Smoke pollution

Clean Air Act (CAA)

The first CAA of 1956 was introduced in response to the London smog of December 1952 which is said to have claimed 4,000 lives.  This smog was caused mainly by coal burning.  The act is now consolidated in the CAA 1993.  This allows councils to establish smoke control areas (SCA) to improve air quality through the control of domestic and industrial smoke.

Cambridge Smoke Control Area

Cambridge has three SCA's.  If you live in this area you must either burn smokeless fuel or if you want to burn coal or wood install an exempt heating appliance.  These appliances are designed to burn off their own smoke.  It is an offence for an occupier of premises to allow smoke to be emitted from a chimney, unless the smoke is being caused by an authorised fuel or the heating appliance is exempt from the order.

A map of the smoke control area in Cambridge

The shaded area of the map shows the extent of the three smoke control areas.  Alternatively you can search to see if your street is listed under ' Streets in the Smoke Control Area [40kB]'.  Please note this list is not exhaustive.

If you live outside of a smoke control area

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 smoke emitted from a domestic chimney outside a SCA can be deemed a statutory nuisance if it is prejudicial to health or causing a nuisance.  Therefore it is best, if at all possible to avoid burning smoky fuels.  

If you are burning wood

Open fires and wood-burning stoves have risen in popularity over recent years.  Every year the council get complaints from residents about smoke from neighbouring domestic chimneys.  In many cases this could be reduced if people used good quality fuel and burnt it efficiently. 

Make sure you only burn well-seasoned wood (dry wood).  Wet wood produces more soot and smoke.  Do not burn scrap wood as much of this has been treated and releases pollutants into the atmosphere.  DEFRA is supporting the  Ready to Burn [PDF, 5.3MB] campaign which enables consumers to know they are buying a product that is suitable for use straight away.

If you have a wood burning stove it is important that you are getting the best from it.  A common mistake is not to burn the wood at a high enough temperature.  This can lead to:

  • Reduced energy available from the wood in the form of heat
  • Increase in the amount of tar and soot deposited in the stove and in the chimney
  • Increase in the amount of smoke coming from your chimney

Some useful tips in ensuring you get the best from your stove include:

  • Operate the stove in line with the manufacturers guidance
  • Regular maintenance and servicing
  • Ensuring chimneys are swept regularly.  Visit the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps to find a chimney sweep in your area
  • If you are buying a new stove consider buying one that has been approved for use in SCA's
  • Use the right fuel – well seasoned wood only


Smoke control orders do not apply to domestic bonfires, however under certain circumstances, they can be deemed a statutory nuisance.

Our policy

We prefer to adopt an educational role to help people's understanding of the need for smoke control areas and why it is important for everyone to comply with this legislation.

Where appropriate, however, we will take court action against persons or companies found to be committing an offence.

Contact us

Environmental Quality and Growth (EQG) team

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