Section 4 of the draft strategy looks specifically at functions that local authorities can make use of to improve air quality. The section looks in detail at the following:
- Domestic burning
- Industrial emissions
- Transport and non-road mobile machinery
- Indoor Air Quality
- Communicating air quality information
For domestic burning, local authorities have the following actions:
- Local authorities should keep the boundaries of existing Smoke Control Areas under review, especially if development has taken place outside of the boundaries. They should consider whether it would be beneficial to declare a new Smoke Control Area.
- Local authorities with Smoke Control Areas are expected to enforce restrictions which apply within those areas.
- All local authorities should enforce solid fuel regulations by ensuring that fuel being sold for domestic purposes has the “Ready to Burn” logo. Local authorities should ensure that no retailers are selling coal for indoor domestic burning from 1 May 2023.
Through the Environment Improvement Plan, the UK government has a number of actions:
- The government will look to strengthen the effect of Smoke Control Areas. They will consult on tougher stove standards for Smoke Control Areas, lowering the smoke limit for newly installed stoves from 5g smoke per hour to at least as low as 3g.
- The government will consult on tougher emission standards for Manufactured Solid Fuels reducing both smoke emissions and sulphur levels.
- The government will explore policies to incentivise a shift from older, more polluting devices towards newer appliances which meet our tough new emission standard.
- The government will provide updated guidance, templates, and information to support local authorities in reducing emissions from domestic burning.
Current Smoke Control Areas and Solid Fuel Regulations are also covered in the strategy, including the recent change of making breaches of smoke control area rules a civil rather than criminal offence. Guidance and financial support are being made available for Local Authorities in this area of work, including template enforcement materials, information to reduce smoke emissions and warning letters to be issued ahead of any fines.
Following changes made under the Environment Act 2021, these provisions now also apply to nuisance smoke from chimneys inside SCAs, in addition to smoke from chimneys outside SCAs and smoke from other sources such as bonfires, which were already covered.
Local Authorities also hold responsibility for enforcing legislation restricting the sale of the most polluting fuels used in domestic burning. The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 restrict the sale of wet wood for domestic burning, limit the emission of sulphur and smoke from manufactured solid fuels, and phase out the sale of smoky coal (also known as traditional house coal or bituminous coal).
The Regulations introduce a mandatory certification scheme demonstrating that wood sold in volumes under 2m3 is dry (not more than 20% moisture), and that manufactured solid fuels sold for use in domestic burning have a sulphur content below 2% and emit less than 5g smoke per hour. Local authorities should check that fuel being sold for domestic purposes has the required “Ready to Burn” logo and certification number. From 1 May 2023, retailers are banned from selling coal (bagged or loose) for domestic burning.
Indoor air quality is also covered in the draft strategy with a number of actions relating to improving indoor air quality. The importance of ventilation and best practice guidance for front line, public health, environmental and planning professionals is at the forefront of local partner actions. The strategy also suggests action to reduce emissions from domestic burning will help tackle indoor air pollution.
Communication is at the forefront of Defra’s efforts to improve air quality, with a number of actions being identified.
- The government launched the Air Quality Information System (AQIS) review in December 2021. The remit of the two-year review is to provide a series of actionable, evidence-based improvements which could be made to the government’s provision of air quality information.
- The government will develop a best practice guide on outdoor burning that can be provided to members of the public to help reduce emissions.
- The government will share communications assets and other material of wider relevance with local authorities to use in their own communications.
A wide range of resources are available through the UK-Air website and HETAS has been working closely with Defra for a number of years in support of the ‘Burn Better’ campaign.