Last edited 12 Nov 2015

Clean Air Act and implications for the construction industry

The Clean Air Act (CAA) was introduced in 1956, as a result of the ‘great smog’ of 1952 which engulfed London for 5 days and is thought to have resulted in an additional 4,000 deaths compared to the number that would normally have occurred in the same period. The Act followed the 1954 Report of the Beaver Committee into Air Pollution and a subsequent smog in January 1956 which was reported to have caused a further 1,000 deaths.

The Act made provisions for the control of domestic sources of smoke pollution by introducing smokeless zones in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt.

In 1968, a revisions to the Act introduced a requirement for industry to use tall chimneys, in particular in relation to the emission of sulphur dioxide. It also introduced provisions relating to grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises.

The Law Commission then consolidated the legislation into the Clean Air Act 1993 which incorporated parts of the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

According to Approved document J, Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems:

‘Under the Clean Air Act 1993 local authorities may declare the whole or part of a district of the authority to be a smoke control area. It is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler if located in a designated smoke control area unless an authorised fuel was used. It is also an offence to acquire an ‘unauthorised fuel’ for use within a smoke control area unless it is used in an ‘exempt’ appliance (‘exempted’ from the controls which generally apply in the smoke control area). Authorised fuels are fuels which are authorised by Statutory Instruments (Regulations) made under the Clean Air Act 1993. These include inherently smokeless fuels such as gas, electricity and anthracite together with specified brands of manufactured solid smokeless fuels. These fuels have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning in an open fireplace without producing smoke. Exempt appliances are appliances (ovens, wood burners, boilers and stoves) which have been exempted by Statutory Instruments (Orders) under the Clean Air Act 1993. These have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning an unauthorised or inherently smoky solid fuel without emitting smoke.'

More information and details of authorised fuels and exempt appliances can be found at http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk.

Fines of up to £1,000 can be imposed for non-compliance.

The Act also contains provisions relating to:

  • Installation of furnaces
  • Limits on rate of emission of grit and dust.
  • Arrestment plant for furnaces.
  • Measurement of grit, dust and fumes.
  • Outdoor furnaces.
  • Height of chimneys.
  • Smoke nuisances in Scotland.

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