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Town Hall warning for wood-burning stove users

Suggestion that buyers of burner appliances do not know of air pollution harm some of them can cause

06 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Heather Johnson

A MUST-have for any ideal home catalogue, wood-burning stoves have fast become as much of a middle-class cliché of north London life as shopping at Waitrose and holidaying in the Dordogne.

But the growing popularity of watching flames lick off a pile of logs inside a metal cabinet and the smell of woodchip in the air has led Camden Council to warn users that they could be breaking the law. In some cases, a penalty fine of up to £1,000 could be dished out to residents found burning the wrong fuel in the stoves.

Labour councillor Heather Johnson warned buyers of the stoves may not realise that the appliances can cause problems.

“It seems quite interesting that it will be the same people who’ll be shouting and yelling about air pollution and traffic and things like that who are probably having the wood-burning stoves,” she told a meeting of the council’s cross-party environment scrutiny committee last Tuesday.

“If it is a problem, is it something that we maybe ought to be trying to do a bit of publicity on it and maybe to the manufacturers and the sellers of wood-burning stoves, just reminding them that actually it’s not legal in London? I’m sure a lot of people think it’s kind of healthy and natural because it’s wood and it doesn’t count for some reason.”

The stoves, which can cost up to £2,000 and are used to heat homes and cook food, were once more familiarly used in country cottages, but in recent years have become popular among interior designers kitting out picture-perfect homes in urban areas, too. The increase in their use in tightly-packed areas led to calls for restrictions and earlier this year when London Mayor Sadiq Khan launched a clean-air awareness campaign.


The industry has in turn claimed his intervention was widely misquoted as a call for a ban on wood-burning stoves across the capital, when it was simply meant to be about encouraging users and potential buyers to consider using the clean fuel and equipment.

Camden’s environment chief, Councillor Adam Harrison, said “We are a smoke-controlled area, so it is illegal to have those sorts of appliances or to burn the wrong fuel in permitted appliances in this area. You can be fined up to £1,000.”

He added: “We are setting up a new clean-air partnership bringing in all sorts of really important stakeholders, businesses, and universities from across the borough to think about every single action we need to be taking forward. “I don’t have any figures for wood-burning stoves currently. I think they are on the rise though, including in Camden, so it’s something we need to have regard to and work out how we deal with them, how we educate people and take action if necessary.”

Camden has reissued advice on wood-burning stoves. “Wood, wood chips and wood pellets are non-authorised fuels and can therefore only be burnt in appliances which have been approved by the Secretary of State to burn these fuels,” it says. “Marketing terms such as ‘clean burn’, ‘clean heat’ and ‘low emission appliance’ are occasionally used by some appliance manufacturers or distributors and provide no guarantee that appliances are exempt or suitable for exemption.”

The Stove Industry Alliance said “ecodesign” stoves reduce emissions and do not break clean air rules.


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