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SANDWELL: “Smoke control area” consultation

SANDWELL: “Smoke control area” consultation

Image: Ordnance Survey

The whole of Sandwell could follow Dudley and Birmingham and become a “smoke control area” next year.

The proposal, first debated at the health and adult social care scrutiny board meeting on Monday (September 13), allowed councillors to consider and comment upon the plans.

Currently, Sandwell has 51 separate smoke control areas, inherited from the previous county authorities of Warley and West
Bromwich.

A “smoke control area” stops unnecessary smoke emitting from a chimney. In these areas, you can only burn fuel on the government’s list of authorised fuels, or a ‘smokeless’ fuel, such as anthracite.

Barbecues, pizza ovens and chimeneas, are still acceptable to use.

According to the most recent statistics, 12% of particulate matter comes from transport. A substantial proportion (38%) comes from domestic, industry,
and commercial sources.

A fine of £1,000 can be issued for breaking the smoke control area rules.

Sophie Morris, environmental improvement officer, opened the proposal, and said Sandwell council has a “duty” to assess air quality and take “necessary action” for those living in the borough.

She said: “We know that concerns about poor air quality exist in Sandwell. In 2020.

“Sandwell council undertook a public consultation on climate change
and air quality. Of the 654 responses, 70% strongly agreed that
improving air quality should be a key priority for Sandwell council.

“In many homes you will find a no smoking inside rule. Do you have a no open fire rule? Probably not. That’s why this proposed consultation is important.”

The results of these surveys will be presented to cabinet on October 20.

Air pollution is strongly linked to  the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer, and exacerbates asthma.

Estimates of particulate matter (PM2.5) at three monitoring sites in
Sandwell in 2019 demonstrated levels above the World Health
Organisation guidelines of 10µg/m3.

Only two local authorities outside of London and the south east of England breached this guidance – Sandwell and Leicester.

Cllr Luke Giles, Labs, Wednesbury North, asked how councils can police the smoke control area.

Sophie Morris replied: “It’s similar to what Dudley council and their bonfire team. You can file a complaint online and send enforcement letters out. They are similar to a statutory noise complaints.”

Cllr David Fisher, Cons, Charlemont and Grove Vale, commented that licensing and retail should get involved in the consultation to stop the selling of pollutant fuels.

But Cllr Steve Meila, Labs, Great Barr with Yew Tree, asked about the cost of the smoke control area.

He said: “Is there any concessions that might be made for the elderly, unemployed, and the disadvantaged to bridge the gap between the cost today, and the cost tomorrow?

“We all know that if there is legislation, it’s going to cost us more. It does every single time.”

In response, Sophie Morris said a “local solution” to the problem may be needed.

Cllr Meila also raised concerns about pollutants outside the home.

He said: “We’ve talked about [burning] inside the house. But not outside the house. As far as I know, nothing’s going to be changed. And I can burn anything I want, every night of the week be an absolute nuisance.

“Only last night was there a party about 100 yards from my house. When I phoned to complain, the ABST said they could do nothing about it as it was a ‘celebration’.

“Now if I had a bonfire in my garden every night, what are you going to do about it?”

Sophie Morris replied they could enforce a statutory noise complaint as a way to circumvent and tackle outdoor pollutants.

The committee voted unanimously to put through a consultation. No objections were raised.

Words:  Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter


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