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Cambridge City Council

Smoke pollution

Smoke pollution is not only considered a nuisance but can also be hazardous to health. 

Smoke contains tiny particles which can penetrate deep into the lungs. These particles can also acerbate existing long term health problems such as asthma and lung conditions.

We are committed to improving the health of its residents and visitors, through taking action to reduce smoke pollution.

Smoke control areas (SCAs)

We have three smoke control areas. These cover the central and western areas of the city. These areas were established during the 1960's to reduce emissions from solid fuel burning. 

A map showing the extent of the areas is shown below.

A list of the streets within the areas is show below. This list is not exhaustive.

If you are in a smoke control area, you must use either a Defra exempt appliance or use a Defra approved smokeless fuel. Read more about reducing smoke emissions below.

Cambridge City Council, under the SCA Regulations amended by Environment Act 2022, can issue fines for properties which emit smoke in a smoke control area.

If the council becomes aware that smoke is being emitted within that area, they will investigate and issue a written warning where necessary. If a resident or business continue to breach smoke control rules, the council policy will allow the council to:

  • issue a notice of intent to the person(s) responsible
  • issue a final notice with a financial penalty ranging from between £175 to £300

When determining a financial penalty, the council will use a fee matrix as a guide to determine appropriate and proportionate penalty.

The new Enforcement and Fee Policy is in line with available powers contained within Schedule 1A of the Clean Air Act 1993 (as amended by the Environment Act 2021).

If you live outside a smoke control area

If persistent smoke pollution from a chimney is observed outside a smoke control area, Cambridge City Council could take action under nuisance legislation.

In the first instance, we will issue advice and guidance to homes and businesses. This is in line with the councils current Corporate Enforcement Policy.

Reducing smoke emissions

For those residents who already have a solid fuel burning appliance, the following guidance and information can be used to ensure that you are using the appliance correctly. This will ensure the appliance is burning efficiently, saving you money and reducing smoke emissions.

Sweeping your chimney and flue

It is important to maintain the chimney and flue associated with your appliance to ensure that smoke emissions are reduced and debris inside the chimney does not catch alight and cause a fire.

You should ensure your chimney is swept regularly and the appliance maintained as a preventative measure.

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps provides a list of chimney sweeps in the area. They can also provide guidance on how regularly a chimney should be swept and how you can maintain your appliance.

Blockages in the flue of your appliance could also lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide is a gas which is given off during the burning of solid fuels. 

If a room is well sealed and the chimney flue is not drawing through enough air due to a blockage, carbon monoxide can build up in a room. 

A build-up of carbon monoxide can be fatal. 

A carbon monoxide alarm will alert you to higher levels before it becomes dangerous.  As with smoke alarms, these should be tested regularly.

Using the correct fuel

Using the correct fuel for your appliance will mean it will burn efficiently, requiring less fuel and saving you money. It will also produce less smoke emissions.

In a smoke control area, you should only be using an approved smokeless fuel.

If you are using wood in your appliance, you should make sure it is well seasoned and has a moisture content of less than 20%. Guidance on how to check the moisture content of your wood is provided by Woodsure.

If you are in a smoke control area, you should be using an exempt appliance to burn wood.

If you buy wood for your appliance, make sure it has the Ready to Burn logo on it. This will mean it has already been checked for its moisture content.

You should never burn wood which has been painted or treated or glued, such as old furniture or other household waste, as the process of burning will cause the chemicals, such as cyanide, lead, carbon monoxide and hydrochloric acid, to be emitted into the air.

This could cause health problems for yourself and result in smoke emissions.


Read our bonfires and fireworks webpage for guidance on how to deliver a safe and environmentally responsible event.

Carbon-neutral alternatives

Using a centralised biomass boiler or combined heat and power system offers a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil-fuel heating. Burning wood pellets, logs or woodchip does the same. Although these systems might offer carbon savings, the benefits to climate change can conflict with the need to improve air quality.

We do not encourage the use of biomass for centralised boiler or combined heat and power systems, because of the potential negative impact on local air quality.


If you have a complaint about smoke pollution, please fill out the form below.

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