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Decision to fine residents for chimney smoke in 41 areas delayed until after elections

A decision on whether to start fining households for releasing chimney smoke across parts of Gedling has been delayed until after the upcoming election.

Members of Gedling Borough Council’s environment and licensing committee delayed a discussion on the plans over concerns it could become “political”.

It related to using more powers to fine households emitting smoke from their chimneys in 41 separate smoke control areas (SCAs) in the borough.

The plan is part of legislation in the Clean Air Act 1993 which sets out offences for emitting smoke in these SCAs.

Forty-one SCAs have been established in the borough in recent decades, covering the majority of the urban parts of Gedling.

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This includes all of Arnold, Daybrook Woodthorpe, Porchester, Carlton, Netherfield, Colwick, Calverton, Bestwood Village and most of Gedling Village.

Emitting smoke from chimneys through open fires, wood-burning stoves or fixed boilers is prohibited in these areas unless specific criteria are met.

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This includes only using ‘authorised fuel’ such as gas or electricity, or ‘smokeless’ fuels unless through an exempt appliance.

Exempt appliances include anthracite or semi-anthracite coal burners, low-volatile steam coal, or gas.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guidelines also say unauthorised fuel, such as wood, can only be burned in exempt appliances.

DEFRA’s smoke control website sets out a list of hundreds of exempt appliances, including countless wood burners.

Outdoor barbecues, chimineas, fireplaces or pizza ovens are also allowed, alongside garden bonfires as long as they follow DEFRA rules on bonfires.

Gedling Borough Council says its public protection team receives complaints “from time to time” for these chimney offences both within and outside SCAs.

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However, enforcement has been hindered in the past as, previously, fining officers must have physically seen fuel being put on the fire.

But now local authorities can fine people specifically for emitting smoke from their chimneys in SCAs due to new rules in the Environment Act 2021.

If offenders are found breaching these rules, an initial fine of £175 can be handed out.

The financial penalty increases to £300 for repeat offenders.

The 2021 Act granted councils more powers to issue fines and the Labour-controlled authority had planned to begin using them.

An item was due for discussion at the environment and licensing committee on Tuesday (April 18).

However, the committee has deferred a decision until its next meeting, which will take place after the council election on May 4.

Councillor Marje Paling (Lab) is the chair of the committee and confirmed the deferral at the start of the meeting.

She said: “We have decided to defer the item because there is a chance, although I doubt it very much, the debate could become political.

“Because it’s so close to the election, we’ve decided it would be better to withdraw it.

“It’s not an urgent item so it can easily come to the next meeting [after the election].”

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Had the item been discussed, the level of fines could have been approved and powers could have been handed to officers to administer them.

In a report published ahead of the meeting, the council said: “Not [doing this] will mean the council will not be able to use the new methods of enforcement.

“[It will make] it difficult to identify and prosecute offenders within the borough.

“Some revenue may be received from payment of financial penalties, though it is anticipated most complaints can be resolved without the need for financial penalties.

“Perhaps in the region of £500-£1000 may be received per annum.”

A date for the next meeting will not be set until the first full council meeting of the new council administration on May 24.

 

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