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Decisions published

17/05/2024 - Financial Penalty - Smoke Control Area ref: 667    Recommendations Approved

Air pollution can impact health when there is long term exposure over a number of years, increasing the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Air pollution can also trigger health effects from short term exposure to elevated levels over much shorter periods such as days or hours. At particular risk are vulnerable people with existing health conditions who may see asthma, strokes and heart problems triggered by short-term increases in air pollution. The young and the elderly are also more vulnerable to short term peaks in air pollution.
One of the main pollutants of concern is particulate matter (PM) found in smoke, with the smaller particles (referred to as PM2.5) identified by the World Health Organization as the most damaging to human health. It is accepted that there is no safe level of PM2.5 pollution so any reductions of emissions of this pollutant, especially in locations close to where people live and are exposed to it, will be beneficial to health.
Domestic burning accounted for 27.3% of total PM2.5 emissions in 2021. The level of exposure to smoke from this source is potentially much greater than from industry and manufacturing because people generally live much closer to homes with chimneys (or flues) than they do to most industrial sources, so there is less opportunity for the pollution to disperse before people are exposed to it. Smoke pollution is also released directly into the home when open fires and stoves are used.
The introduction of penalties to tackle pollution from solid fuel appliances that are not operated in compliance with the regulations, will help reduce exposure to pollution levels which can directly impact human health.
The government updated its Clean Air Strategy in 2019. The strategy outlines how the government will deal with all sources of air pollution. More specifically, the strategy identified new powers for local authorities to enforce smoke control in Smoke Control Areas to help reduce the impact of domestic solid fuel burning.
Amendments to the Clean Air Act 1993 made under Schedule 12 of the Environment Act 2021 came into force from 1 May 2022 by adding Section 19A and Schedule 1A, introducing civil financial penalties.
Most of Crawley is covered by smoke control orders, declared in the 1960s and 70s under the Clean Air Act 1956. A smoke control area is an area where people and businesses must not emit smoke from:
- The chimney of any building
- A chimney for the furnace of any fixed boiler or industrial plant
- Buy or sell unauthorised fuel for use in a smoke control area unless it’s used in an approved appliance
- Certain buildings may be exempt (exemptions can be found in the Schedules to the Smoke Control Orders for each Smoke Control Area in Crawley).
Environment Act 2021 Amendments to Clean Air Act 1993
Enforcement in Smoke Control Areas through the Clean Air Act amendments, now means that the following new rules apply:
•Smoke emissions in a smoke control area (SCA) are subject to a civil, rather than criminal, regime, and the local authority can issue a financial penalty to the person responsible.
•The current statutory defences (using an exempt appliance or authorised fuel) have been removed.
•Moored vessels (e.g. canal boats) can be brought into the scope of SCAs (Crawley’s Smoke control Orders do not cover moored vessels)
•Smoke from private dwellings in SCAs is no longer exempt from statutory nuisance legislation.
•Solid fuel retailers must notify potential customers that it is an offence to buy unauthorised fuel for use in a SCA.
•The limit on the fine for selling unauthorised fuel is removed.
Local authorities have been advised that it is good practice to take a proportionate approach to issuing financial penalties for smoke emissions, being mindful that it is unlikely that burning solid fuels will be completely smokeless and most appliances will have a period of “start-up” where there may be emissions of smoke for approximately 15mins. It has therefore been agreed that enforcement of the smoke control provisions for SCAs in Crawley will follow the 3-stepped approach of: Improvement Notice - Notice of Intent - Final Notice.
The Council’s Policy for setting charges (financial penalties) for those responsible for smoke emissions in a Smoke Control Area in Crawley, states that:
- For First Offence the charge will be the minimum amount of £175
- For each additional Notice of Intent served thereafter, the charges will increase by increments of £25 up to the maximum of £300.

Decision Maker: Deputy Chief Executive

Decision published: 29/05/2024

Effective from: 17/05/2024

Decision:

Proceed as proposed.

Lead officer: Georgina Bouette