Hundreds of residents across Darlington could unwittingly be breaking the law as they try to keep warm this winter warns Darlington Borough Council.

The Council’s Environmental Health team is keen to remind householders that they should check if they are living in a smoke control area before buying or using a wood burning stove or other type of similar solid fuel appliance, and to understand the implications of installing such appliances depending on where they live.

Most of the Borough lies within a smoke control area (one of 32 across the country to be declared as such in the 1960s and 70s under Clean Air Acts). This legislation was brought in to reduce air pollution from chimney smoke and to protect the environment. Anyone living in a smoke control area and using a wood burning stove or similar can only use authorised “smokeless fuel” unless the appliance is ‘exempt’,  i.e. has been specifically designed and has passed tests to confirm it is capable of burning specified fuel without emitting smoke. At the moment, surrounding villages in the Borough are excluded from the smoke control area.

Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration said:

“This is not just a legal issue, it is a health issue and I urge people to take notice. The fact that most of Darlington lies within a smoke control area means that it is a more pleasant and healthy place to live. What we don’t want is a return to past decades where domestic smoke and smog posed a real risk to public health.

“Wood burning stoves and other similar devices are becoming more and more popular as people look for alternative ways to heat their homes and to create a different style in their living room. However, many are not aware that they must use the correct type of fuel for where they live or they risk breaking the law.”

Further information on smokeless fuels and exempt appliances can be found on the Council’s website at Darlington.gov.uk/smokecontrolzone If anyone has concerns about domestic smoke emissions in their area, they can contact Environmental Health on 01325 405111 or email environmentalhealth@darlington.gov.uk