Pollution Prevention

Poor air quality is a UK wide issue and is the main environmental risk to public health, especially to the most vulnerable in society. Air pollution comes from a variety of sources including: cars, industrial sources, agriculture, heating systems, fuel burning and natural sources. Most pollution sources are essential to everyday life, but if done in a different or controlled manner, emissions may be reduced and the risks posed to public health lessened.

Domestic burning

Wood-burning stoves and open fires have increased in popularity over recent years in both rural and urban areas, especially as an additional heat source for households. Biomass boilers have also become a popular source of domestic heating. This increase in using solid fuels to heat our homes is having an impact on air quality which increases the risk of adverse effects on our health.

What and how people burn can have a significant impact on emissions. If you use solid-fuel to heat your home, there a simple steps you can take to limit emissions both inside and outside your home:

  • Use a DEFRA approved appliance which is fitted by an approved and competent installer.
  • Keep your appliance well maintained and clean.
  • Have your chimney swept at least twice a year.
  • Use a DEFRA approved or smokeless fuel.
  • If using wood, ensure it is seasoned or dry with 20% moisture or less.
  • Do your research – solid fuel appliances should only smoke for around 15 minutes when starting up. Once running effectively and efficiently there should be no smoke. Look at your appliance’s manufacturers specification for operating information or refer to the BurnRight Basic Guide.

The BurnRight Basic Guide and further information can be found here.

The rules are different if your property is within a designated Smoke Control Area. Smoke Control Areas are currently designed in certain areas of: Selby, Brayton, Thorpe Willoughby, South Milford and Sherburn-in-Elmet. Further information can be found here.

Bonfires and waste burning

Garden bonfires and burning of waste materials are permitted, but may be a source of pollution or local nuisance, hence there are rules to follow.

Burning of garden waste produces smoke; especially if the waste is green or damp. This will emit harmful pollutants such as particulates and dioxins. Burning of waste materials including plastic and painted materials creates noxious fumes and dark smoke that gives off toxic and harmful compounds. Pollution from bonfires can have particularly damaging health effects, particularly to vulnerable people and people with pre-existing health conditions.

Smoke, ash and odour caused by bonfires and burning can also affect neighbouring properties and may be the source of complaints made to the Council. Neighbours may not be able to enjoy their gardens, open windows or hang-out the washing.

Bonfires and burning can also be unsafe, may spread or cause explosions.

Smoke from any type of fire can also be judged to be causing a statutory nuisance to neighbouring properties where the smoke is affecting their enjoyment of their property. A legal notice may be served requiring that the smoke nuisance is abated and failure to comply with the requirements of the notice can result in prosecution.

It is an offence to burn anything on an industrial or trade premises that gives rise to dark smoke under the Clean Air Act 1993, this would include plastic, insulating materials (e.g. foam), tyres and treated/painted wood. It is also an offence to burn casing and/or insulation from cable with a view to recovering the metal core.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty of care on every business to make sure that all waste produced is disposed of in a suitable manner. Burning of waste is not considered as appropriate and anyone found disposing of waste in breach of their duty of care responsibilities risks being prosecuted and fined on conviction. 

Anyone lighting a fire and allowing it to drift across a highway faces a fine of up to £2,000 under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986.

As an alternative to bonfires and waste burning, green waste can be disposed of in your fgreen waste bin or consider home composting. Waste can also be taken to your local household waste recycling centre. Follow this link to find your local centre. 

Industrial pollution

Some industrial processes and installations have the potential to cause pollution and may require an Environmental Permit to operate. There are three types of installations; Part A1, A2 and B.

The Council are responsible for permitting and inspecting all A2 and Part B installations within the district. Part B installations are those that have the potential to cause air pollution and include activities such as vehicle re-spraying, quarry processes and unloading of petrol. The permit for A2 installations controls emissions to air, land and water and other issues such as energy use and waste generation, and are regulated by the Environment Agency.

Any person operating an installation that requires a permit must submit an application form, with a fee, to us. We will then issue a permit in accordance with government regulations and guidance. The operator of the installation must comply with the conditions of the permit and they will be subject to inspection to ensure this is the case.

Please click here for further information on Environmental Permitting.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It has no taste, smell or colour and special devices are needed to detect it. Radon is naturally found everywhere, usually at levels that pose no risk.

Although there is no danger from radon outside where it is diluted by the air; it can be dangerous inside buildings where it can build up and can pose a risk to your health. This risk however is very low.

The government has identified the areas of the country where radon is at a higher level and Public Health England provides more information here