Published: Friday, 31 May 2024

Oxford‘s longstanding Smoke Control Areas will be expanded on 1 December, after DEFRA approval. 

Oxford‘s longstanding Smoke Control Areas will be expanded on 1 December, after DEFRA approval. 

Smoke Control Areas stop people burning high-polluting fuels in chimneys and wood-burning stoves to protect the public from microscopic particles, which can get into lungs and cause serious health conditions. Smoke Control Areas do not ban the use of chimneys or wood-burning stoves. 

Last year, Oxford City Council announced plans to replace the current patchwork of 23 Smoke Control Areas covering 48% of the city with a single Smoke Control Area covering the whole city. 

Earlier this year, Oxford residents and businesses were asked for their views on the Council’s proposals. The eight-week consultation saw 443 responses in total, with 52% of responses said that they were in favour of the proposals, with 42% of responses disagreeing. In March, the Council submitted an application to the DEFRA, to request approval of the expanded Smoke Control Area.  

The changes will come into effect on 1st December. 

Oxford’s 23 Smoke Control Areas were introduced from 1958 – six years after the Great Smog of London, which covered the capital for five days and resulted in some 12,000 deaths. 

What is a Smoke Control Area? 

Smoke Control Areas aim to protect the public from microscopic particles, known as PM2.5. The tiny particles can travel deep into the respiratory tract, leading to numerous health conditions including asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and pregnancy loss. 

Within the Smoke Control Area, residents and businesses will be able to buy and use solid fuel and wood burning stoves/open fires, provided that they: 

Businesses within Smoke Control Areas must also only sell authorised fuel to residents to use on their wood-burning stoves/appliances or open fires.  

Houseboats are not covered by the existing Smoke Control Areas and will not be covered by the expanded area. 

Outdoor barbecues, chimineas, garden fireplaces and pizza ovens are also not covered by Smoke Control Areas. 

Nothing will change for those living in the parts of Oxford already covered by a Smoke Control Area. 

How is a Smoke Control Area enforced?  

The new Smoke Control Area will be enforced in the same way as the existing 23 Smoke Control Areas.  

In the first instance the Council will be aiming to educate residents on best practice on using authorised appliances and fuel, and how they can burn fuel efficiently. The Council will also continue to support households in fuel poverty through grant funding where eligible. 

If the Council witnesses smoke from the chimney of a domestic or commercial building, it can issue fines of £300. Those found to be selling or buying unauthorised fuel for use without an approved appliance in a Smoke Control Area can also face fines of up to £1,000. 


"Particulate air pollution is a growing health concern, and we have been using a patchwork approach up to now. This expansion will bring the whole city under one single Smoke Control Area. This will help us to protect everyone from indoor and outdoor particulate air pollution and simplify the rules for residents.” 
Councillor Anna Railton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council

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