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Households using older log burners could face an “on the spot” £300 fine for flouting emissions rules, as the Governmen tightens restrictions around solid fuel heating systems. As part of the UK’s new 25-year Environmental Plan, the emissions regulations around wood-burning stoves have been bolstered, as the amount of smoke that new stoves can emit per hour has been reduced from 5g to 3g. This regulation applies to households in “smoke control areas”, which effectively cover most of England’s towns and cities. Anyone caught breaking this rule could face a £300 fine on the spot, or even face larger sums and a criminal record for more serious offences.
Announcing the new measures, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that they were part of his Government’s drive to leave “the environment in a better state than we found it”.
Over the past few years, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has cracked down on the coal fires and log burners, describing them as the largest source of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which are small particles of air pollution that enter the body’s lungs and blood.
To enforce the rules better, the Government has ordered local councils to use powers from a law passed in 2021 to issue civil penalties for old-fashioned wood-burning stoves that do not meet the UK’s standards for emissions.
These regulation changes faced criticism from figures like Lance Forman, a former MEP for London, who slammed the Government for its “idiotic policies” and hypocrisy over net zero.
Mr Forman, who is also an author and businessman, tweeted: “On the spot fine for woodburners. Let’s hope they don’t start fining fish smokers next!
“Another idiotic policy from the Tories. Drax power station burns wood pellets shipped across the Atlantic. Is there no end to the hypocrisy and derangement when it comes to net zero.”
As part of the new enforcement drive, the worst offenders could face criminal prosecutions and fines of up to £2,500 a day. With energy bills currently at eye-watering levels, over half a million people use wood-burning stoves to heat their homes this winter. As thousands look to install a log burner in their home, industry experts are reporting fears of a potential shortage.
Demand for log burners has shot up by nearly 40 percent, jumping to 35,000 orders between April to June, compared to 25,000 from the same period last year.
However, wood-burning stoves have faced increased scrutiny over the past few years, after being linked to nearly 50 percent of people’s exposure to cancer-causing chemicals found in air pollution particles in urban areas.
Around 1.5million homes in the UK use wood for fuel, however wood and coal burning accounts for about 38 percent of the UK’s PM2.5 emissions, compared to 16 percent from industrial burning. This suggests that a wood burning stove emits more pollutants than a factory or diesel truck.
As more people have adopted the log burner lifestyle over the past decade, pollution caused by the heating system by more than a third since 2010.
While Government regulations currently limit how much smoke and emissions a wood-burning stove can release, these rules are rarely enforced by local authorities.
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Until recently, local authorities responsible for enforcing the rules have relied on court action for noncompliance. This has led to councils in England only issuing 17 fines over the past six years, despite receiving over 18,000 complaints.
Now the Government has ordered councils to use recently gained powers from the 2021 Environment Act to issue civil penalties ranging from £175 to £300, with repeat offenders facing criminal prosecution and hefty fines.
While the buying and installation of new wood-burning stoves is not banned, as many had feared, there is a production ban on older-style stoves.
According to the HomeOwners Alliance, wood-burning stoves and multi-fuel stoves and fireplaces now manufactured have to meet strict new guidelines known as Ecodesign. The Ecodesign mark means the stove has been tested by an approved laboratory, meeting all requirements on air quality and particulates.
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