Smoke control areas
While we’re all staying at home more than usual, concerns have been raised about the health impacts of smoke from wood-burners and from bonfires. We are asking people to please consider the health of local residents with temporary or long-term respiratory problems and not light fires inside or outside if this can be avoided. The Coronavirus affects the lungs and your fire or bonfire may be particularly dangerous, making symptoms worse. Remember this is a potentially lethal disease.
We are asking residents to think twice before using wood burning stoves and open fires, and to not start any bonfires during the Coronavirus crisis. Please read the guidance below as many bonfires are already illegal and fines for having an illegal open fire are unlimited.
Clean Air Act 1993
The whole of Newcastle upon Tyne district is a smoke control area. It is therefore an offence under section 20 the Clean Air Act 1993 to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler in the city, unless an authorised fuel is used, or the appliance is exempt. The maximum fine for such offences in the magistrates' court is £1,000.
Smoke control areas deal with smoke from buildings and not from burning in the open. See our pages on bonfires and smoke for further information on this.
Burning solid fuels can pollute the air and many cities used to suffer heavy smogs. In response to these problems Parliament passed the Clean Air Act 1956, which regulated the use of household solid fuels and introduced smoke control areas. The 1956 was revised by the Clean Air Act 1968. The Acts markedly improved urban air quality in the UK.
Open fires are the least efficient mode of solid fuel combustion. Much of the heat from the fire is lost up the chimney and this method also be the most polluting as lower temperatures are involved. If you live in a smoke control area you are restricted in the fuels you are allowed to burn. You may not burn high sulphur coals or any form of wood in open fireplace.
Stoves and boilers burn solid fuels far more efficiently than open fires. Stoves can provide heat for a single room, while boilers can heat several radiators and an entire home. If you live in a smoke control area the following rules apply.
Never use your home fireplace, boiler or stove to burn waste. This is dangerous and against the law.
What you can burn in smoke control areas
If you have an open fire or non-exempt appliance in your home or other building, you are only allowed to use fuel on the list of authorised fuels published by the UK Governments, or one of the following 'smokeless' fuels:
low volatile steam coal
Note that wood is not an approved fuel in any form (logs, chips and pellets).
You can use oil or other liquid fuels in specially designed or adapted fireplaces.
Exempt appliances that can burn unauthorised fuels
Unauthorised solid fuels, such as wood, can only be burned in a smoke control area in an appliance that the manufacturer has had tested and approved by the Government (in England by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA)). The UK Governments publish a list of these exempt appliances.
You must only use the types of fuel that the manufacturer says can be used in their appliance.
The installation of an appliance must by law be done in compliance with the Building Regulations. This can only be achieved by either having the appliance installed by a certified solid fuel appliance engineer who must then register the installation with the City Council's Building Control service or by making formal application to the City Council's Building Control service stating a certified engineer is not to be used.
The appliance, flues and chimney must also be properly maintained.
Outdoor ovens, burners and barbecues
You can use outdoor barbecues, chimineas, fireplaces and pizza ovens in smoke control areas.
However, appliances which release smoke through a chimney of a building, such as a summerhouse, can only burn authorised fuel or be listed as exempt by DEFRA.
Outdoor barbecues, chimneas, fireplaces and pizza ovens could still be considered a statutory nuisance if smoke from them impacts on the health or quality of life of neighbours.
Consider burning less. Think about why you are lighting your fire as well as how much fuel you use. Is it necessary?
Buy ‘Ready to Burn’ fuel. If you want to burn immediately look for the logo as a guarantee of good quality dry wood.
Season freshly chopped wood before burning. Wet or unseasoned wood, often sold in nets, is cheaper to buy, but it needs to be seasoned (dried) before burning. Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burned. This can damage your stove and chimney. It also means you’re losing out on heat for your home.
DO NOT burn treated waste wood (e.g. old furniture, pallets or fence panels) or household rubbish. Treated waste wood, furniture and household waste can emit harmful fumes and toxic pollutants, such are carbon monoxide, arsenic, hydrogen chloride and cyanide, into your home when burnt.
Regularly maintain and service your stove. This means it will work better and will generate more heat from what you burn. Always operate your stove in line with the manufacturer’s guidance and only burn permitted fuels.
Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year). During use soot and tar build up in the chimney reducing the efficiency and increasing the risk of chimney fires. It is better to use a qualified chimney sweep who will be able to advise you on good burning practices for your open fire or stove.
Remember it is illegal to use a non-exempt appliance in a smoke control area.
If you are not in a smoke control area you can burn any fuel as long as you do not create excessive smoke or fumes that are a nuisance to neighbours.