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Preventing Air Pollution in UK

Several clean air strategies are helping business and industry reduce their impact on the environment. Preventing air pollution is a responsibility for all businesses in the United Kingdom.

Environmental legislation, introduced by government and local councils, includes Air Quality Management Areas, local emissions controls, and smoke control areas.

Controls Introduced by Local Councils

Councils have the power to introduce extra controls on emissions. They will do so if they detect air quality problems in the area.

As a rule, the area would include a number of streets or it could be a much bigger area.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA)

In fact, local authorities have been carrying out air quality reviews and assessments since December 1997. The results in localised areas can mean they will declare it as an Air Quality Management Area and set up plans for improvements.

Defra produce an interactive map of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA). You can check whether your business will be affected by:

  • Increased restrictions on waiting and loading times
  • Parking restrictions
  • Pollution control team review of planning applications
  • Road charging
  • Taxes (e.g. to encourage moving goods by rail)

Smoke Control Areas

UK councils also have authority to declare smoke control areas. You can only use authorised fuels (or exempted furnaces and boilers) in these zones. Apart from a few isolated exceptions, chimney smoke is not allowed.

Thus, check whether you are in one of the smoke control areas if you work as a contractor in different locations.

Failing to comply with local authority controls can result in a fine up to £1,000 for each offence committed.

Dark Smoke Regulations

As a general rule, the most pollutant type of smoke tends to be the darkest. However, any smoke that is darker than a specified shade of grey will be ‘officially’ classified as ‘dark smoke’.

Authorities use the Ringelmann chart to define dark smoke (shade 2 or darker). The chart contains five different shades of grey (0 being clear and 5 being black).

Chimney and Boiler Restrictions

You must not allow the release dark smoke from your business premises. That rule applies to chimneys serving furnaces and fixed boilers or industrial plants (whether attached to a building or not).

Note: Some exemptions may apply if the smoke emissions will not cause damage to health or cause a nuisance.

Permits for Boilers and Furnaces

You would need to get a permit for most types of boilers, furnaces, and generators. The type, and the amount, of fuel that you burn would determine which kind of permit you need.

Part A(1) Environmental Permit

The Part A(1) environmental permit applies to appliances that:

  • Have an aggregated rated thermal input of at least 50 megawatts (mw).
  • Burn recovered oil, waste oil, or any fuel made from waste, with a rated thermal input of 3 to 50 megawatts.

You can get a Part A(1) permit from:

Part B Environmental Permit

The Part B environmental permit applies to appliances that:

  • Have a rated thermal input of 20 to 50 megawatts.
  • Burn waste excluded from the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) with a rated thermal input of 0.4 to 3 megawatts.

You can get a Part B permit from:

SWIP Environmental Permit

The Small Waste Incineration Plant (SWIP) environmental permit would apply if your appliance can burn (either):

  • Less than 10 tonnes per day of hazardous waste.
  • Less than 3 tonnes per hour of non-hazardous waste (equivalent to 72 tonnes per day).

Note: Local councils issue Small Waste Incineration Plant (SWIP) environmental permits. Defra produce guidance notes to check when the Industrial Emissions Directive would apply.

Installing Furnaces

To install a furnace you would need to get local council approval for:

  • Using a new non-domestic furnace in a building, fixed boiler, or industrial plant.
  • Changes made to an existing furnace.

Contact the nearest council to get approval for grit and dust arrestment equipment for the furnace if it will burn:

  • Gaseous or liquid matter at a rate equivalent to at least 366.4 kilowatts.
  • Pulverised fuel.
  • Other solid matter at a rate of at least 45.4 kilograms an hour.

Note: Boilers that will not create emissions harmful to health (or cause a nuisance) may not require approval. A local council can confirm if you would get an exemption.

Chimney Height Regulations

The local council can refuse an application if the chimney is too low. Chimneys need to be high enough to prevent damage to health (or a nuisance) from:

  • Dust
  • Fume emissions
  • Gases
  • Grit
  • Smoke

You would need to get approval for the chimney height if the fuel consumption from the boiler will (either):

  • Exceed 45.4 kilograms of solid fuel an hour.
  • Exceed 366.4 kilowatts of gas or liquid fuel.

If the local council refuses an application based on the height of the chimney they will inform you of the minimum chimney height required.

In some cases, a chimney may get an exemption if it will be used as part of:

  • A temporary replacement (e.g. if you are getting the boiler or furnace repaired).
  • A temporary source of heat or power for building works.
  • A mobile source of heat or power for agricultural purposes.
  • An auxiliary plant while bringing the main plant up to operating temperatures.

Note: You would need to re-apply for approval from the local council if the use of the chimney changes.

Preventing air pollution in United Kingdom