Smoke control areas

In recent years there has been an increase in the use of wood burners and coal fires driven by the increased cost of gas and electricity, as well as for some a perception that burning wood as fuel is environmentally friendly. Many people however do not realise the risk to public health and that a lot of the urban areas within the borough are covered by Smoke Control Areas.

What Is a Smoke Control Area?

They prohibit the emission of smoke from a chimney or flue attached to a building. Smoke emissions reduce local air quality which in turn reduces the quality of health for residents. Prolonged inhalation of fine particles within wood/coal smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease and can make worse existing conditions. Children, the elderly, and sick are especially vulnerable to poor air quality.

Why Smoke Control Areas Exists?

Smoke Control Areas were created in the borough from 1960 following the introduction of the Clean Air Act in 1956. This act was in response to an estimated 12,000 deaths in London caused by the Great Smog of 1952 which lasted just 5 days.

How do I find out if my home or business is covered by a Smoke Control Area?

If you purchased your property after the introduction of a smoke control area your standard solicitor search would have indicated if it lay within a smoke control area. You can also confirm this by contacting Gravesham’s Environmental Protection Team on 01474 337000 or via email at

Are wood burners environmentally friendly?

If the wood used is from a renewable source then as a fuel it can potentially be carbon neutral however burning wood does release fine particles which pollute the air and reduce air quality. Burning wood is therefore not good for public health.


Bonfires are not covered by smoke control area rules which apply only to smoke from a buildings chimney or flue. The council can still investigate complaints about bonfires if the smoke from them is sufficient to cause a serious nuisance to someone at their residence.

Living in Smoke Control Areas

The fine for emitting smoke in a smoke control area can be up to £1000, however it is still possible to use wood or coal in a smoke control area. This can be done by using a Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) smoke control area approved stove/wood burner. They have passed tests to show they can burn the fuel they’re designed for without persistent smoke emissions. View the list of approved appliances from DEFRA.

Please note they only remain exempt if installed, maintained and used as per the manufactures guidance. If you wished to use an open fire place or a non-approved appliance then you cannot burn wood or coal. You may however burn smokeless fuels such as anthracite, taybrite etc.

Safety Advice

Solid fuel fires increase the risk of uncontrolled fires and noxious fumes within the property, the following precautions should therefore be taken.

  • Only use a qualified HETAS engineer to install a stove/wood burner. Go to the HETAS website or call them on 01684 278170.
  • If using a chimney make sure it is suitably lined. This prevents damage to the stack as well as fugitive emissions getting into an adjoining property.
  • Keep your stove, fireplace, chimney and flue maintained and regularly cleaned/swept. Blockages can result in gasses such as carbon monoxide building up and flowing back into the property.
  • Place carbon monoxide alarms in the room with the fire and in your bedrooms.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher/bucket of sand easily accessible and flammable items away from the fireplace/stove.
  • Use a suitable fire guard when young children/pets are in the house and do not leave an open fire unattended.

General Advice

  • Notify your building insurer that you are using an open fire or stove. If you don’t and try to claim for fire damage then your insurance may be invalidated.
  • Before purchasing a stove advertised as for use in a smoke control area, carry out your own search on the DEFRA smoke control website or contact this service with the make/model details. This can avoid an expensive mistake due to false advertising. False adverts should be reported to your local trading standards.