Oxford City Council Moves Ahead with Plans for City-Wide Smoke Control Area

today14/09/2023 23

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Oxford City Council’s Cabinet has greenlit plans for a city-wide expansion of its Smoke Control Areas (SCAs), subject to public consultation this winter and subsequent approval by the Secretary of State. The move is aimed at protecting the public from microscopic particles (PM2.5), which can cause severe health issues when inhaled.

“I am pleased that we will be moving forward in our efforts to tackle toxic air pollution in our city. We know that smoke and air pollution can lead to severe health issues, and implementing a single Smoke Control Area will aid us in reducing both indoor and outdoor particulate pollution across the city,” said Councillor Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice.

An Upgrade to Existing Measures

Oxford currently has 23 SCAs, covering about 48% of the city, including the city centre and other urban zones like Headington, most of East Oxford, Blackbird Leys, Abingdon Road, Botley Road, and Jericho. The new proposal aims to replace the existing patchwork of SCAs with a single, comprehensive Smoke Control Area covering the entire city, including areas like north Oxford, Rose Hill, Littlemore, and parts of Temple Cowley.

Echoing Reading Borough Council

Oxford City Council is following the example set by Reading Borough Council, which is in the midst of consultations to introduce a single Smoke Control Area across Berkshire’s County town.

Regulations and Guidelines

Within an SCA, residents and businesses can still use solid fuels but must either use an approved wood-burning stove or appliance or burn authorized types of fuel. The new proposal doesn’t affect houseboats or open-air activities like bonfires and barbecues, for which separate guidelines exist.

Legal Penalties

Violations of the Smoke Control Area rules could result in fines. For instance, smoke emissions from unapproved stoves or unauthorized fuel could attract fines between £175 and £300, while buying or selling unauthorized fuel can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Public Opinion Invited

Following Cabinet approval, the Council plans to open up the proposal for public consultation this winter. “We will be holding a public consultation this winter to hear from local residents and businesses on the proposals, and I encourage all those interested to share their thoughts,” added Councillor Railton.

A Look at the Bigger Picture

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is linked to approximately 7 million deaths globally each year. Within Oxford, 66% of fine particulates (PM2.5) are attributed to domestic heating, highlighting the importance of SCAs. The latest air quality reports show that PM2.5 levels in Oxford remain above the WHO’s current guidelines, despite efforts by the Council to educate residents through campaigns like ‘Do You Fuel Good?’, launched in partnership with the Canal and River Trust.

With the decision to extend the Smoke Control Areas still subject to Secretary of State approval, the Oxford City Council is moving forward cautiously yet decisively to improve air quality and public health in the city.

Written by: Hamish Law

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