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UK Rules for Smoke Free Zones

The local authority may declare a smoke control area in the community to govern what type of fuel you can burn on heating appliances inside buildings.

If so, you must follow the rules for 'smoke free zones' unless you are using certain types of exempt appliances to burn unauthorised fuels (e.g. wood).

What Can You Burn in Smoke Control Areas

Some of the community safety legislation creates designated smoke control areas – sometimes called smokeless zones.

As a result, the local council can fine you for emitting smoke from a chimney inside a smoke controlled area.

Even so, some exemptions apply, such as when using an ‘exempt appliance’ (e.g. burner, stove) or when burning authorised fuels.

Important: The environmental services department at your local council will confirm whether you are living in a smoke controlled area. Breaking the rules for smoke free zones can result in a fine of £1,000.

Burning Oil and Kindling

You can only use oil – and certain types of liquid fuels – in fireplaces that have been specially designed or adapted for the purpose.

The rules for burning kindling (e.g. small sticks, twigs) differ by region. Thus, local councils will confirm whether you can burn this type of firewood.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) produces a list of authorised and certified fuels for use in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The list clarifies which fuel you can burn in smoke free areas. Furthermore, unless you use an exempt appliance, you can only burn the following ‘smokeless’ fuels:

  • Anthracite (e.g. hard coal)
  • Gas
  • Bituminous or low volatile steam coal
  • Semi-anthracite (meaning a coal intermediate with properties between anthracite and bituminous coal)

Note: Even when buying one of the unauthorised fuels for use in one of the smoke control areas, it must only be used in one of the exempt appliances.

Burning Unauthorised Fuels in Exempt Appliances

You can use some types of exempt appliances to burn unauthorised fuels (e.g. wood) as long as it will be burned in something like a boiler, a cooker, or a stove.

Important: Only use a fuel type that the manufacturer states can be used in an exempt appliance when burning unauthorised fuels.

Using Outdoor Appliances

The United Kingdom smoke control regulations allow you to use certain kinds of outdoor appliances, such as a:

  • Barbecue
  • Burner
  • Chiminea (e.g. a metal fireplace)
  • Fireplace
  • Pizza oven

But, you must either burn authorised fuel or use an exempt appliance if it will release smoke through a chimney of the building (e.g. a summerhouse).

How to Apply for an Appliance Exemption

Manufacturers, importers, and distributors must apply for an exemption to make, import, or distribute appliances if they will be used to burn unauthorised fuel in a smoke free area.

Having the ‘appliance exemption’ rating means it will be emitting smoke below acceptable limits when burning fuel.

The appliance needs to have been tested at an accredited test centre and meet the specified requirements. The current application fee for the first appliance in a range is (excluding VAT and testing):

  • £1,610
  • £470 (for each additional appliance)

You can contact Defra with general enquiries or HETAS about technical questions relating to an application (e.g. testing methods).

Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 03459 33 55 77
Monday to Friday: 8am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

Defra Customer Contact Unit
Seacole Building
2 Marsham Street

Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme (HETAS Ltd)
Email: [email protected]

Product Approvals
Severn House
Unit 5, Newtown Trading Estate
Green Lane
GL20 8HD

Note: An appliance exemption is not a requirement if it will only be used to burn authorised fuel (e.g. inherently smokeless fuels). The HETAS appliance exemption application pack contains further information.

Garden Bonfires in Smoke Control Areas

Several areas of environmental legislation in the United Kingdom prevents the burning of certain types of waste products and targets garden bonfires that may be hazardous or become a nuisance.

Complaining about a Neighbour’s Bonfire

Local councils investigate complaints about smoke and fumes – if they may become a ‘statutory nuisance’. Defra guidelines clarify how councils deal with complaints about nuisance smoke and how they assess it.

The council will issue an ‘abatement notice’ if someone’s bonfire is dangerous or causing a nuisance. Failing to follow the rules of an abatement notice can result in a fine.

Rules for Burning Domestic Waste

You must not dispose of household waste (including burning it) if it is likely to harm public health or if it could create pollution.

Nonetheless, the law allows you to compost or recycle household or garden waste. Another section explains more about recycling collections and how to dispose of garden waste using the services provided by local councils.

Note: Lighting a fire, and allowing the smoke to drift and become a danger to road traffic, can result in a fine.

Related Help Guides

Note: The main section contains detailed information about environmental management and countryside legislation in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) and Northern Ireland.

Rules for Smokeless Zones in the United Kingdom