Guidance on wood-burning stoves

Wood burning in smoke control areas

Under the Clean Air Act (1993) local authorities may designate the whole or part of the authority as a Smoke Control Area.  The whole of Camden is a designated Smoke Control Area.  

What can I burn in my fireplace, appliance or stove?

In a Smoke Control Area residents can only burn a limited number of defined fuels in fireplaces and combustion appliances that have not been approved to burn other “non-authorised” fuels.  

Only the following fuels can be burnt in an open fireplace or a non-approved appliance: anthracite, semi-anthracite, gas, low volatile steam coals and other “authorised fuels” - for a full list of authorised fuels please visit http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/fuels.php

Wood, wood chips and wood pellets are non-authorised fuels and can therefore only be burnt in appliances which have been approved by the Secretary of State to burn these fuels.  Such approved appliances are known as “exempt appliances”.  A list of exempt appliances is available at http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk/appliances.php

Marketing terms such as "clean burn", "clean heat" and "low emission appliance" are occasionally used by some appliance manufacturers or distributors and provide no guarantee that appliances are exempt or suitable for exemption.

It is an offence to emit smoke from a building chimney, appliance or from any fixed boiler in Camden.  It is also an offence to acquire an unauthorised fuel for use within a Smoke Control Area unless it is used in an approved appliance.

Requirements for wood-burning stoves in Camden

Camden’s requirements are consistent with national policy under the Clean Air Act.  

The appliance and fuel
Only exempt appliances can be used to burn wood in Camden.  It is also essential that the correct fuel is used.  The DEFRA exemption certificate for the appliance will identify the type of fuel that should be burned. Typically wood with a moisture content below 20% should only be burnt in an exempt appliance.

Building regulations and building control approval
Exempt appliances must either be installed by a Competent Person (in the case of wood burning stoves this must be a HETAS accredited installer) or the resident should seek Building Control approval to ensure compliance with Part J and, potentially, Part L of the Building Regulations.  Part J deals with flue heights and sizes, ventilation rates and other safety issues relating to combustion appliances and Part L addresses the conservation of fuel and power in new and existing buildings where specific alterations are proposed.

Planning and environmental health
In certain situations (for example where exempt appliances require new flues or where new emissions from existing chimney stacks are likely to have a negative impact on neighbouring properties), installations may also need to be considered on planning and environmental health grounds and the conclusions of this process may prevent the installation of exempt appliances.

  • From a planning perspective, a new external flue will normally not require planning consent if it is on the rear or side elevation of the building and extends no more than one metre above the highest part of the roof. 

    If the building is in a designated Conservation Area the flue should not be fitted on the principal or side elevation if it would be visible from a highway.  Where these conditions are not met, planning consent will be required and may be refused or accepted on design grounds. 

    In all instances it is advisable to check with Camden’s planning team before a flue is fitted.
  • From an environmental health perspective, there may be occasions where, despite planning approval and an exempt appliance, third parties consider that the consequent emissions still have a negative impact on their quality of life. 

    On such occasions, the claim may need to be assessed by Camden’s Environmental Health team to determine whether or not the emissions are, in fact, causing “nuisance”.  

Registration
The Council should be notified of all new wood burning stove installations and the following information must be submitted:

  • Address of building where appliance is located
  • Make and model of wood stove
  • Evidence that the appliance has been certified as ‘exempt’
  • A description of the fuel supply, including the moisture content and name and location of fuel supplier.
  • A plan showing the location of the wood stove exhaust flue and the location of the nearest building.
  • Evidence of compliance with the Building Regulations.

The cumulative impacts of wood burning stoves on local air quality

Camden has some of the poorest air quality in London and has been declared an Air Quality Management Area.  The major sources of pollution are motorised transport and gas boilers.  

Although fuels such as wood, wood chips and pellets are renewable fuels with lower CO2 emissions than gas, coal or electricity, they still have a negative impact on air quality and public health (notably through emissions of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5)) even when burnt in exempt appliances.  

The cumulative impact of exempt appliances across Camden needs to be considered in this context and the proposed registration process noted above is important in this regard.  

To register please contact the sustainability team

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