Smoke control areas in MK

Smoke control areas are about smoke emitted from chimneys, if you want information on bonfires (open air burning) you can view this information in our bonfires section. If you want information about tobacco smoking, please see tobacco smoking for more information.

Background to smoke control legislation

The Great London Smog

The first Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956 as a response to the great smogs of the 1950’s, which culminated in the of February 1952. These smogs were caused by smoke from coal burning, by industry but mainly from domestic fireplaces, mixing with natural fog caused by a temperature inversion. Thus the smog contained large amounts of soot and sticky tar particles together with gaseous sulphur dioxide. The great London Smog lasted for five days and was responsible for thousands of premature deaths.

The Clean Air Acts

The Clean Air Acts, now consolidated in the , gave local authorities powers to improve air quality by controlling the emission of dark smoke, grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises and to establish smoke control areas where the emission of smoke from domestic properties was banned. However, because the conversion of coal-burning appliances was phased-in over time, smogs continued to be a problem for some years after the 1956 act was passed, but the like of the Great Smog was never seen again.

Reduction in Smoke and Sulphur dioxide

It is undoubtedly true that because of the implementation of smoke control areas, together with the increased popularity of natural gas and changes in the industrial and economic structure of the UK, there has been a tremendous reduction in concentrations of smoke and associated levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) between the 1950s and the present day. The ‘pea-souper’ smogs of the 1950’s and 60’s now exist only in the memories of those who lived through them and in .

Present day air pollution

However, before we become too complacent we need to look at the amount of pollution in present day air. It may not be so visible as the soot and tar of the 1950’s but arguably, particularly in our major cities; our air is just as polluted now as it was then. However, the major source of air pollution is no longer from chimneys, rather it is from vehicle exhaust pipes. The main air pollutants are now nitrogen oxides, carbon oxides, organic carbon compounds, fine particles and secondary ozone. We may not be able to see them but they are just as toxic as the pollution of old, being responsible for such things as eye irritation, asthma and bronchial complaints.

Link for more information on air quality in the UK

Air quality in Milton Keynes

We are fortunate in Milton Keynes that our air quality is better than in other large urban areas in the UK. This is due to a variety of factors, including the high proportion of modern housing in Milton Keynes; the relative lack of industrial processes with emissions to air; the grid road system which helps to spread out traffic and the wide verges along our grid roads (the level of traffic induced air pollution decreases with distance from the road).

Clean air act controls

Smoke control areas

The Clean Air Act 1993 enables local authorities to designate smoke control areas in which it is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler. The only fuels that may be burnt are authorised fuels (e.g. gas, oil, anthracite, Coalite, Homefire etc.) in any appliance or other fuels in a designated 'exempt' appliance. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs authorises fuels or exempts appliances for use in smoke control areas.

Fuels in smoke control areas

It is a requirement that fuels burnt or obtained for use in smoke control areas have been “authorised” in Regulations and that appliances used to burn solid fuel in those areas (other than “authorised” fuels) have been exempted by an Order made and signed by the Secretary of State.

Enforcement of smoke control legislation

The Environment Team in Milton Keynes Council's Regulatory Unit is responsible for enforcing the legislation in the smoke control areas in Milton Keynes (JPG, 330KB).

Even outside smoke control areas the emission of smoke may still be subject to regulatory action by the council if it is classed as a Statutory Nuisance.

Authorised fuels

Authorised fuels are fuels that are authorised by Statutory Instruments (Regulations) made under the Clean Air Act 1993. These include inherently smokeless fuels such as gas, electricity and anthracite together with specified brands of manufactured solid smokeless fuels. These fuels have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning in an open fireplace without producing smoke.

Exempt appliances

Exempt appliances are appliances (ovens, wood burners and stoves), which have been exempted by Statutory Instruments (Orders) under the Clean Air Act 1993. These have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning an unauthorised or inherently smoky solid fuel without emitting smoke.

The burning of fuels in a smoke control area

For open fires, closed room heaters and stoves, only smokeless fuel is permitted. Using coal or wood or both is not allowed. However, "smoke eating" appliances that do burn wood or coal are allowed. Gas and electric are smokeless and exempt.

Buying and selling solid fuel

In a smoke control area it is an offence to obtain or deliver coal, wood or any other fuel that is not an authorised smokeless fuel for use on an appliance that is not exempted for use in a smoke control area.

Smoke from bonfires or chimneys outside smoke control areas

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides that smoke emitted from premises anywhere, inside or outside smoke control areas, can be a Statutory Nuisance if it interferes substantially with a person’s well-being, comfort and enjoyment of their property or is a threat to human health. Such smoke might include smoke from a chimney, a bonfire, a barbeque, etc.

Smoke from businesses

The Clean Air Act 1993, makes it an offence to emit dark smoke from any trade or industrial premises or to burn anything that is likely to produce dark smoke.

For further information contact the environment team.

Smoke control areas - what you must do

Check this map to see if you are in a smoke control area

Smoke control area map (PDF, 330KB)

If you are in a smoke control area you must:


1. Use an authorised (smokeless) fuel

These fuels emit relatively low amounts of smoke and can be legally burnt on open grate fires.

Some solid fuel heating appliances are designated to burn specific and examples of these include the Parkray Consort/Chevin, the Charnwood and the Trianco Redfyre. Typical authorised smokeless fuels include Homefire, Phurnacite, Sunbrite and Blazebrite.

Coal (excepting anthracite coal) and wood are not authorised fuels and must not be burnt on open grate fires.


2. Use an exempted heating appliance

Any coal, wood or other fuel, which is not an authorised smokeless fuel, may be used in a smoke control area if it is burnt on an exempted heating appliance. These appliances are designed to burn off or "eat" their own smoke. Examples that burn coal include ‘smoke eaters’ such as the Parkray Coalmaster, Coalking and Triancomatic boilers. Examples that burn wood include the Clearview Stove and Jotul. For the appliance to remain exempt, manufacturer's recommendations must be followed.

Many closed stoves, cooking ranges and freestanding potbelly stoves are not exempt.

If in doubt check with the manufacturer.


3. Light the heating appliance so as to minimise smoke

The way in which the fuel is lit must cause minimum smoke. Sticks and paper or firelighters are both accepted methods of lighting solid fuel.

Use this link for a list of exempt appliances and authorised fuels