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Domestic fires, stoves and biomass heating

More people are turning to modern stoves, open fires or biomass heating systems to help heat their home or business. Burning coal or other solid fuels does cause increased local pollution and you should think carefully about whether it is the right option for your situation and area.

Environmental Health receives a number of queries about burning solid fuel in stoves, open fires or biomass boilers. It also deals with complaints about smoke and odour from domestic burning of solid fuel.

It is becoming increasingly popular for domestic households to install alternative heat and power sources into their homes. With a resultant increase in the installation of solid fuel burning stoves and open fires, it is important to consider the possible implications of burning solid fuel.

Things to Consider

Before installing apparatus for burning solid fuel in your home you should consider the following;

Smoke Control Areas

Through legislation developed to deal with historic smogs in the UK, Smoke Control Areas have been introduced in many towns and cities to control the emission of smoke from domestic properties.  For more information, see Smoke Control Areas.

Even if you are outside a Smoke Control Area, installing a 'Clean Air Act 'Exempt Appliances'' or using 'Clean Air Act 'Authorised Fuels'' is recommended to minimise the amount of local smoke pollution, which can affect neighbours' health.

Nuisance from Smoke

You should consider whether installing any type of solid fuel burning apparatus in your home could cause nuisance to your neighbours from any smoke you produce. Consideration should be given to the design and positioning of flues and chimneys and to the type of fuel you will be burning. The wind in West Lothian usually comes from the west or south west. Is there:

  • a neighbour uphill to the east of your home?
  • another house close to the east of your home?
  • a tall narrow gap between your home and your neighbours where smoke could gather?
How to avoid problems

As well as thinking through the practicalities of your plans in advance, even a good installation can cause real problems to neighbours if not used correctly. Heat generation will also be less efficient and you are likely to need your chimney swept more often. As well as reading the manual from your appliance and getting instructions from your supplier / installer on its use, the Burnright website will help you get the best out of your solid fuel fire.

What happens when there is a problem?

In many cases a friendly approach to a neighbour or business can resolve the problem. If this fails, you have two options:

  • Residents may apply directly to the Sheriff Court for a nuisance order. In such cases it is essential to compile a proper record of occurrence of the nuisance and its effect on you. The support of independent witnesses will also help. In any event it is possible that the complainants may be called upon to give evidence in nuisance proceedings. For more information see Statutory Nuisance law.
  • Concerns can be raised with Environmental Health. However, at this time, Environmental Health cannot routinely consider complaints about domestic smoke nuisance due to other higher priority work. Investigations will only be carried out where levels of other prioritised work permit. Investigations will consider:

For a statutory nuisance to exist, a number of criteria have to be established to demonstrate that there is an impact on the individuals affected. Nuisances may include smoke from bonfires, unpleasant odours, grit and dust.

If we are satisfied that a nuisance exists, a legal notice (Abatement Notice) will be served. If evidence exists that it has been breached, a report may be sent to the Procurator Fiscal. The courts may impose an order to prevent the nuisance and a fine. Continued non-compliance can lead to further fines. The local authority may also consider using legal powers to abate the nuisance itself and recover costs.

Planning Implications

There may be planning implications with regard to the siting and design of flues and chimneys associated with appliances burning solid fuel. See Do I Need Planning Permission?.

More Information

If you need further information or would like to complain about smoke from a domestic property please contact Environmental Health and Trading Standards,