Council Moves to Improve Air Quality by Making Reading a Smoke Control Area

THE COUNCIL’S ongoing drive to improve air quality and create a healthier Reading for residents is moving forward with proposals to declare the entire borough a Smoke Control Area.

It is estimated that 22% to 38% of all damaging particulate emissions (PM2.5) in Reading are caused by the burning of solid fuel, like wood or coal. PM2.5 is particulate matter which is so small it can pass through people’s lungs and cause serious health issues.

As part of its commitment to tackling poor air quality, the Council is proposing to introduce what is known as a Smoke Control Area (SCA) across the whole borough. Currently, only 62% of Reading falls under an SCA.

SCA’s allow local councils to take enforcement action where households emit a substantial or unacceptable amount of smoke from a chimney or are found to be burning unauthorised fuel.

Authorised fuel is easy to identify by the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo and is available to buy from reputable suppliers It is an offence to sell solid fuel which has not been authorised as exempt.

Households using an exempt appliance or authorised ‘smokeless’ fuel should not produce an amount of smoke and would therefore not be subject to enforcement action.

But financial penalties between £175 and £300 can be issued where officers witness an offence, regardless of the appliance used or the fuel burned. Those burning unauthorised fuel could face fines of up to £1,000.

Under the plans, the Council is proposing revoking the existing SCA’s in Reading and replacing them with a single SCA which covers the whole borough,

It is hoped a single order covering the whole of Reading will make it simpler for residents to understand what the requirements are which will contribute to the reduction of the harmful PM2.5 particulate and provide cleaner air and health benefits for those who live and work in the borough.

Councillors will consider the proposal at a meeting of the Council’s Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee on Thursday June 29 and whether to push ahead with a public consultation exercise over the summer, before deciding whether the change will be made.

If agreed, residents will be invited to have their say on the proposals, whether they currently live in an active SCA or not.

The SEPT Committee Report can be found at: 

Cllr John Ennis, Lead Councillor Climate Strategy and Transport, said:

“The Council is serious about tackling poor air quality in the town which has been proven to have a highly damaging effect on people’s health.

“It is frightening to think that up to 38% of damaging particulates in Reading may be caused by the burning of solid fuel and creating an SCA across the whole borough will allow the Council take enforcement action where it is necessary.

“We know that the popularity of open fires have increased in recent years and I want to be very clear that we are not proposing to take action against homes using open fires or wood burners. We do however want to educate and enforce households who continue to burn unauthorised fuel, damaging their local environment and damaging people’s health.

“Alongside the initiatives in our new Local Transport Strategy - which focuses on improving air quality through the delivery of realistic and affordable sustainable transport - we hope if agreed the Smoke Control Area initiative will make a real difference to people’s health locally.

“If agreed, I would urge as many residents as possible to take some time to respond to the consultation over the summer.”