Under the Clean Air Act 1993, it is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of any building in a smoke control area. It is also an offence to burn solid fuel in a home or other premises unless the fuel is:
an ‘authorised’ smokeless fuel' (standard house coal and wood are not authorised fuels); or
burnt in an 'exempt appliance' (an appliance, such as a wood burning stove or multi fuel stove, that has been tested by DEFRA to ensure it can burn the fuel without emitting smoke or a substantial quantity of smoke) and in compliance with any prescribed conditions on the exemption Order (i.e. installed and operated as per the manufacturer's instructions, use of seasoned dry wood only, maximum moisture content of the wood etc.).
If you are installing a new appliance, it is important that the minimum flue height for the appliance is followed, this is normally contained within the manufacturer's instructions. A height of at least 4.5metres from the outlet of the appliance to the top of the flue is the general rule should the manufacturer's instructions fail to include a minimum height. Any new flue for a solid fuel appliance will likely require planning consent as permitted development rights for new flues do not apply within Air Quality Management Areas. Please contact the Planning Division for further information regarding planning consent requirements.
In practice this means that in a smoke control area it is illegal to burn house coal or wood in an open fire, although it is legal to burn these in a stove or other appliance that has been approved to burn that fuel. It is also illegal to deliver any unauthorised solid fuels, eg wood and normal house coal, to any premises in a smoke control area unless seller's can demonstrate that they are aware that the unauthorised fuel is to be burnt in an exempt appliance.
In addition, wood used in an exempted appliance must be appropriate for the appliance while also be safe to burn. Not all wood is suitable for burning. Wood needs to be left to dry (seasoned) before it can be burnt and this may take up to two years. Burning wood that is wet or is from a recently felled tree, can produce a lot of smoke. Wood from carpentry off-cuts, fence panels, or wood furniture may be coated with toxic preservatives such as varnish, creosote or paint, and may release dangerous fumes if burnt.