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Wood Burning Stove: Can Neighbour Object?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Jan 2024 | comments*Discuss
Wood Burning Stove Smoke Control Area


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)


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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Wood burners should be banned in urban areas and definitely in smoke control zones. What's the point in having a smoke control zone if several neighbours in the same street can pollute the area with toxic, carcinogenic pollution from their chimneys causing dangerous pollution hotspots? People using these appliances in built up residential areas need to wake up to the harm they are causing to their neighbours. Wood smoke is really harmful for our health and if people want to take the risk with their own health and that of their family, that is one thing but they should not be allowed to pollute neighbouring homes and gardens with this toxic pollution. The pollution from their chimneys does get into neighbouring homes. Why isn't the government acting to protect public health? I live in a street where several households use wood burners and it is horrible and it causes unnecessary stress to people when they know this pollution they're being forced to breathe in is really harmful but they can't do anything about it! It is an appalling situation and the worst thing is that most people using wood burners in residential areas are doing so out of choice and have cleaner healthier heating options in their homes. Let's all hope a new government will take this serious issue more seriously in 2024. We can but hope!
ohyestheyshould - 17-Jan-24 @ 3:48 PM
My issue is the same as everyone else’s comment here, especially Nar1403 and DeeDee below. I feel like a nimby complaining. But I have Asthma, and ill health, and I’m worried about the carcinogens in the smoke affecting my health. The farmer has a Quarry along the lane, that he either rents or owns from whoever the land owner is on the mountain where we live, I own a cottage on the lane where we both live. The farmer lives in a farmhouse he built, further along the lane, away from my cottage, we’re friendly. But he has allowed this guy (not paying taxes) to live in a van adapted for living, in this quarry, he did last winter, (I mentioned it to the farmer’s mother back then) and again this winter. And the smoke from his van, in this quarry which is higher up off the road, drifts right towards my cottage at night, and the smoke is getting in my bloody bedroom window. It’s just stressing me out and affecting my health. My quality of life and breathing. I’ve reported it tonight to the council, just more for advice, than anything else, doubt they will do anything, I just don’t know what to do. I’m scared to speak to the farmer, though I’m friendly with him. I’ve lived around smoke before, when I lived with my ex, we’d burn wood all the time, whilst I liked it, great source of heat, all my stuff, my clothes would stink of smoke, afterwards. I have two open fires myself but never use them really. And they’re proper fire places. For use with coal though.
Hevski - 16-Dec-23 @ 1:46 AM
We have an issue with neighbours log burner ....first floor extension and a flue emerging from the roof. The rear flank of their house shields the flue so any emissions hang around and naturally drift towards our first floor windowe. Local council seem interested and happy to state why them doing anything is tricky. Meanwhile our house smells of smoke and on occasion causes irritation to eyes and throat. There has to be something somewhere that challenges this situation. Are there any good news stories to share?
Nar1403 - 15-Dec-23 @ 8:28 PM
We have a neighbour who receivesfree painted wood, old furniture, press board etc and burns it in her woodburner. The smoke is intolerable and causes burning eyes, nostrils etc and shows as "extremely dangerous" 2.5gon our pollutionmeter We have begged her to stop it and have even offered to help pay for a heat pump, all to no avail.The municipality has apparently told her its OK as long as she sands the paint off the wood! We really are getting desperate!
Rick - 6-Oct-23 @ 7:55 PM
Good luck with the environmental health. I had them round and nothing happened. They would only do anything if smoke was coming but in there eyes clear toxic fumes was ok. London are now enlarging there ultra low emission zone for vehicles. But a house next door can have a chimney chucking out toxic fumes !
Mr Sneeze - 12-Mar-23 @ 10:20 AM
Our next door neighbours have installed a wood burner recently. We can no longer,at certain times, open a window and have to close all the air vents on doors and windows due to the smell of smoke. My husband has chronic lung disease following COVID when he twice spent time on life support and yet this selfish moronic oik seems to think this behaviour acceptable. I have contacted environmental health and await their response as I cannot believe he is burning the correct fuel.
Hahahelen - 7-Mar-23 @ 10:53 AM
Neighbour with wood burning stove , bungalows so we are close with his ‘chimney’ a meter above bungalow roof. Smoke pouring out and wafting over adjacent bungalows.
Smokeless - 22-Jan-23 @ 5:20 PM
My neighbours have recently installed a log burner in their orangey and have put a makeshift chimney on the roof of it with it not being much higher than my bedroom window. The smoke coming out if it is absolutely ridiculous as they are burning wet wood they keep in the garden that isn’t sheltered. After complaining, they now have coal delivered but the smell is still overpowering and my house smells of smoke whenever they light it. Totally inconsiderate and I’m sure the place that they have installed the flue is illegal. I’m not one to complain usually and it makes it a little difficult as we are quite friendly with them. It’s a right pain when you have to close all your windows and doors and even when I do, I can still smell it in my house and it’s worse the next day.
Deedee - 12-Nov-22 @ 2:34 PM
I have lived next door to a selfish selfish selfish couple who.light their firevat 9 am Every day from September to May. I run round at 8 am opening and closing my windows.. I cannot put washing out or spend time in my garden during those months. The smoke stinks us out. How are these burners allowed. I lived through smog !!It seems we are hell bent on returning to those dreadful days. Why is this allowed to continue. My daughter is asthmatic and yes coughing has started again
Yo - 23-Oct-22 @ 4:59 PM
Well after suffering for three years of absolute hell from my fire loving neighbour I have moved house only to find that the problem has followed me and is just as bad!! I give up, I cannot take any more of this pain and its not even cold yet! I absolutely despair, I moved to try and improve my quality of life and to be pain free and now with the coldest season upon us I am trapped once again! I cannot express in words how I feel right now.
Just want to breathe - 21-Sep-22 @ 1:35 AM
My neighbour has only lived next door for just over two years. The first year he lit bonfires in his garden incinerator every day even when it was 83c outside he smoked out our bedroom I could smell it for days in the walls and furnishings. I asked him if he could stop doing it but his answer was “well when can I light a fire” Now he’s installed a wood burner but he doesn’t buy logs he burns off cuts of pallet wood he usesto make what looks like bits of shelving and any old bits of wood he repurposes that once was beams or old doors or old furniture the smell is awful sometimes it’s like a chemical smell My washing smells awful when I bring it in and I can’t have my windows open as I never know when he’s going to light a fire. One day in the summer I was gardening he lit his log burner and then opened his patio doors so I had to go inside shut all my windows and stay in as I kept coughing. I just want to be able to live a normal life and I can’t because of himI do live in a clear air zone but he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong
Icantbreathefreshair - 20-Sep-22 @ 4:42 PM
This problem is making people sick and making homelife unbearable. I dread the winter but the problem is a year round issue now as its not just log burners thats the issue. People cook outside and sit outside for hours on end with bonfires and fire pits going these days and they don't care about anyone else but themselves because it's outside right? If it dont make them ill then you dont matter but if you can imagine feeling ill as soon as the fire is lit day after day in your own home for hours on end and being powerless to be able to stop it then it would be a different story. It's ok to blame cars for pollution isn't it? But it all contributes to the global pollution issue.
Just want to breathe - 24-Aug-22 @ 6:44 PM
Burning toxic coal and wood and anythingsimilar is not an option and is completley indefensible and utterly selfish. You have no right to poison the air and are one of the main causes of lethal greenhouse gases, disease and death and untold misery.
RightToCleanAir - 8-Aug-22 @ 9:44 AM
The reason so many people are now turning to wood burning is the ever rising price of conventional fuels.Let us not forget that our politicians have driven us into this position.They ran down our nuclear industry for political reasons so we are now having to play catch up and hand Communist China a tidy sum.The French are now building our newest nuclear power station.We have already had to buy electricity from belgium; in the summer; so watch out this winter.Electricity will sky rocket ditto oil and coal,.We are not going to be able to drill, frack or dig fast enough to fill the gap between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, many who complain about wood smoke will be making smoke themselves as they try to keep their family warm this winter.Wood burners are very effective home heaters.Some people have two. I have a boiler for central heating and hot water, off grid, no pump, still works when the power goes down.If electricity was cheap enough or oil was secure enough, I wouldn't have it.People with wood burners are not evil entities who fit them to smoke people out.Oil too produces toxic fumes as do all our cars; so don't you oil burners get too snooty and less toxic than thee.
ChainsawMax - 5-Aug-22 @ 5:03 PM
All coal is toxic incl smokeless and wood burning is wrong, very cruel and indefensible. The comment below is also acting the hypocrite referring to their neighbour when they are no different and minimise their wilful pollution of the environment and take away the right to clean air. You are using a false screen name when your actions are totally inconsiderate and you act as if you're above the law.
RightToCleanAir - 8-May-22 @ 9:49 PM
I have two wood burning stoves in my house and the flues extend at least 10m upward to the top of my chimney. My roof line seems to be a bit higher than my neighbours. I only burn smokeless fuel or well seasoned wood and so there is no smoke. You can’t tell I have them on, but I try to limit how often o burn. It’s not hard to be considerate. However, my neighbours garden back on to the side of my house and he has no problem burning his wet garden waste in an old metal bin less than 3 metre from the side of my house. The smell fills my garage and hallway. It doesn’t take much to spare a thought for those around you.
considerateneighbour - 10-Apr-22 @ 6:17 PM
I've got exactly the same issue. The neighbour has had a single storey extension added to their property. They have now added a log burner with a flu that only reaches a few feet above the extension. I saw them come back with wet, unseasoned wood a couple of weeks ago and since then our upstairs bedrooms smell like a bonfire. These wood burners are only going to increase in numbers with gas and electricity prices going through the roof. I have had the most awful cough for the last 2 weeks thanks to my selfish and inconsiderate neighbours
HeathLn Brink - 3-Apr-22 @ 12:25 AM
My new neighbour has had a log burner fitted into their conservatory. It stinks, my wife already has asmtha and this just me sled it worse. It is 11 degrees today and not cold but they have it on. I have been round and asked politely if they can try smokeless fuel but they have not done anything. I have logged this with Env Health would have given me a case number 4 weeks ago but heard nothing since. Lived here 18 years and was going to be our forever home but looking to move now just some fresh air…
Bloke70 - 12-Mar-22 @ 3:19 PM
Wood burners should have an emissions test the same as cars do. At the moment the councildon’t have the power to doanything about it. They only send out a letter to the offender and that's it. So anything can be burnt on them as long as no black smoke or any kind of smoke comes out. But clear toxic fumes are aloud in the present system. You often see pallets, joists, rafters, floor boards ,fence posts and wood flooring ideal for burning advertised. What chemicals are in them who knows. Shutting the toxic fumes out is impossible by closing all the windows they will still come in. The molecule size off the fumes must be similar size to oxygen.
Mr Sneeze - 7-Mar-22 @ 1:31 PM
Smoke pollution from log burners is a constant and growing problem where I live which is a city and a smoke control area. The council do absolutely nothing to deal with polluters following complaints - even those who repeatedly produce copious, visible black smokeseem to be allowed to continue without impunity. The result is filthy air the minute it rains or drops below 15 degrees. There is no chance of lower carbon emissions or a healthy living environment in this situation. Smog from log burners is already a regular occurence in my experience - especially in the evenings and at weekends.Somebody needs to act to stop this social trend before improvements gained from the Smoke Control Act are lost.
Freshair - 4-Oct-21 @ 2:33 PM
The extremely cruel and selfish toxic polluters are totally lawless as the corrupt authorities/pretentious environment health dept. Only the true God and Creator of this planet has the power to bring about a permanent solution and He intends to soon. Psalms 37:10.
RighttoCleanAir - 4-Sep-21 @ 6:24 PM
People repeatedly ask on this site. "How do we get the government and local authorities to do something about the crazy amount of woodsmoke poisoning our communities? " Here's how..... Cop26 Glasgow 31st October. I'll be there with a huge placard "Ban all woodburners and chimeneas in residential areas" Maybe meet some of you there, those of you inclined to get off their behind. If you do turn up , maybe your placard could state "defra approved burners kill. There is no safe amount of smoke you can inhale." And yes, I am aware that cop26 is set up to discuss climate change, not particulates in the air, but the same calamitoushuman mindset that has got the health of our planet in a perilous state, exists in the idiotic insistence that it is a human right to poison human inhabitants with smoke of same said planet.
Baffleditsallowed - 17-Aug-21 @ 7:24 PM
Neighbour installed log burner must have damaged liner while installing got envirmental heath involved there readings werecarbon dixoide 2500 ppm carbon monoixde 2.5 ppm thats coming through 20 foot wall the envirmental health said there cannot do anything
Bern - 18-Jul-21 @ 11:31 AM
I am at my wits end with my neighbour! The position of my house means that I am subjected all year round from their barbeque, fire pit and indoor log burner. I have lived in this house for a long time and I am now having to move out as my life is a constant misery every day living here! Never had any health issues until this menace arrived. Now I am sick all the time unless they are not at home! The council won't do anything as there has to be more than one person affected as you may be described as being 'hyper sensitive ' well I wasn't but I am now! I am totally depressed at the prospect of having to face the same problem again somewhere else but I can't go on like this! I think we need to demonstrate our feelings about this somewhere, somehow as it shouldn't be allowed to happen!
C TERZIC - 3-Jul-21 @ 6:52 PM
After getting more than fed up with the putrid stench of my neighbours self fit chimney on his extended bungalow!. I went as a grown up to ask if he would clean his chimney as black stinking smoke was spewing out and making my life a misery (in the nicest possible way) as I didn't want to report him as the nuisance he is. His reply " The previous owner of my house ..never had a problem with it" and " I've not actually clean it for a few years"!!!. He has young children and I'm pretty sure it'll be affecting their health too. Selfish AND stupid..what can you do with that?.
Duck - 11-May-21 @ 4:29 PM
I have recently noticed the smell of wood smoke in the air round my house which quickly drives me indoors. Why the hysteria about diesel fumes and PMs if these wood burning menaces are ok?
Smokeless jo - 2-May-21 @ 6:27 PM
I have developed asmtha and am constantly coughing and wheezing since moving to a rural area. All my neighbours have wood burners and burn wet wood 24 7. There is also a problem with firepits and bonfires creating a terrible smog problem.My house always smells of smoke despite the windows a d doors being closed. How is this allowed?! I absolutely love my house but I have realized I have tosell it as I can never sleep or open windows and I work from home. The problem is where can I move to escape the smog? They are everywhere now. No one cares about the toxins or particulates . The people who feel this way need to group together and campaign. We have a right to clean air! Surely more people must agree?
Heather - 22-Mar-21 @ 1:29 AM
I moved to the country in North Wales and many of the neighbours selfishly burn wood and coal with impunity. The council are corrupt to the core and put evil for good and do nothing but excuse the wilful toxic offenders. The only way there will be fresh air is when God finally removes the cruel toxic poisoners/evildoers soon Psalm 37.10
RighttoCleanAir - 18-Mar-21 @ 9:15 AM
I'm suffering the same. I slept rough last night. There's just nowhere safe to breathe left in Leeds. My room is thick with fumes day and night. Its putrid. I'm even thinking of quitting my job, because I can't work from home any more. I have to go out into the countyside in order to breathe.
Daniel Baines - 1-Mar-21 @ 2:36 AM
Unfortunately-and I am loathe to give the game away-my local authority say that it IS permissable to use wood even in a designated smoke control area;and that a certain amount of smoke is permissable (really?). They refuse to visit, they say they have been assured by the home owner that the stove is Defra exempt, has been installed correctly, and is only biurning approved fuel. They refuse to look at any av photo or footage that I have gathered over three years, and in fact warned me that if I were to film anything they would take me to court and apply an ASBO on me. They will not accept any monitoring evidence from devices, and refuse to use them, stating that their highly trained officers were able to use their discretion. In fact, on one occasion when an officer did visit, he said it was a lovely smell, and why was I complaining. When I mentioned it was about the particulates, the highly trained officer replied, What are those ?
smoked haddie - 23-Feb-21 @ 5:18 PM
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