City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Don't Keep Home Fires Burning Wood and Coal, Warns Council


By edg - Posted on 05 November 2010

The fires of Bonfire Night may be burning bright tonight, but Edinburgh City Council has been reminding people that they can only burn wood and standard coal to heat their homes this winter with certain kinds of smokeless appliances and stoves which are up to a government standard.

"Although we have seen a decrease in the amount of calls about smoking chimneys it is important to remind people about the fuels they cannot burn to heat their homes," says Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environment Leader.

In 2009, there were 156 calls (complaints/enquiries) made to the Council about smoking chimneys, up on the 55 calls of 2008. So far in 2010 there have been 74 calls, with more expected now that winter is here.

Over the last few years, local chimney sweeps have also noted a substantial increase in the number of people wanting fireplaces reopened, while manufacturers of appliances such as wood-burning stoves are reportedly struggling to meet demand in the city.

Smoke Control Areas are in force in many UK towns and cities, as a response to the smogs of the Fifties that would often block out the sun and on occasion led to thousands of deaths and widespread, long-term health problems.

Edinburgh earned the name Auld Reekie (scots for "old smoky") on account of the thick clouds of smoke that puffed out of the chimneys of homes and factories. Soot blackened the walls of buildings of the Old Town, and famous landmarks such as the Scott Monument (the clean-up job meant it was under scaffolding for years).

An area of Sighthill became Edinburgh's first smokeless zone in December 1955, created under the Edinburgh Smokeless Zone Order. This made it an offence to allow the emission of smoke from any premises within the area covered by the Order. The area was then extended under The Clean Air Act of 1993, and the whole city has been a Smoke Control Area since 1995.

It means that wood and standard coal cannot be burned in an open fire and a "traditional" log burning stove cannot usually be used within a smoke control area.

"Our focus is all about educating people, but if necessary we will take enforcement action against those who flout the law," says Cllr Aldridge.

Smoking chimney calls

Calls to Environmental Assessment Team re: smoking chimney

  • 2004: 20 calls
  • 2005: 11 calls
  • 2006: 40 calls
  • 2007: 40 calls
  • 2008: 55 calls
  • 2009: 156 calls
  • 2010: 74 calls