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Cambridge City Council

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Smoke pollution

We are working to improve public health and the environment. Emissions from the burning of solid fuel can contribute to localised air pollution, particularly in urban areas.

Clean Air Act (CAA)

The first CAA of 1956 was introduced in response to the London smog of December 1952 which is said to have claimed 4,000 lives.  This smog was caused mainly by coal burning.  The act is now consolidated in the CAA 1993.  This allows councils to establish smoke control areas (SCA) to improve air quality through the control of domestic and industrial smoke.

Cambridge smoke control area

Cambridge has three smoke control areas. If you live in this area you must either burn smokeless fuel or if you want to burn coal or wood install an exempt heating appliance. These appliances are designed to burn off their own smoke.  It is an offence for an occupier of premises to allow smoke to be emitted from a chimney, unless the smoke is being caused by an authorised fuel or the heating appliance is exempt from the order.

The shaded area of the map shows the extent of the three smoke control areas. Alternatively you can search to see if your street is listed on the list of streets in the smoke control area [40kB] [PDF, 40Kb]. Please note this list is not exhaustive.

If you live outside of a smoke control area

Even if you live outside of a smoke control area, we encourage you to burn smokeless fuel or install exempt heating appliances to minimise emissions.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 smoke emitted from a domestic chimney outside a SCA can be deemed a statutory nuisance if it is prejudicial to health or causing a nuisance. Therefore it is best, if at all possible to avoid burning smoky fuels.  

If you are burning wood

Open fires and wood-burning stoves have risen in popularity over recent years.  Every year the council get complaints from residents about smoke from neighbouring domestic chimneys.  In many cases this could be reduced if people used good quality fuel and burnt it efficiently. 

If you are considering or already burn wood in either an open fire or wood burning stove in Cambridge the following information may be of interest.  It provides advice on choosing the right stove, sourcing good quality wood plus tips and hints on efficient burning and getting the best from your stove.

Using a centralised biomass boiler or combined heat and power system offers a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil-fuel heating. Burning wood pellets, logs or woodchip does the same. Although these systems might offer carbon savings, the benefits to climate change can conflict with the need to improve air quality.

We do not encourage the use of biomass for centralised boiler or combined heat and power systems, because of the potential negative impact on local air quality.

Bonfires

Smoke control orders do not apply to domestic bonfires, however under certain circumstances they can be deemed a statutory nuisance.

Our policy

We prefer to adopt an educational role to help people's understanding of the need for smoke control areas and why it is important for everyone to comply with this legislation.

Where appropriate, however, we will take court action against persons or companies found to be committing an offence.

Evolving national and local policy

Amendments to the Environment Act 1995 are currently going through parliament, including amendments to the Clean Air Act 1993.

These amendments will help us reduce pollution from domestic burning. No further updates are expected until 2021.

For more information, read the government’s explanatory notes on the Environment Bill [PDF].