Air quality in Newham

Helping to clean up Newham's air: Wood Burning

Did you know that if you can smell smoke, it means the tiny soot particles could gradually harm your health? Health experts recommend avoiding wood burning due to the harmful level of particulates emissions, enhancing indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Newham as a smoke control area

Many parts of the UK are smoke control areas where you can’t emit smoke from a chimney unless you’re burning an authorised fuel or using ‘exempt appliances’, for example burners or stoves.

You can be fined up to £1,000 if you break the rules.

Under the Clean Air Act 1993, Newham is declared as a smoke control area, which means if you live in a smoke control area you must comply with the following:

  • It is an offence to emit smoke from a domestic chimney.
  • It is an offence for any person or company to obtain or deliver unauthorised fuels to a building, unless an exempt appliance is in use.

The Environment Act 2021 made changes to the Clean Air Act 1993. The amendments made to the Clean Air Act 1993 include:

  • Enabling Local Authorities to impose financial penalties for emissions of smoke in a Smoke Control Area, removing this as a criminal offence
  • Introducing offences relating to the sale and acquisition of solid fuel in England
  • Enabling Local Authorities to apply smoke control orders to vessels (i.e. houseboats)

What can you burn in a smoke control areas?

In a smoke control area you can only burn fuel on the list of authorised fuels, or any of the following ‘smokeless’ fuels:

  • Anthracite
  • Semi-anthracite
  • Gas
  • Low volatile steam coals and other ‘authorised fuels’

Unauthorised fuels, such as wood, can only be burned in exempt appliances such as some boilers, cookers and stoves.

Outdoor ovens, burners and barbecues

You can use outdoor barbecues, chimineas, fireplaces or pizza ovens. Any of these appliances that release smoke through a chimney of a building - for example a summerhouse - can only burn authorised fuel or must be exempt.

Garden bonfires

You’re allowed but should avoid garden bonfires in smoke control areas and follow the rules on bonfires.

Burning household rubbish

You must never burn household rubbish. Please follow this link for more information.

Sale of solid fuels

Since 1 May 2021, the Air Quality Solid Fuel regulations have come into force restricting the sale of wet wood and bitumen coal.

Changes Since 1 May 2021 

  • From the 1 May 2021, the sale of bitumen coal from retail suppliers has been banned. Only approved coal merchants are permitted to continue selling bitumen coal until 1st May 2023. 
  • Quantities of wood less than 2 cubic meters must be certified to have a moisture content less than 20% by the approved wood certification body and display the ready to burn logo on all packaging. 
  • A person must not supply a relevant unit of wood if, after the issue of a certificate, there is reason to believe that the moisture content of the wood exceeds 20 per cent. 
  • A person must not supply a manufactured solid fuel that is not an authorised fuel. 
  • A person who contravenes any of the prohibitions above commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

The full regulations can be seen here:

Wood burning and your health

People at home are often exposed to particulates less than 2.5 micrograms in quantities that exceed World Health Organization guidelines for household air pollution (PDF). Short-term and long-term exposure to these particulates, can lead to asthma, heart disease and worsen existing health conditions and risk of early deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Even when burning wood in an “exempt appliance” your health is a risk from poor indoor air quality.

A leaflet for people who own wood burners on the harms of wood burning (PDF)

Canal boats and wood or diesel burning for heating

Inland waterway corridors provide a cleaner, greener space for walking, cycling and recreational activities. Trees and vegetation along the waterways help clean the air and regulate the environment for people and wildlife to flourish. While boats are by no means a major contributor to urban air pollution concentrations they can have a localised impact on air quality. Those most at risk from boat engine fumes are boaters themselves. Under the amendments made to the Clean Air Act 1993, Local Authorities now have the powers to include domestic burning from vessels within a Smoke Control Area, meaning wood burning on vessels must be in compliance with the regulations highlighted above. Using cleaner sources of energy, will benefit boaters’ health and contribute to cleaner air for everyone. Please download our informative flyer (PDF) for more information.

Report smoke or other burning related nuisances

If a neighbour is frequently having a bonfire and it is causing a problem, talk to your neighbour. They may not be aware that the bonfire is a nuisance to others. If the problem continues, call us on 020 8430 2000.

Report a bonfire on an industrial or commercial site

If you run a business, you must make arrangements to get rid of your rubbish in the right way, either through our commercial waste service or a private waste company.

Under the Clean Air Act, it is illegal for a business to use a bonfire to burn materials which cause dark smoke such as plastic, paint tins or rubber. You could face a fine of up to £20,000. We will investigate commercial bonfires that cause dark smoke or a general nuisance, to report one, call us on 020 8430 2000.

If you think you smell gas, call The National Grid immediately on 0800 111 999.