What is a smoke control zone (UK) ?

As part of my on-going project on getting a wood or multi-fuel stove, I have been told that my house is in a smoke control area.  This was news to me, as I had regularly had fires in the garden to burn garden waste and there are a few houses around me with “smokey chimneys”.  So far I’ve only had a single quote and they told me I needed to pick a certain type of stove to comply with this smoke control area business.  I first I wondered if this was some kind of up-sell and trying to get me the buy a more expensive stove.

What is a smoke control zone?

This can be traced directly from the clean air acts of the 1950s and 1960s, when the major cities suffered from smogs, but more recently it is from the clean air act 1993.  Without going into the detail of this, it in effect means that a local authority can declare whole areas and in many cases the whole city and surrounding area as “smoke controlled”.  This means that you must use authorised fuels and/or and exempt appliance.   The current maximum fine for an offense is £1000 fine.  Much of the urban areas of the UK are now in these smoke controlled area/zones, meaning that it is difficult to avoid using authorised fuels or exempt stoves.

Exempt appliances: what does this mean exactly

From my research I have managed to determine that there is in fact a fairly large list of approved/exempt stoves to choose from and these can be found on the Defra website (see later link) and consumer choice isn’t really limited to much.  These appliances/stoves are also described as clean-burn.  It is also worth pointing out that there is a different list for each of the home countries in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland).  Although I haven’t checked to see if there is much in the way of variation between them.

Authorised fuel

For non-exempt appliances in smoke control zones to be used, authorised fuel must be used and again a list of suppliers can be found on the Defra website.  These have presumably gone through some kind of test procedure and produce low-levels of smoke/particulates.    There seems to be a wide selection and again, the list is country specific.

Summary

As I understand it, if you have a standard (not exempt) appliance or stove, you must use authorised fuels only.  But if you have an exempt stove, you can use with authorised or non-authorised fuel.  So if you were thinking about obtaining your own fuel or indeed making paper logs and you are in smoke control zone/area, then you must pay a little bit more (10-15%) for your stove.

What about that pesky garden rubbish then?

Well you can still have a bonfire in the garden, but under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it must not cause a nuisance factor to the local residents and most local authorities now have schemes in place to collect such waste.

Finally…

So for me it looks like I will be getting an exempt multi-fuel stove, but I haven’t quite decided which one as yet.  I find the idea of getting my own fuel, either by collecting from my own garden, local common land and making my own paper logs, the whole point of the project.   I would imagine that I’m not alone in this thinking and I’m actually wondering why non-exempt appliances aren’t simply removed from sale.

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For more information on this topic, go to http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/index.php