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Burning wood and coal

Important advice and information if you use wood-burning stoves or coal

Domestic burning guidance

Heating your home or business using wood or coal can have a negative effect on air quality.

The use of open fires and wood-burning stoves has risen over the last few years. Domestic wood and coal burning is now the largest contributor to harmful particle emissions. Domestic burning is thought to account for 27% of total U.K. PM2.5 emissions in 2021. Fine particles in smoke can cause breathing problems, as well as contributing to other health conditions.

What you can burn

Wet wood produces more smoke. It is important to use only dry wood containing 20% moisture content or less.

To achieve the correct moisture content wood should be stored for a minimum of 2 years before being burnt with regular checks carried out. The alternative is to use small supplies of the already dried ‘Ready to Burn’ wood fuels.

Signs that wood is sufficiently dry are typically given by radial cracks forming within the wood and bark that comes off easily. Ideally, moisture levels should be established using a meter from freshly split surface after calibrating the meter.

Logs burnt in closed appliances or open fires should not be too large (5 inches wide is optimum).

Traditional house (bituminous) coal is no longer available for domestic use and has been replaced by cleaner alternatives.

DO NOT burn treated waste wood (for example, old furniture or pallets) or household rubbish. These can emit harmful fumes and toxic pollutants.  

Did you know that, with correct use, the impact of a wood burning stove on air quality can be reduced locally by 80%? 

Smoke control areas

Some areas in King’s Lynn are designated as Smoke Control Areas (SCAs). If your property falls within any of these SCAs you must follow the below:

  • If burning a ‘controlled’/’unauthorised’ fuel (e.g. wood), an appropriate Defra approved appliance must be used.
  • If using other appliances (i.e. not Defra approved):

These measures are designed to prevent smoke being emitted from a chimney.

Check if your property is in an SCA

You could face a fine of up to £300 if smoke is emitted from a chimney in a smoke control area.

Reducing pollution

Follow our tips to help reduce pollution:

  • Think if you have to burn - is it necessary?
  • Burn dry wood on a low emission appliance.
  • Maintain stoves and sweep chimneys up to twice a year.
  • Install a carbon monoxide monitor; this will alert you to dangerous fumes.

Please also take a note of our do's and don'ts below.

Do's and don'ts for burning wood and coal
Do Don't
Bring the stove to operating temperature quickly and keep it there Don't close off the air to 'slumber' the fuel for long periods or overnight
Use dry wood - 20% moisture or less Don't use large logs
Use manufacturer's recommended fuels Don't burn wood or coal on an open fire in Smoke Control Areas
Sweep your chimney regularly. A professional sweep can also provide useful advice Unless you have just lit or refuelled the fire, don't allow smoke to come from the top of the chimney
Store and stack logs so they are well ventilated Don't buy a stove too big or powerful for the room
Use a thermometer, moisture meter and stove fan to improve efficiency, save money and reduce pollution Don't be tempted to fit or alter any part of a solid fuel system yourself - it's far too easy for something to go wrong
Fit a carbon monoxide alarm Don't mix smokeless fuel and wood; you won't get the best from either fuel
Consider replacing an older, inefficient stove with a modern, efficient one which will burn cleaner and save you money Don't burn plastic waste or treated waste wood - it can be toxic


For the larger biomass boilers (over 45kW) they will require planning permission and depending on the capacity and fuel used potentially also require an environmental permit. Your supplier should be able to give you advice.

You can contact the environmental quality team for advice on these larger installations;

Smoke complaints

If the smoke is from a chimney in one of the Smoke Control Areas (SCAs) it can be reported using the online form below. Please note, we would not generally take action of smoke emitted from start-up.

For repeated complaints of smoke in any of the SCA or for complaints outside these areas our Community Safety and Neighbourhood Nuisance Team investigate the smoke complaints as either:

  • a statutory nuisance, or
  • as waste disposal offences (this is mainly in commercial situations)

We recommend that you:

  • follow the Burn Better Breathe guidance provided by Defra.
  • consider flue height and location, to minimise any potential for complaint.

If our investigation concludes that you are causing a statutory nuisance, we may require you to carry out work to fix the problem, at your own expense.

Report smoke in a Smoke Control Area