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Wood Burning Stove: Can Neighbour Object?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 18 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Wood Burning Stove Smoke Control Area

Q.

I have a neighbour who is insisting that we burn coal instead of dry seasoned wood in our stove. He claims that the smoke is getting into his house even though I have been over and could not smell anything. I had the chimney re-lined when we moved in 6 months ago. Where do I stand on this?

(Mr. W.L, 20 November 2008)

A.

The law regarding this would very much depend on if you are living in a Smoke Control Area and if so, whether what you are burning is classed as an authorised fuel.

Back in 1956 and 1968, two separate Clean Air Acts were introduced to tackle the problems of smoke pollution caused by the widespread use of coal for domestic heating and in industrial premises and furnaces. As a result of these Acts, it gave permission to local authorities to designate Smoke Control Areas in which smoke emissions from domestic dwellings were banned.

Today, these Acts as well other associated clean air legislation have been pulled together and redrawn up into the Clean Air Act 1993.

Without knowing where you live and the fact that you have a close neighbour may mean that you are, in fact, living in a Smoke Control Area, unless you are residing in a fairly remote or rural area. If you aren’t subject to a Smoke Control Area, then the same restrictions do not apply, although it’s advisable to Contact Your local Environment Department to establish your legal position. It might also be the case that while you are allowed to burn dry seasoned wood, your stove or flue may not meet the required standards, so you should check that out too.

However, if you are living in a Smoke Control Area, then it is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney as a result of burning any ‘unauthorised fuel’, including wood, and you can only burn specified brands of manufactured ‘smokeless fuels’.

These are fuels which have been stringently tested to demonstrate that they are capable of burning without producing smoke in an open fireplace.

There are also ‘exempt appliances’ whereby the appliance generally has a smoke chamber which burns off the smoke before it reaches the chimney, allowing you to burn traditional coal and wood that would otherwise be banned under normal circumstances in a Smoke Control area, but you need to ensure your stove is one of those which is exempt.

You can visit the UK Smoke Control Areas website and find out if your borough or district council is completely or partially smoked controlled or if there is no smoke control area in place whatsoever. This site will also give you a list of the authorised fuels you’re permitted to use in a Smoke Control Area.

If, on the other hand, you’re unsure whether you live in an area covered by the legislation, then check with the local authority as you can be liable for a fine of up to £1,000 if you are found to be breaking the law.

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Next door's wood burning stove has a deflector that directs smoke straight down into our garden (It's been knocked sideways by ?) .It was really smokey the other day - I did hope for a fire! She also has an open fire on which she burns ... wood.Her central heating boiler flue, which erupts at about 05.00, is in line with my bedroom window, well away from her bedroom. She is a 'difficult' neighbour. We live on the outskirts of a country village, with open aspects, and no smoke restrictions, unfortunately, almost all of the residents now have wood burning stoves + open fires (wood), so we get the 'benefit' of smoke from all directions in the winter months, (and, YES, alsofrequently down OUR flue. Fortunately, the garden is moreorless long enough for me to relocate washing line in winter months - wood smoked laundry is NOT hygge. We also have a bonfire merchant who builds really high (3 to 4m) fires which he then lights, at night, when the wind is blowing onto our properties.
kippered - 18-Feb-17 @ 4:34 PM
Good luck to anyone who thinks they can do anything about this very public nuisance. I hope they put their success stories here on this forum for us all to see. The chimney opposite me has sent out plumes of smoke all day again, billowing out into now a pall of horizontal smoke hanging everywhere in the mist, so many days have been foggy recently, or is this actually smog?? As soon as I open my front door the stink of smoke assails me, even if I don't open the door, I can still smell the smoke and sooty smell in my bathroom, and other rooms . The little cat from next door had been left out in it and has come into me for refuge, unfortunatly I have to go out and so she will have to go out into it to have to sit in it breathing it all in, when she already has a heart and lung condition and came in smelling strongly of smoke, her owners often just leave her out in it and don't seem to realise that it is bad for her to have to breathe it in, so that is a worry for me as well, I have chest problems and have the usual tightness and coughing I get this time of year. I directed the MP to this forum about a couple of years or more ago, but was palmed off by the local environmental dept who really don't want to hear anything more from me about smoke as they are not prepared to do anything. A planning officer told me a few yrs ago that if the chimney had been built today it would be against regulations as it is far too short but that as it has been in place for so many years it is too late to do anything about it on those grounds. The people who lived there previously did not use the chimney so there wasn't a problem. Even if on top of the house though it is still a nusiance and worry, as evidenced by the chinnmey on the house adjoining my friends house, all the smoke ocmes into his garden all washing smells of smoke and I used to be able to sit there doing bird counts for the BTO, all this is very difficult now because of the smoke so it is all falling by the wayside.Something must be done about the nuisance from chimneys on houses and the polluting smoke.
Rose - 30-Jan-17 @ 6:13 PM
Our neighbours here at North Hykeham (smokeless area) have been filling the close with smoke since early December 2016.They have had a wood burning heater installed. Their garden is piled with stuff that gets cut up every Sunday. Kitchen cabinets, fence posts, plywood, painted wood. Basically anything that burns. They are fully aware of the smoke and smell they produce but aren't prepared to do anything about it. I hate living here now. Every time I step out of the house I smell smoke. When things are bad it makes my clothes smell too. I was really pleased when I spoke to some of the neighbours recently that they are affected by the smoke and smell too. I've contacted the Environmental Health who are now "looking into it" but from what I have read on this site they won't do anything. I thought the photo's I sent of the piles of chipboard and painted wood from the neighbours garden would have prompted a house visit as these produce highly toxic fumes / particles when burnt..... but no, the horrible stink is still going on. I've done a bit of research and it seems that taking them to court will be the only way to deal with this. This was actually mentioned on a council website. So I sympathise with all of you that are affected by the smoke. And to the person that produces smoke from their "approved appliance" for 10 minutes after it is lit. How dare you even think that is alright. For the 10 minutes that you filling the air with nasty smoke stand down wind of your chimney and breath that in. Go on, see how we feel!
Smoke watcher - 13-Jan-17 @ 8:52 PM
there is always some problem with comments not displaying properly here, and now, the coment I just made had the end missing, oh well,what it said was:I wish something would change for the better now.while we are all still here to benefit from it.
Rose - 6-Jan-17 @ 5:28 PM
I cannot find the older comments here now, unless that wasa different thread, oh well, Anyhow, I see all this is still going on, which I suppose is good as hopefully the more complaints, the more likely something will be done, Sadly, the real problem is, too many people , and more importantly, too many people in too close proximity to everyone else. In my area, quite a poverty stricken place it has to be said, smoke from chimneys is getting worse and worse, a friend of mine with emphysema had got worse recently as a result of a neighbour suddenly starting to use a wood burner, my friend is now dead. He died just before Christmas. No doubt the people with the wood burner had a good Christmas in front of their wood burner, no idea at all they had contributed to my friend;s death through the worsening of his condition which then brought on the exsaserpation that killed him. My windows haven't been opened for years because of the low chimney opposite me which every day sends smoke out intp the air, recently I had to ask another friend to come and help me with my side gate, he was so affected by the smoke coming straight up the path from the chimney opposite he refused to do anything and left as it was making his eyes sting and irritating his throat, also next door to me is a little cat with lung problems, she comes into my house stinking of smoke and coughing badly, my friend who refused to help with the gate because of the smoke (I don;t blame him) also has problems from his neighbours who are joined on to his house,they use a wood burner for their central heating and the smoke ocmes down into his garden, clean washing stinks of it, my hair and clothes always smell of smoke, - when I go into a cafe I feel I have to apologise for smelling of smoke , this happens everywhere now, not just in my local area, everywhere I go there is the smell of smoke in the air coming from somwhere. I also worry about all the trees being cut down to provide the 'fuel' for these things, I know someone here was complaining about trees but really we need more trees to absorb some of this dreadful pollution, trees are our friends and if they were to all disappear, so would we! Please, we are merely part of the natural world, we cannot destroy the environment and still exist, we would all be gone too. Yet more and more front gardens being destroyed and gravel being put down instead, it is dreadful, so despressing. Too many people, too many people too close, and too many ignorant people, really ignorant and uncaring, and that is the main problem. The local environment dept don't even want me contacting them anymore, take no notice of anything i say, don;t care about the smoke, don't care about the environment being destroyed, I directed the MP to this forum a couple of years ago, cannot find the early comments now, but it was all to no avail anyway, nothing changed, but maybe when we are all gone, it will , too late for us though, I wish something would change for
Rose - 6-Jan-17 @ 5:21 PM
smelly - Your Question:
Joiner is burning material in garageChimney that sticks out of roof emitting foul smokeIs this allowed?

Our Response:
You could ask your local environmental health department to investigate this as certain materials cannot be burnt in certain areas.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Nov-16 @ 2:38 PM
Joiner is burning material in garage Chimney that sticks out of roof emitting foul smoke Is this allowed?
smelly - 6-Nov-16 @ 4:03 AM
hi I posted something about three hours ago and it has been blackballed by the look of it. Basically I was saying that people are getting fed up, putting up with smoke. This is a bad tension for the authoritiesto allow to fester in society.. People who feel frustrated and impotent about accepting smoke into their home may snap. That's my opinion.
baffled its still al - 28-Oct-16 @ 4:10 PM
Nana - Your Question:
I have Copd and dread the winter months when my neighbour has their wood fire on the go ,my lounge stinks like a bonfire and I have no choice but to sit and breathe that in everyday.my conservatory roof is ruined due to tar pitting and every night we go through the ritual of listening to the wood chopping in their lounge.they are slowly killing me with their pollution.their response.we will do what we want in our house.I hate them !!!! What can I do ???

Our Response:
Have you asked the environmental health about this? In general there real fires are allowed in many areas. If your neighbours do not have the correct ventilation/extraction etc, your EHO may be able to impose a notice on them to do so.
ProblemNeighbours - 27-Oct-16 @ 2:03 PM
I have Copd and dread the winter months when my neighbour has their wood fire on the go ,my lounge stinks like a bonfire and I have no choice but to sit and breathe that in everyday ..my conservatory roof is ruined due to tar pitting and every night we go through the ritual of listening to the wood chopping in their lounge ..they are slowly killing me with their pollution ..their response ...we will do what we want in our house ..I hate them !!!! What can I do ???
Nana - 26-Oct-16 @ 10:39 AM
I'm so desperate for help!! My neighbours woodburner is at least 15 years old and I've never seen anyone there to service it and I noticed it was pumping out plumes of thick grey smoke. My nose is stinging, if I blow my nose, black stuff comes out. My house stinks of it, the dogs come in stinking of it and I really don't know what to do. I complained in the past to environmental health and it caused all kinds of hell. As a result, I decided not to continue as I have to live here. I can't move. ??
Vstar - 20-Oct-16 @ 9:31 PM
Sally - Your Question:
Black foul smelling smoke coming from neighbours stove and clings to my house.cant open doors or go outside as stink will come into house. I can smell it in the house anyway. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.

Our Response:
Try your environmental health officer. They may be able to investigate to see whether there is anything untoward about your neighbour's stove or its extraction.
ProblemNeighbours - 7-Oct-16 @ 1:47 PM
Black foul smelling smoke coming from neighbours stove and clings to my house. .cant open doors or go outside as stink will come into house. I can smell it in the house anyway. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.
Sally - 6-Oct-16 @ 8:16 PM
Until I read the comments on this sight I thought I was the only one suffering, but it seems it is all too common. Smoke and particulates from wood burning stoves is a serious health risk to anyone who is unfortunate to have neighbours who see themselves as trendy or saving the planet is some deranged way. There seems no logic behind the thinking that burning wood and exhausting it from a low level chimney surrounded by taller houses and trees, they seem to think it romantic, a through back to older simpler times, TV shows sell the lie that it is good on a cold night to sit with a glass of wine in front of a log fire. If burning wood was not poison enough they no see that a drunk with access to fire is sensible. My own predicament started nearly four years ago when my neighbour fitted a wood burner in a single story extension, low level chimney and all. The first lighting and we were flooded with smoke in our home. We had always had a good relationship with this neighbour and made him aware of the problem, his response was to say he would raise the chimney height to prevent this from happening. Good neighbour you would think, but no, he was given his certificate of compliance by building control and hey presto he was legal. This should be easy enough we thought he has seen the problem, he watched on the day we complained that his smoke was just going downwards towards us, he would do something. He didn't. We said if he would not do anything we would be forced to go to environmental health. His comment was 'go to environmental and see if they can do anything', to say we were startled would be an understatement. We went and like other stories here we may as well have discussed the problem with a passing cat. We confronted building control who said it was compliant and met minimum standards, even though there is scope in building regulation part j to increase heights and distances if there was a problem when the fire is lit, HETAS say the same, no they were still in the right as the appliance was self certified. It was pointed out that the chimney height did not comply and was in fact too low. Still no it had been there fore some time so they could do nothing. The Ombudsman found them at fault, they could do nothing now as they were out of time for any action to be taken.They issued what amounts to a fraudulent compliance certificate and they can just ignore it whilst we are poisoned because of their actions. Environmental has put up the mother of all battles to prove why they can do nothing and the Ombudsman says they are not at fault. Environmental has seen in person smoke dropping down to ground level and flowing horizontally to our windows, the comment made was it smells of clean wood smoke and is not excessive, the Ombudsman has seen this on video footage and they are of the mind that smoke should go down and into other homes. We had to fight for six moths to get them to agree that fumes (particulates by another name) should be include
KB - 4-Oct-16 @ 11:59 AM
I have a neighbour who has built a cabin at the top of a very steep garden, wood fire burner inside.He sits in this cabin with burner going any time of year.Local council have been trying to contact him for 2 years as he has no planning permission to have this burner with it's very large flue, we're suffering.I must add this, my sister lives in California and they have started banning wood fire burners, when a new house is built they cannot install a burner - hence we'll be the same here eventually!
Jojo - 26-Sep-16 @ 7:03 PM
My neighbour has just had one installed and I think she's lit it tonight because my lounge was filling with the smell of smoke. I was checking my lounge thinking something was on fire. My whole house stinks. Someone had told me I'm not in a smoke control zone. My dogs sleep in the lounge and I'm worried about them and my kids as one had asthma. My nose is stinging right now. ??
Vstar - 9-Jun-16 @ 11:34 PM
As far as I know, there are three legal recourses injuries parties might like to consider. The first is statutory nuisance under the authority of the local council; the second is building control (local council) and HETAS who may enforce efficient means of smoke dispersal. The minimum requirement is that any chimney top or flue outlet is at least 2.5m from the nearest openable window but a more stringent criteria may be imposed in individual cases. The third, which I don't think has ever been tested is injury law. If the action of a neighbour injures you even in a psychosocial way you can seek compensation. You must have medical evidence for this. What do the resident solicitors think about this?
Woodpecker - 23-May-16 @ 9:55 AM
We have put up with a log burner used for central heating in our neighbours house for the last few years. We have even blocked our own flu up as the smell drifts down our Chimney. So we cant use our fire.Even on the warmest day of the year last Summer they still felt that they needed to have their heating on. They have two burners and two Chimneys. I wouldnt mind but they have gas into the property. Our house smells of smoke,we don't open windows,we cant hang washing out.Our children cant play outside and even the cat stinks when it comes in. I fear that I am reaching the point where I will be going round and taking the law in to my own hands. I figure I will be breathing in less toxic fumes whilst Im asleep if Im in prison. And Every one else in our street will praise me.
fuming - 27-Apr-16 @ 8:01 PM
Pollution is a choice made by selfish people who do not care about anyone but themselves wood burners should be banned in suburban areas. Clean air in your own home should be everyones A right. Pollution is a choice breathing is not. I do not smoke by choice and should not be forced to be a passive smoker in my own homebecause of someones selfish attitude.
cleanairforall - 23-Feb-16 @ 9:01 PM
elli Yes I have a 1.2 car, and so do all my wood burning smoke neighbours. I cannot smell their cars in my house, I smell their smoke in my house. Most people do not drive their cars for ten hours a day outside my door. They do this with their wood burning stoves. I agree that car exhaust is a problem, at the moment there are few alterntives in a modern age to driving cars that pollute somewhat, until technology improves cars enough for the mass market, then I will buy one. There are altnernatives to wood burning smoke, and coal burning smoke in suburban areas. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for being warm by using central heating instead of fossil fuel burning. You are silly. But today is great news The bbc news this morning says that surgeons have got together to demand action from airborne outdoor pollution. Their purview of concern is car pollution, wood burning stove emission, aeresols etc. What this means, and hallejulah, is the the zeitgeist is on the turn, really, at last, truly. This will be stopped by a combination of legislation due to pressure from the medical profession and honest reawakening of awareness among suburbantites not to burn wood burning stoves, coal smoke in residential areas. I single out suburban areas Elle because the working class areas have mostly converted to gas central heating over the last twenty years. Being a working class lad myself I could not wait to get rid of the toil of cleaning out the fire, the mess, etc. The middle class have just went bonkers on this, but this as I have said above is going to change.
baffled its still al - 23-Feb-16 @ 10:25 AM
I live in a 1st floor flat and have a bungalow next to me who's wood burner is same night as my windows . there is 6 feet between our walls but my flat fills with smoke and triggers my astma . I have damp issues in flat so can't shut all windows . why should I have shut my windows . my windows are dirty and I can't clean them myself . Do I have any rights? No I don't expect so . swear they do it to p me off .
Miss angry - 15-Feb-16 @ 3:20 PM
May I just point out that cars emit far more pollution than wood-burning stoves simply because far more people own cars than wood-burning stoves?I note than many of the people posting complaints about smoke from stoves say they live in suburbs, so how many of them own cars?
Emmi - 8-Feb-16 @ 12:02 AM
There are nuisance laws. Even if you don't live in a smoke control area, if the smoke from your neighbors is causing you problems, you can report them to your local council. Unfortunately, I must add that my neighbors burn dry seasoned wood in DEFRA approved stoves and still the air is filled with smoke. I can smell it inside my home as well. I know that if I am smelling smoke, then I am inhaling it. Because of the fine particles in woodsmoke emissions, my lungs cannot filter the poisonous matter in the smoke. Woodsmoke contains many of the same chemicals as cigarettes. But emissions from wood stoves are equal to many times more of these pollutants. I worry for the health of my young daughter. Children, the elderly and people with pre existing conditions are a greatest risk. But we are all at risk, as there are no safe levels of smoke. Our ancestors had black lungs and did not live long. Why are we going back to the dark ages instead of moving into the future with clean energy?
Kristen - 26-Jan-16 @ 12:38 AM
angry nellie - Your Question:
I live in a ground floor flat with a shared garden. The two guys who live above me, not just smoke outside their front door but have now bought a portable fire pit and light it every night with scavenged bits of wood. It smells like a constant bonfire and is making my home smell and giving me a sore throat. What can I do bar chucking a bucket of water over it and them!!!!!

Our Response:
There are no laws preventing bonfires, firepits etc unless items such as plastic, rubber etc are being burnt on a regular basis.
ProblemNeighbours - 22-Jan-16 @ 2:29 PM
I live in a ground floor flat with a shared garden. The two guys who live above me, not just smoke outside their front door but have now bought a portable fire pit and light it every night with scavenged bits of wood. It smells like a constant bonfire and is making my home smell and giving me a sore throat. What can I do bar chucking a bucket of water over it and them!!!!!
angry nellie - 21-Jan-16 @ 6:23 PM
Got to laugh at shellyark . As I suffer another night of pollution coming in through my vents shelly's post projects an image I have to comfort myself that I "only" have to suffer wood burning smoke for ten minutes. And then there they are for the rest of the night, scrupulously caring for us by holding vigil over their their wood burning smoker making sure it does not....er ...smoke. and er...only flames a bit. Give us a break! See what we are up against!
baffled its still al - 5-Dec-15 @ 11:59 PM
People are not being unreasonable Shellyark - those 10 minutes are enough to fill neighbours' houses with pollution and then they cannot ventilate to remove it. Also, it isn't just a matter of smoke, it is also the particulates and other byproducts of combustion from wood-burning that are a problem to others.
Fedup - 30-Nov-15 @ 1:28 PM
I live in a bungalow next to a bungalow with stove, he burns wood and coal.As its at street level the smoke and smelldoes not disperse over the rooftops but clings to my house. The chimney is just a metal one which comes up on the side of the roof ,facing me, not on the top.It's not just a smokey smell it is a sharp rancid smell. Fire is lit during the day , not just in the eveRnings.I can't open windows or go out of my dooras the smellcomes in the house. It is so sharp it affects my nose lining and gives me a headache.Surely this is pollution. Can nothing be done?
mary - 28-Nov-15 @ 12:09 PM
This is our third winter with a wood stove in our conservatory.Once our stove is up to temperature it does not smoke as we live in a smoke free zone.We have neighbours on either side of us and we have not any complaints.We are careful to keep our fire flaming so it's not smoking.It will smoke when we light it but only for 10 mins.Why are people so unreasonable
shellyark - 16-Nov-15 @ 3:59 PM
People are being subjected to high levels of wood smoke from wood burners in the winter to garden fires in the summer, and yet nothing is being done to tackle it. No one should be allowed to pollute the air we breathe in this way. You wouldn't put up with cigarette smoke so why do we have to put up with wood burning smoke. Garden fires should also be banned outright as there is no excuse for burning your rubbish. Don't be ignorant, take it to the dump like everyone else. Wood burners should be tackled urgently.
Therighthonorable - 14-Nov-15 @ 10:24 PM
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