Woodburners, stoves and their impact on air quality: An insight from REC


Campfire And TentWith the UK already in breach of EU air quality laws and facing multi-million pound fines by the European Court of Justice, the ambitious Clean Air Strategy sets out to clean up the UK’s polluted air with a series of new measures over the next 25 years.

REC’s Air Quality lead – Conal Kearney – with his local authority air quality planning background – provides some insight into what this means.


Why are wood-burning stoves and open fires particularly bad for UK air quality?

The use of open wood fires and stoves has risen in popularity due increasing energy costs and fashions for cosy ‘old world’ home aesthetics. The burning of wood causes pollutant emissions, largely in the form of fine particles or ‘particulates’. The rise of wood burners in the UK’s larger urban areas, where background pollutants are already high has led to concerns that the accumulation of particulates could reach levels harmful to health in terms of respiratory and cardiovascular illness.


Is wood burning really contributing to more air pollution?

It has been estimated that domestic wood burners in London contribute up to 9% of particulate matter in the winter. In addition, smoke and odours can cause nuisance to neighbours with local authority officers dealing with an increased number of complaints. REC believes that more research is also required on the impact of wood burners and open fires on indoor air quality and health impacts.


Does this mean that we can’t use wood burners anymore?

As part of the new Clean Air Fund, the Government has responded by announcing that all new wood burners should meet certified emissions standards and has recommended that only sufficiently dried wood should be used as fuel. More powers are to be passed to local authorities but this has raised questions on their ability and resources to enforce the suggested measures.

It remains to be seen how effective measures will be in curbing air pollution and indeed this will relate to tackling other air quality challenges such as emissions from by diesel vehicles. Irrespective, it is yet another consideration for proposed development schemes in urban areas and potentially could lead to further permissions such as planning or Environmental Permits being required for larger scale wood combustion plants..


If you would like to know more about the details in this article, or need advice on how they might impact your activities, call us on 0845 676 9303 for a free, no obligation 1:1 advice session with a consultant who will be happy to help.

REC Ltd is a leading UK-wide environmental consultancy with extensive experience in air quality advice for planners and developers. We offer advice on the requirements, design and execution of air quality impact assessments. Please email info@recltd.co.uk

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