Air pollution affects the health of everyone in Nottingham. Along with emissions from transport and construction, burning wood and other solid fuels can contribute to this air pollution problem.

The whole of the Nottingham City Council area is subject to Smoke Control Orders under the Clean Air Act 1993.  

Stoves and fireplaces

Open fireplaces are the most polluting way to burn solid fuels. Using a well-designed, properly installed stove or appliance can make a big difference.

In the Nottingham City Council area, the absolute legal minimum is that your stove is Defra approved for the type of solid fuel you intend to use. 

There are some domestic and commercial appliances which have been tested and approved by the Government to burn specific non-authorised fuels such as clean wood, wood pellets etc. These appliances are known as ‘exempt appliances’ and a current list may be found on the Gov.UK. When used correctly, these appliances should not emit visible smoke, but even Defra exempt appliances can emit high levels of PM2.5 pollution.  

From January 2022 all new wood burning appliances will have to meet new EcoDesign standards.

The clearSkies stove accreditation scheme (launched in September 2020) is an emissions and efficiency accreditation scheme that goes even further than EcoDesign requirements.

If you are planning to replace your wood burning stove or open fireplace we recommend purchasing a clearSkies level 4 or level 5 product.

Any appliance or fireplace should also be properly maintained and your chimney should be swept regularly.

Fuels

Only smokeless fuel (known as ‘authorised fuel’) can be burnt on an open fire in a domestic property in Nottingham e.g. natural gas, anthracite etc.  Wood of any description and garden waste are not classed as an authorised fuel & so cannot be burnt on an open fire inside a domestic premises because it will cause smoke to be emitted from the associated chimney. 

Currently, not all fuels sold in Nottingham are smokeless; if you are in any doubt ask your supplier. A list of authorised fuels can be found on the Gov.UK website.

If you have an exempt appliance you can usually use normal wood as well as smokeless fuels. Usually wood that has been kiln dried or seasoned to have a lower moisture content will be much less polluting, as much as 50 per cent less than the pollution emitted from burning fresh logs. Drier wood is also more efficient, producing more heat per log and less likely to cause a chimney fire.

Wood that has the Woodsure Ready to Burn label is certified to have a low moisture content, for a full list of suppliers see the list on the Woodsure website.

You should not burn old pallets, furniture or scrap wood as it may contain contaminants that can be harmful to your health and the environment.

It is important to store your fuels correctly to make sure your wood and briquettes do not get damp from the rain or damp in the ground.

Coal and briquettes

Although we don’t have direct evidence of the impact of coal and briquette burning on air quality, there is no reason to believe the impact would be less than that of wood burning. Burning coal and briquettes also contributed to human-induced climate change.

What does the law say?

The Clean Air Act places restrictions on the emission of smoke from any chimney in any Smoke Control Area declared under the Act.  The whole of the Nottingham City Council area is covered by a number of Smoke Control Areas which were declared under the Clean Air Act 1956 in stages between the 1960s and 1992. 

The key offences arising from the Clean Air Act 1993 are that in a Smoke Control Area:

  1. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building (including domestic buildings), from a furnace or from any fixed boiler if located in a designated Smoke Control Area.

  2. It is an offence to acquire an ‘unauthorised fuel’ for use within a Smoke Control Area unless it is used in an ‘exempt appliance’ (ie an appliance exempted from the controls which generally apply in the Smoke Control Area for that particular solid fuel) lit and operated in accordance with the manufacturers instructions (using firelighters).

The current maximum level of fine is £1,000 for each offence.