Smokeless Zones Within the UK for Burning Wood Burning Stoves

Legislative background

The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were introduced to deal with the smogs of the 1950s and 1960s which were caused by the widespread burning of coal for domestic heating and by industry. These smogs were blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people in the UK. The Acts gave local authorities powers to control emissions of dark smoke, grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises and furnaces and to declare "smoke control areas" in which emissions of smoke from domestic properties are banned. Since then, smoke control areas have been introduced in many of our large towns and cities in the UK and in large parts of the Midlands, North West, South Yorkshire, North East of England, Central and Southern Scotland. The implementation of smoke control areas, the increased popularity of natural gas and the changes in the industrial and economic structure of the UK lead to a substantial reduction in concentrations of smoke and associated levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) between the 1950s and the present day.

These Acts, together with other associated clean air legislation, were repealed and consolidated by the Clean Air Act 1993 which, together with regulations and Orders made under the Act, provide the current legislative controls. Control of smoke emissions may also help reduce emission of a wide range of other pollutants such as particles, sulphur dioxide, PAH and PCDD/F (dioxins and furans) which may be present in smoke.

Smoke Control Areas

Under the Clean Air Act local authorities may declare the whole or part of the district of the authority to be a smoke control area. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler if located in a designated smoke control area. It is also an offence to acquire an "unauthorised fuel" for use within a smoke control area unless it is used in an "exempt" appliance ("exempted" from the controls which generally apply in the smoke control area). The current maximum level of fine is £1,000 for each offence.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has powers under the Act to authorise smokeless fuels or exempt appliances for use in smoke control areas in England. In Scotland and Wales this power rests with Ministers in the devolved administrations for those countries. Separate legislation, the Clean Air (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, applies in Northern Ireland. Therefore it is a requirement that fuels burnt or obtained for use in smoke control areas have been "authorised" in Regulations and that appliances used to burn solid fuel in those areas (other than "authorised" fuels) have been exempted by an Order made and signed by the Secretary of State or Minister in the devolved administrations.

Your local authority is responsible for enforcing the legislation in smoke control areas and you can contact them for details of any smoke control areas in their area. They should also have details of the fuels and appliances which may be used.

Am I in a Smoke Control Area?

Local Authorities are responsible for designation and supervision of Smoke Control Areas.  Smoke control areas have been introduced in many large towns and cities in the UK (including virtually all of London) and in large parts of the Midlands, North West, South Yorkshire, North East of England, Central and Southern Scotland.  Please note that it is not possible for Defra to provide information relating to whether a property is located inside a smoke control area.

To be certain if you are or are not located in a smoke control area it is recommended that you contact the Environmental Health or Protection department of your Local Authority.  Contact details for your Local Authority can be found here: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/index.htm

Also:

England: http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/Start.do?mode=1

Scotland: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/DevolvedAdministrations/DG_4003604

Wales: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/Localcouncils/DG_065241

Northern Ireland: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/DevolvedAdministrations/DG_4003601