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Smoke control

Under the Clean Air Act of 1993, Tower Hamlets is covered by a borough-wide smoke control area. This means that you can’t emit smoke from a domestic chimney unless you are burning an authorised fuel or using an exempt appliance. This legislation helps to prevent smog and reduce the amount of harmful particulate matter in the air.

If you are found to be burning unpermitted fuels in an appliance that does not appear on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs's (DEFRA) list of exempt appliances, you could be fined up to £1000.

NB – These rules only apply to appliances that emit smoke through a domestic building chimney. This means that bonfires and most barbecues are still permitted but please be considerate to your neighbours. See more advice on bonfires.

Open fires and wood-burning Stoves

DEFRA has published a practical guide on open fires and wood-burning stoves that provides simple steps to reduce their environmental and health impacts.


To report a problem with smoke, please call 020 7364 5000 or email Environmental.Protection@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

Please provide:

  • a description of the problem
  • the address of the problem
  • your name, address and contact details.

Domestic wood burning is a significant contributor of harmful particulate emissions. It accounts for approximately 38 per cent of UK primary particulate emissions compared to 16 per cent from industrial combustion and 12 per cent from road transport.

The tiny particles in smoke can get into the blood stream and cause a range of health impacts such as breathing problems and making existing condition such as asthma worse.

The douncil is encouraging all residents to use an approved appliance known as an exempt appliance.

These are appliances that have been approved by DEFRA if you wish to burn wood and coal in a Smoke Control Area.

If you already have open fire place or a non-authorised appliance, you will need to use authorised fuel. Failure to do so could result in an unlimited fine under the above legislation.

Canal boat users

Smoke from canal boat users is also a big issue. Residents contact the council on a regular basis to report smoke nuisance. If using wood for fuel it should be well-seasoned and dry.

Waste wood should never be used as it is likely to contain chemicals that will be emitted when the wood is burned. Boat users should consider using smokeless fuels as an alternative.

The council has produced a “Cleaner Air for All on the Waterways” guide to help boaters protect their health, reduce pollution and improve the surrounding environment.

Residents can report smoke nuisance to the council’s Environmental Health and Trading Standards Service on 020 7364 5008 or email environmental.protection@towerhamlets.gov.uk