Background Information for Smoke Control Areas

To help you find the information you require, we have provided links below to some useful background information.

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These Acts, together with other associated clean air legislation, were repealed and consolidated by the Clean Air Act 1993 which, together with regulations and Orders made under the Act, provide the current legislative controls.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.

How to contact your Local Authority for location of smoke control areas

Authorised fuels

Authorised fuels are fuels which are authorised by Statutory Instruments (Regulations) made under the Clean Air Act 1993 or Clean Air (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. These include inherently smokeless fuels such as gas, electricity and anthracite together with specified brands of manufactured solid smokeless fuels. These fuels have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning in an open fireplace without producing smoke.

Fuels which are authorised for use in Smoke Control Areas

Advice: there are safety risks from incorrect storage of fuels. All users should check with their supplier how to store fuel safely.

Exempt appliances

Exempt appliances are appliances (ovens, wood burners and stoves) which have been exempted by Statutory Instruments (Orders) under the Clean Air Act 1993 or Clean Air (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. These have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning an unauthorised or inherently smoky solid fuel without emitting smoke.

Appliances which are exempt for use in Smoke Control Areas

Advice: for safety reasons, care should be taken to ensure that all exempt appliances are correctly installed and properly maintained (including flues and chimneys). Only fuel for which the appliance is designed should be used.

Interface between the Clean Air Act and Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC)

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra), and from the Welsh Assembly Government have prepared additional guidance to clarify the interface between the Clean Air Act and Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC). The guidance indicates that any exemptions under the Clean Air Act 1993 for small-scale incinerators or combustion plant burning waste material do not apply if the activity comes under Pollution Prevention Control (PPC) regulation. It also indicates that it is not possible for Defra to consider any new Clean Air Act applications for exemptions which relate to appliances which requires a PPC permit. Therefore, for example, an application for exemption for an appliance for burning waste wood will only be considered if the wood waste to be burned will not contain halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals as a result of treatment with woodpreservatives or coating, including, in particular wood waste originating from construction and demolition waste.

The interface between CAA and PPC is set out in the General Guidance Manual for local authority pollution control : Annex XVIII in the general guidance manual on the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England & Wales):

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/pollution/ppc/localauth/pubs/guidance/documents/ggm-part-b-sept2009.pdf

Defra have also published guidance relating to the Waste Incineration Directive (WID). The following link provides details of the Waste Incineration Directive Guidance which defra have published which provides useful information on the application of the WID. Among other information the guidance indicates fuels which are not exempt from the waste incineration directive and therefore any industrial combustion plant operator must adhere to WID.

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/policy/permits/documents/wid-guidance.pdf (England & Wales)

Applying for authorisation/exemption

Before a fuel can be authorised or an appliance exempted for use in smoke control areas, the Secretary of State or Minister must be certain that the fuel can burn on an open fire without producing smoke and that an appliance can burn specified "unauthorised fuels" smokelessly. Fuel and appliance manufacturers must either submit their product for testing or provide sufficient information and evidence to allow the Secretary of State or Minister to decide whether to authorise a fuel or exempt an appliance. Links to details of the application procedures for appliances and fuels are given below.

Procedures

Fuel Authorisation

If you are a fuel manufacturer, importer or distributor and wish to apply for authorisation, please download the procedure from the link below, then apply directly to Ricardo-AEA or, if you prefer, to Defra and the Devolved Administrations:

Fuel Authorisation Application Procedure (PDF 50 KB)
Appliance Exemption

If you are an appliance manufacturer, importer or distributor and wish to apply for exemption, please download the procedure from the link below, then apply using the online application form, which allows you to submit an application and upload documents relating to your application.

Appliance Exemption Application Procedure (PDF 50 KB)

Online Application Form

Before you make an application, please read the guidance in this Application Pack.

If you would prefer, applications may be made by email or post. Applications can be sent directly to Ricardo-AEA or, if you prefer, to Defra and the Devolved Administrations, who normally forward applications to Ricardo-AEA.

Contact Details

If you wish to apply for fuel authorisation please forward details of the fuel(s) and any test reports to the Smoke Control Areas team using the details on the contact page.