Smoke Control

Smoke Control Areas

Under Section 18 of the Clean Air Act 1993, the whole of Kensington and Chelsea was designated a Smoke Control Area in 2004. This means that:

  • It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, or from a furnace or fixed boiler.
  • There are restrictions on the type of appliance that can be installed within a building and the fuels that can be used within them.

The maximum level of fine is £1000 for an offence.

Smoke control is important in Kensington and Chelsea because the Council has committed to working towards the more stringent World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guideline Values.

Domestic Smoke – Health

Wood burning stoves and coal fires are the single largest source of the pollutant PM2.5 and can emit twice the contribution of industry and three times the contribution of road transport.  PM2.5 has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the most harmful air pollutant for human health.  The PM2.5 particles in smoke can enter the bloodstream and internal organs, causing long-term health issues as well as having immediate impacts on some such as breathing problems or asthma attacks.

Domestic Smoke - Appliances

Please be aware that the following is for information purposes only and is not intended to provide a definitive guide.

For those that need to use wood burning stoves or open fires you can reduce your environmental and health impacts by:

  • Maximising efficiency, meaning you burn less fuel;
  • Reducing the risk of chimney fires; and
  • Reducing smoke and carbon monoxide which can be harmful to you and your neighbours.

Wood-burning stoves produce far less smoke than open fires, however they are still a source of pollution. If you are considering buying a new or replacement stove then you will need to purchase one that is Defra exempt, permitting its use within a Smoke Control Area or an Ecodesign Ready Stove. It is illegal to use a non-exempt appliance in a Smoke Control Area.

If you intend to fit, alter or replace an external flue / chimney or install a new woodboring stove into the fireplace, these works will fall under the Building Regulations. In order to comply with these regulations, you can either;

  • Use a HETAS registered installer under the governments Competent Person Scheme to self-certify the work; or
  • Give notice to the Building Control Body.

Visit the HETAS website for further information on smoke controller areas and registering.

Before you have any new appliances installed it is essential to have the chimney/flue inspected and swept beforehand to ensure its suitability for use. The regulations will also require the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms containing any solid fuel combustion appliance. RBKC will require your installer to provide us with the commissioning checklist following the installation of the solid fuel stove and/or chimney alterations.

Ensure that you regularly maintain and service your appliance / stove. This means it will work more efficiently and generate more heat from the fuel you burn. Always operate the appliance / stove in line with the manufacturers guidance.

Domestic Smoke - Fuels

  • ‘Ready to Burn’ -  Wood that has the Woodsure Ready to Burn label is certified to have a low moisture content,  a full list of suppliers can be found on the Woodsure website. Visit the Woodsure website for further information.
  • ‘Seasonal Wood’ - Wet or unseasoned wood, often sold in nets, is cheaper to buy, but it needs to be seasoned (dried) before burning.  Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burned.  This can damage your stove and chimney. It also means you’re losing out on heat for your home.  Moisture meters are cheap and easy to use.  Why not use one to check the moisture content of your logs before burning.  Dry wood should have 20% moisture or less.
  • ‘Approved Fuels’ – These fuels produce less smoke than house-coal when burned. They can also be more efficient and cost less to heat your home. Visit the GOV.UK website for further information.

Domestic Smoke- Outdoors

Outdoor barbeques, chimineas, fireplaces and pizza ovens are permitted when outdoors.  However, if any of these appliances release smoke though a chimney of a building- for example a summerhouse- only authorised fuels should be used. 

The smoke control laws do not apply to bonfires and burning wood outside, but precautions should be taken to avoided nuisance from smoke drifting across other gardens or into open windows.  It is important to minimise smoke and pollution by not burning rubber, plastics or other materials releasing toxic fumes and keeping the fire hot by not adding damp, or compacted materials.  Using paraffin or other flammable liquids to start bonfires or barbecues, should be avoided because of the serious safety risks and the pungent fumes released. 

Government Update – Domestic Burning

Defra consulted on the cleaner domestic burning of solid fuels and wood between August to October 2018.  The proposals in this consultation included (which were in line with Defra’s Clean Air Strategy, published in 2019 - visit the GOV.UK website for further information):

  • restrictions on the sale of wet wood for domestic burning
  • phasing out the sale of traditional house coal
  • applying sulphur standards and smoke emission limits to all manufactured solid fuels

The result of that consultation are as follows;

  1. Sales of bagged traditional house coal and wet wood in units under 2m3 will be phased out by February 2021;
  2. Sales of loose coal direct to customers via approved coal merchants will be phased out by February 2023;
  3. There will be limitations on the sale of manufactured solid fuels for domestic combustion from February 2021, with only those fuels with a low sulphur content and which emit a small amount of smoke being permitted for sale.

Further information on authorised fuels and appliances can be found at the following websites;