Environmental problems

Smoke control

Watford borough council is responsible for controlling smoke and bonfires to improve air quality in the borough.

Smoke and bonfires can cause air pollution, upset neighbours and damage health (particularly of children, older people, and those with breathing and heart conditions).

Smoke control areas

To reduce pollution as much as possible all of the borough has been designated a smoke control area. This means that for all smoke emitted from a chimney you can only use either:

  • Authorised fuel


  • An ‘exempt appliance’, such as a burner or stove in your home.

Fuel authorised for use in smoke control areas

The list of authorised fuel details all fuels that have been approved by DEFRA and include:

  • Anthracite
  • Semi-anthracite
  • Gas
  • Low volatile steam coal

These fuels contain less moisture and can burn in an open fireplace without producing dark smoke.

You should store all fuel somewhere dry because burning damp fuel may produce smoke.

It is an offence to buy unauthorised fuel unless it is to be used in an exempt appliance.

Exempt appliances 

You can only burn unauthorised fuel in a DEFRA approved exempt appliance. These are designed to burn the fuel more efficiently, reducing potential air pollution.

You must only use the types of fuel that the manufacturer says can be used in the appliance.

Further information

Visit Burn Right for information to help you get the most from your fire and to minimise smoke emissions.

Fires in your home are not a cost effective way to heat your house and can negatively impact local air quality. Visit our green energy schemes and grants pages for information about energy efficiency and home energy grants.

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