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Smoke control areas and burning solid fuel

We are encouraging residents and businesses to stop burning solid fuel. Where that’s not possible, we want residents to be aware of the legal restrictions, and to burn less and move from burning more polluting fuels such as house coal and wet wood, towards less polluting fuels such as low sulphur smokeless fuels and dry wood.

Smoke control areas and burning solid fuel

Solid fuel burning releases tiny particulate matter into the air. Airborne particulate matter is invisible to the naked eye so you may not even be aware you’re breathing in the pollutants.
The health impacts are widely reported. Short-term exposure can cause wheezing, coughing and make asthma and chronic bronchitis worse. Long term exposure – over several years – to high levels typically experienced in urban areas can reduce life expectancy by up to a few years.

A recent report by King’s College London measuring local concentrations, found that wood burning is responsible for up to 31% of the more damaging particulate matter in London. Once inhaled, particulate matter can cause short term, long term and major health problems from systemic inflammation, to cancer to heart attacks.

What does the law say?

Hackney is a designated smoke control area, which means it’s an offence to release black smoke from a chimney or a fixed boiler anywhere in the borough. It’s also an offence to burn unauthorised fuel or use an appliance that’s not exempt from Defra’s list of authorised fuels and exempt appliances.

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

How can I reduce the impact of burning solid fuel (wood or coal) at home?

Burning wood is no longer a necessity for warming our houses, it’s a luxury that contributes to harmful air pollution. The best solution is to give up burning altogether.

Can you burn less?

Is it necessary to light your fire? Burning less is the easiest way to reduce the impact on air quality and may save money too.

We strongly advise giving up wood burning at home and not lighting your fire at all during medium and high levels of pollution. Sign up to a pollution alert service. We also send out Twitter alerts via @hackneycouncil.

If you’re interested in reducing your emissions produced by your wood burning stove and would like to find out more, sign up to Zero Emissions Network for free advice and support.

If you have to light a fire at home, burn the least harmful wood

When buying wood look for the Ready to Burn logo as a guarantee of good quality dry wood. This will burn more efficiently than unseasoned, green wood and reduce environmental impact.

Don’t burn wet wood

Freshly cut wood, often sold in nets, has a high moisture content that creates much more particulate pollution. This wood needs to be seasoned (dried for 2 years) before burning.

If you burn house coal, choose approved smokeless fuel instead

Smokeless fuels produce less carbon and particulate matter and are more efficient, so they cost you less to heat your home.

Do not burn treated wood (eg old furniture) or household rubbish

Treated wood, like old furniture, can emit harmful fumes and household rubbish may include plastics that can release toxic pollutants, such as arsenic, into your home when burned.

Maintain your stove and service it every year

A well maintained stove will work more efficiently and means you will need to burn less fuel.

Get your chimney swept regularly (up to twice a year)

Particles of soot build up in your chimney over time and reduce the efficiency of your fire. Contact an approved chimney sweep for further advice.

Consider a wood burning stove

Wood burning stoves burn much more efficiently than open fires and they produce less particulate pollution. There are Defra approved standards for stoves (Ecodesign Ready Stove) so check with your manufacturer before purchasing. Remember, it is an offence to use a non-exempt stove in your home.

When using a stove, make sure you are burning at the optimum temperature. Burnright‘s Getting It Right video shows you how to get the most out of your stove.

How can I reduce the impact of burning fuel as part of my business?

If you burn charcoal to cook food, buy approved charcoal

Hackney is a designated smoke control area, so it’s an offence to use charcoal grills inside restaurants without using approved solid fuels. It’s important to make sure the fuel is suitable for use in a smoke control area.

Search ‘Charcoal’ on Defra’s website for a list of their authorised charcoal fuel brands you can use in smoke control areas.

Make sure that your appliances, filters and ventilation systems are maintained and cleaned

It’s essential to clean appliance filters regularly to make sure particulate matter from cooking and burning solid fuel doesn’t get released into the outside environment. It’s best to remove grease from the canopy and to also clean the vent outside.

Eliminating grease and carbon build-up reduces fire risk, plus a regularly cleaned canopy will last longer and is cheaper to maintain. Efficient canopies also stop the build up of smoke in the ventilation system, preventing smoke from overflowing, which is healthier for restaurant staff.

The minimal requirements or specifications for the air cleaning system involved are:

  • daily or weekly cleaning of canopy in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendation – with soap and warm water
  • running the filters through a pot wash – at least weekly
  • regularly cleaning the outlet vent at the final discharge point

Consider switching to gas or electric grills

Appliances that burn gas from the mains supply are permitted in smoke control areas. Electric chargrills are also allowed.

There are several benefits of using gas or electric instead of charcoal:

  • it’s easier to clean, so there’s less time spent cleaning
  • it reaches cooking temperature quicker and it’s easier to maintain a consistent temperature
  • it’s simple to turn and off, so reduces the risk of sparks or hot debris
Page updated on: 29 November 2019

Pollution Control


PO Box 70210
E8 9FB

Opening times

  • Mon to Wed, 9am - 5pm Thur, 9am - 5pm and out of hours service, 6.30pm - 2am, Fri, 9am - 5pm and out of hours service, 9pm - 5am, Sat out of hours service, 9pm - 5am, Sun out of hours service, 6.30pm - 2am