Bruce Allen’s Insight | November 2021

This month we saw the long awaited announcement of the publication of The Environment Act 2021. Government says the Act will clean up the country’s air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste and make better use of our resources. This includes the setting of new legally binding long-term targets to improve air quality and reduce fine particulate (PM2.5) emissions by October 2022. It also makes it quicker and easier for local authorities to enforce penalties for smoke emissions from homes in a Smoke Control Area (SCA), and removes the limits on fines that can be issued for the sale and delivery of unapproved solid fuels to a building in an SCA. Retailers of solid fuel will also be required to tell customers that that it is illegal to buy unapproved fuel for use in an SCA, unless they’re using an exempted appliance which lists that fuel as acceptable for use.

We absolutely welcome the development of the eagerly awaited Environment Act and hope that the new legislation it introduces will drive up standards of air quality. We all breathe the same air and HETAS has been working hard for many years to support improvements in air quality and reduce the impact of domestic burning. Our role is to promote safe, responsible and environmentally-responsible burning and providing clear and usable legislation for local authorities to prosecute is a positive step forward, as a lack of enforcement in this area has been a barrier to improvement.

On this matter, there was also a positive response to our recent communications, driving wood burning change. ​​HETAS continues to support cleaner and safer choices for the use of biomass and other solid fuels, appliances and associated technologies. As such, we’re working to drive further change across the industry with more research, education, training and enforcement against those who break the rules, if the use of wood burning and solid fuels is to fulfil its potential as a cleaner, carbon neutral heat source in the UK and reduce its impact on air quality. As we have been saying for some time, understanding the science is vitally important. In the government’s Clean Air Strategy in 2019, it was estimated that the domestic burning of wood and coal is responsible for 38% of PM2.5 emissions in the UK, which is more than industrial combustion and road transport. Since then, scientific research has significantly cast doubt on this estimate, as has Defra’s own additional research that found the total wood consumption in UK homes was likely 58% less than estimated in the data that underpins the Clean Air Strategy.

In fact, indoor heating is the only part of the whole domestic burning that’s regulated and this is just one small part of the whole picture that contributes to that estimated 38%. To make a bigger impact on the reduction of domestic burning on air quality we must have greater understanding of which burning sources truly make the greatest contribution to poor air quality. HETAS continues to work with all relevant government departments to advise on this matter.

We have already seen great change in our sector with the introduction of The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 and we can expect further change into 2022 with Ecodesign coming into force for stoves and open fires. The recently published PS006 gives clarity on the installation of open fires and Ecodesign for our registered businesses. We can also expect change to come through the Environment Act, a topic outlined in more detail in this month’s newsletter.

Newly formed government Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has also announced the outcome of the consultation on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. There are some key changes we can expect to see in the future as a result of the consultation.

  •  The regulations for both privately and socially rented homes will be expanded and extended. A carbon monoxide alarm will be required in all rooms where there is a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers. This will amend Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. Previously in England, only privately rented homes with solid fuel burning appliances were required to have a carbon monoxide alarm.  
  •  There will be an obligation on both private and social sector landlords to repair or replace alarms, once informed that they are faulty. 
  •  In all newly built homes a carbon monoxide alarm will be required when a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers, is installed. This will amend Part J of the Building Regulations. 
  •  The guidance on both positioning of alarms and type of carbon monoxide alarm will be reviewed and may be brought in line with BS EN 50292 and BS EN 50291.  

We have also been working closely with the Carbon Monoxide Research Trust on their solid fuel and CO review project. You can read more about this on the CO Research Trust website. I’m pleased to see the expanded work of the renamed Trust expanding to solid fuel and my thanks go out to Adrian McConnell and Dr James Hanlon for this particular project.

Keep up to date with legislative and standard changes through the HETAS newsletters and Technical Bulletins. As 2021 nears its end, we have one more Technical Bulletin to come this year, eyes peeled to your inbox for the final one of the year. You can of course access all of the Bulletins, newsletters and much more through the Technical Area of the website. We’ve seen growing numbers accessing the HETAS Technical Area in recent months. You can also notify your installations through the website. Into 2022, notifying online will become the norm as we gradually reduce the numbers using paper based notifications.

Finally, with growing concerns on rising cases of coronavirus, I trust you will all be doing your very best to work in a COVID Secure way and taking all the necessary measures to keep yourself, your employees and your customers safe in the run up to Christmas.