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Smoke Control Areas are in place in 195 out of 434 local authorities. 53 of those cover the entire local authority.

Smoke Control Areas make it illegal to burn coal and other smokey fuels and regulate which appliances you are allowed to use to burn wood (only DEFRA approved stoves).

I spoke to a member of the environmental health department and asked why we do not have one in my local authority. He said that there has been very few convictions so it is not worth it (I think that is a poor reason as it will still act as a deterent).

So, what has been the real world effectiveness of these SCAs in reducing particulate pollution?

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Particulate is a very local issue, so it really, really depends on your local conditions. Particularly your ratio of greenery to urbanity. Downtown London, oh, you betcha - they've had smoke controls for 120 years. The underground used to be pulled by steam engines, if you can imagine!

But if you're in a rural spot where the trees outnumber the people 100,000 to 1, the particulates get gulped up by nature pretty fast, and little real gain will occur from burdensome government regulations. At that point, it's "regulation by spite" (since Londoners can't, neither can you in the Orkneys) or "regulation to harmonize rules" (you can't since Prague and Berlin can't), or "environmental theater" (look at how clean we are on things that don't matter).

Another factor is the burden of enforcement to the users. For instance if it will disproportionately impact the very poor, or historic operations (canal boats or heritage railways, then the social impact needs to be considered in balance.

Carbon emissions, of course, are a different kettle of fish; and not a local matter at all. I don't know how your jurisdiction views "new carbon" (wood) vs "old carbon" (coal).

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  • Many thanks @Harper, some interesting things there. I am looking for something a bit more concrete, some analysis on the differences after the smoke control areas were implemented for instance. – atreeon Feb 24 at 20:59

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