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Sadiq Khan seeks stricter wood and coal burning controls

London’s mayor calls for fresh powers to introduce “small” no burning areas for solid fuel appliances and ensure that compliance is policed in the city

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is seeking new powers to address air quality in the capital by curbing non-road pollution sources that include solid fuel heating systems.

Proposals being sought by the elected mayor include the creation of new zones that would not allow burning of wood and coal in parts of the capital. Revisions to existing controls over emissions that are set out in the Clean Air Act have also been asked for.

Some stakeholders within the wood stove industry have criticised the mayor’s plans, arguing that he should focus less on stoves and more on the quality of solid fuel and incomplete burning in line with several ongoing campaigns.

Mr Khan said he was looking to introduce a similar strategy for solid fuel appliances and other major emissions contributors that was already underway in the capital to curb the environmental impacts of transport.

The Mayor argued in a letter to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that non-transport sources of pollution were believed to contribute half of all “deadly emissions” in London.

“With more than 400 schools located in areas exceeding legal pollution levels, and such significant health impacts on our most vulnerable communities, we cannot wait any longer and I am calling on government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

Solid fuels are just one of the focuses of these proposed powers, with Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) such as diggers and bulldozers being focused on, along with plans to tackle river and canal emissions.

Clean Air Act

Mr Khan claimed that controls on the domestic burning of solid fuels such as wood and coal had barely been revised since the introduction of the first Clean Air Act in 1956 and were effectively “obsolete” in the modern market place.

The mayor earlier this year launched a consultation for how best to realise the capital’s aims for having zero carbon buildings by 2050. The consultation document highlighted a need for new heating and cooling systems to support this work.

However, he argued that reforms of current clean air legislation would be needed to effectively cut emissions from solid fuels.

Amendments to allow for the creation of small areas that prohibit burning solid fuel are among legislative changes sought by the mayor.

“These would complement existing plans to create transport zero emission zones in small areas from 2025 onwards,” said a statement from Mr Khan’s office. “In addition, the Clean Air Act should be reformed, so the mayor can set tighter emission limits for new domestic heating appliances like wood burning stoves for pollutants such as PM10 and PM2.5 that are invisible and are known to have a detrimental effect on health.”

The provision of “enhanced powers” for local authorities to ensure compliance with restrictions on burning fuel in these proposed zones has also been proposed by the mayor. This is expected to allow authorities to inspect and enforce any breaches of legislation, with similar powers also touted for addressing properties used for commercial purposes.

The mayor’s office did note the work of both the Stove Industry Alliance and Woodsure in launching their voluntary “ecodesign ready” and “Ready to Burn” label initiatives respectively to inform consumers over the importance of higher efficiency appliances and wood quality.

However, Mr Khan’s office expected to see further industry work to tackle air quality concerns.

“The mayor believes that more should be done to empower consumers to make the right choice, including better information at the point of sale and mandatory labelling of products that are legal to use in smoke control areas,” said a statement.

Fire stove manufacturer Specflue responded to the mayor’s letter by arguing that Mr Khan had neglected to consider more efficient and environmentally friendly appliance designs for burning wood that were coming to market.

“The volume of particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere caused by wood burning depends on how the wood is burnt rather than the stove used to burn it. Particulates come from incomplete burning of wood, but modern wood-burning stoves are highly efficient at doing this,” said the company in a statement.

The company cited a recent presentation from Dennis Milligan of the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) in highlighting the impact of the European Commission Ecodesign directive. Ecodesign was introduced to improve the efficiency of a broad range of appliances to curb emissions of carbon gas compounds and other substances.

Mr Milligan said that while there was no an obligation for wood burning stoves to comply with the directive until 2022, the alliance was already playing up appliances that were Ecodesign ready.

“All new stove models developed from now on will meet the emission limits and, by 2020, the main manufacturers in the SIA will only produce stoves that meet Ecodesign requirements,” he said.

“Research from Kings College London suggests that, in winter time, wood burning accounts for about 10 per cent of the PM emissions in London… But a survey of 1,000 users of wood-burning stoves and open fires throughout the UK found that 70 per cent of the wood burned in London is burnt on an open fire. An ‘Ecodesign Ready’ stove reduces emissions by 90 per cent, compared with an open fire.

You can read more on the wood stove industry’s aims to address air quality and efficiency challenges in the digital edition of this month’s H&V News here.


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