a solid fuel or biomass stove or boiler, to make sure it works efficiently and does not cause smoke or odour problems. Biomass typically refers to pellets, chips or briquettes of wood or other plant matter which can be used as fuel. Solid fuel is usually either wood or coal.
The government has produced the following guidance document on open fires and wood-burning stoves:
DEFRA - open fires and wood-burning stoves guidance (222kb)
There is also useful information and advice on installing and using a wood or solid fuel domestic heating system on the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) website:
HETAS - advice sheets (external website)
HETAS can provide a register of installers with membership to their competent person scheme, which should ensure that any new wood burning heating system they install will comply with building regulations.
Depending on the size of the system and the type of fuel, you may require an environmental permit to operate.
For businesses which are proposing larger biomass boilers or combined heat and power schemes please refer to our information on air quality and planning .
Further information on building regulations, and whether planning permission is necessary, is available on the government's Planning Portal website:
Planning Portal - biomass fuelled appliances (external website)
Burning garden waste produces smoke, particularly when it is too damp or green, and this can contain harmful particles. Burning plastics, rubber or painted materials creates noxious fumes that give off a range of poisonous compounds.
Please note: If you plan to build a bonfire, avoid burning when air pollution levels in your area are high or very high, and only burn
You can check air quality by telephoning 0800 556677 or in the UK via the AIR section of the DEFRA website:
UK - AIR - DEFRA (Air quality) (external website)
The air pollution from a bonfire (smoke, soot etc) can have a damaging effect and people with existing health problems are especially vulnerable, eg. asthmatics, bronchitis sufferers, people with heart conditions, children and the elderly.
More information about air pollution and health is available on the NHS website.
NHS advice on air pollution and health (external website)