Solid fuel burning appliances such as wood and coal fires contribute to particulate matter and other pollutant emissions.
Stove and fire smoke contains tiny particles known as particulate matter (PM2.5). This pollutant has been identified by the World Health Organisation as the most harmful to human health.
PM2.5 can cause breathing difficulties, such as asthma attacks, and contributes to other health conditions including heart disease and stroke. People already suffering from lung and heart problems are more likely to be affected, along with older people, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and very young children.
According to the Government's 2019 Clean Air Strategy, domestic solid fuel, which includes burning wood and coal, is responsible for 38% of PM2.5 pollution in the UK.
To protect air quality and the health of residents, the whole borough of South Ribble is covered by Smoke Control Orders. These were introduced to phase out the burning of solid fuel on domestic appliances and improve air quality.
It is an offence to emit smoke from the chimney of a building that is situated within a designated smoke control area. The current maximum level of fine in respect of an offence is £1000, this is also set to change soon with the introduction of fixed penalty notices through the newly approved Environment Act 2021. It is also an offence to deliver an "unauthorised fuel" for use within a designated smoke control area, unless this fuel is to be used on an appliance that has been "exempted" from the controls that generally apply to smoke control areas.
Residents can burn one of the "authorised" solid smokeless fuels on an open fire or stove and these fuels can be readily ignited in a traditional manner, by using a combination of kindling paper and firelighters. Wood is not classed an "authorised" fuel and must only be burnt on an "exempt " appliance that has been tested and found to be compliant with the provisions of the Clean Air Act 1993.
Just because it is called smokeless fuel, doesn't mean that it will not produce smoke and this fuel will still emit harmful particulate matter into the air and your homes.
Prior to the installation of a wood burning stove in a smoke control area it is essential to ensure that:
1. The appliance is a DEFRA "exempt" stove.
2. The relevant planning permissions have been obtained in respect of the chimney/flue height.
3. The appliance is installed by a HETAS registered installer or alternatively, the installation inspected by a suitably-qualified building inspector to ensure compliance with current building regulations. Further information is available from the HETAS website
Details of both the authorised fuels and exempt wood burning stoves can be found on the Defra website here.
In addition, further detailed information regarding the installation, use and operation of solid fuel heating appliances can be gained on the Solid Fuel Association website.
While garden bonfires are not prohibited in a smoke control area, action may be taken by the council if bonfires are used on a regular basis to dispose of garden waste, and they are found to be causing a statutory nuisance.
Residents should take into account the effect that the smoke may have upon the general air quality, residents of neighbouring properties and also the effect that smoke may have particularly upon asthma sufferers. There are several alternative options that are currently available in the borough to dispose of garden waste, such as the garden refuse recycling scheme (brown bin) or alternatively, utilising the facilities that are provided by the Household Waste Recycling Centre on Schleswig Way.
Dark or black smoke emissions are generally produced by burning non-organic manufactured materials and items, in particular those containing carbon, such as:
- treated, impregnated and painted items (windows, doors)
- glued and bonded items (particle board)
- paints, resins and thinners
- bituminous materials (roof felt, roof sealant)
The creation of dark smoke from an industrial or trade premise is an offence under section 1 of The Clean Air Act 1993 and a person found guilty of this offence, shall upon summary conviction be liable to a fine of up to £20,000.
Restrictions on the sale of firewood, manufactured solid fuels and coal sold for combustion in domestic premises
The sale of traditional house coal and bags of 'wet' wood is now banned in the UK. Look out for the government-approved 'Ready to Burn' logo when buying small bags of firewood and solid fuel briquettes. This means it has a low moisture content so it burns more efficiently, with less harmful smoke and air pollution. It's also better for stoves, fireplaces and chimneys, and reduces fuel and maintenance costs.
The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 place restrictions on fuel sold for combustion in domestic premises from 01 May 2021:
- Firewood sold in units of less than 2 cubic metres must be certified by the Ready to Burn Scheme and the certification details and scheme logo must be attached to the packaging and clearly displayed at the point of sale.
- If firewood is sold in units of more than 2 cubic metres, customers must be provided with a notice that explains how to dry, store and check the moisture of the wood before it is used.
- All manufactured solid fuels must be certified by the Ready to Burn Scheme and the certification details and scheme logo must be attached to the packaging and clearly displayed at the point of sale. Fuels that are exempt from these certification requirements are coffee logs, olive logs, wine logs and fuels mostly made of wheat husks, straw, miscanthus, bamboo or compressed food waste.
- Only Approved Coal Merchants can legally sell traditional house coal (also known as bituminous coal) in England from 1 May 2021 up to 30 April 2023. It must be sold loose or in unsealed bags directly to the customer. It will be illegal to sell bagged coal.