Smoke control areas

Find out if your property is in a smoke control area.

Legislation and 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 industries. The smogs were blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people in the UK.

These 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. Together with other clean air legislation, the acts were repealed and consolidated by the Clean Air Act 1993, which provide the current legislative controls.

The Clean Air Act 1993 means that:

  • local authorities may declare the whole or parts of the authority to be a smoke control area.

  • the Secretary of State (SoS) has powers to authorise smokeless fuels or exempt appliances for use in smoke control areas in England.

  • it's 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's an offence to acquire an "unauthorised fuel" for use within a smoke control area unless it is used in an "exempt" appliance (see below). Clean, dry kindling sticks and paper can be used to start a fire.

  • the maximum fine is £1,000 for each offence.

Do you live in a Smoke Control Area?

Please check our interactive Smoke Control Areas Map to find out if you live in a smoke control area.

I live in a smoke control area, what fuel can I legally burn?

In a smoke control area, you can only burn fuels on the list of authorised fuels, or any of the following "smokeless" fuels, unless you're using an exempt appliance.

  • anthracite

  • semi-anthracite

  • gas

  • low volatile steam coal

How can I reduce solid fuel emissions?

To reduce the amount of pollutants produced from burning solid fuel, make sure you maintain the appliance and that the fuel is clean and dry. Do not burn:

  • Wet fuels, for example, wet coke or unseasoned wood - the moisture will decrease the combustion temperature. This will increase emissions of pollutants including dioxins, furans, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particles and oxides of nitrogen and offensive odour.

  • Contaminated fuel, for example, painted or preserved wood - this will also lead to higher pollutant emissions and make the emission odorous.

Maintaining solid fuel appliances

The maintenance of solid fuel appliances is very important to ensure safe and efficient operation. The following general guidelines are recommended but it is important to follow any instruction from your appliance manufacturer.

  • Sweep the chimney from top to bottom at least once a year, preferably carried out by a qualified chimney sweep, twice a year if burning coal or wood.

  • Ventilation: Always make sure you have sufficient ventilation to keep the fire burning properly and efficiently

  • Flue-ways at the back of any boiler should be cleaned at least once a month

  • Throat plates at the top of any room heater should be removed and cleaned regularly

  • Check and empty the ashcan regularly and at least once a day when the appliance is in use.

  • Immediate action is necessary if you smell or suspect fumes are escaping into the living accommodation, see precautions for carbon monoxide below.

What is Carbon Monoxide and why is it a problem?

Carbon Monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas. It is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood do not burn fully. Appliances that are not maintained, damaged, or are incorrectly used or installed may produce higher levels of carbon monoxide than normal and become dangerous. Also, blocked flues and chimneys can stop the gas products of combustion from escaping, allowing carbon monoxide and other gases to build up in a room where it could be inhaled, with serious health effects and fatal consequences.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • tiredness

  • drowsiness

  • headaches

  • giddiness

  • feeling sick (nausea)

  • unable to think clearly

If you suffer from these symptoms and they could be caused by carbon monoxide exposure, stop using all cooking and heating appliances; open windows and doors, exit the building and seek urgent medical attention. Call a suitably qualified engineer to check your appliances.

You can be particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning when you are asleep because you may not be aware of early symptoms until it is too late. Having an audible carbon monoxide alarm could wake you up and save your life.

Avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning

Household appliances that are installed correctly and are well maintained should produce little carbon monoxide.

  • Ensure that all cooking and heating appliances are installed and serviced regularly by reputable and registered engineers, for example, Gas Safe (for gas appliances), HETAS (for coal fuelled appliances), OFTEC (for oil appliances).

  • Do not attempt to install or service the appliance yourself.

  • Do not use poorly maintained appliances.

  • Make sure chimneys and flues are clean and not blocked and also ensure air vents are not covered.

  • Always make sure that enough fresh air can enter the room when an appliance is being used to provide the necessary air flow.

  • Fit a carbon monoxide alarm that meets European Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European mark such as a kite mark.