Dark smoke

Subject to some exemptions, the emission of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises is prohibited under Part I of the Clean Air Act 1993. This prohibition is absolute and no permitted periods are allowed. The legislation does not apply to domestic premises.

The term dark smoke refers to a shade on the British Standard BS2742C Ringelmann Chart and means smoke, which if compared to the chart, would appear to be as dark as or darker than shade 2. Black smoke means smoke which would be as dark as or darker than shade 4 on the chart.

Industrial or trade premises are defined as premises used for any industrial or trade purpose, or premises on which matter is burnt in connection with any trade or industrial process. This means if you burn waste at home originating from your work, then this is covered by the legislation.

Legislation and guidance

The Clean Air Act 1993 also regulates emissions of dark and black smoke from chimneys serving furnaces of fixed boilers or industrial plant. However, the Clean Air Act does not apply to processes prescribed for control under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000.

Under Part II of the Clean Air Act 1993, furnaces or a fixed boiler in a building used for commercial activities, can not be installed without prior notification to the Local Authority. The furnace must be capable of operating continuously without emitting smoke using the fuel for which it is designed.

The act requires certain types of furnaces, including those burning pulverised fuels, to be fitted with grit and dust arrestment plant approved by their local authority. The height of the chimney serving the appliance also has to be approved by the local authority.

Section 1 of the act prohibits the emission of dark smoke from a chimney on any building.

There are four defences available in any proceedings for dark smoke emissions:

  • that the emission was solely due to lighting a furnace from cold
  • that the emission was solely due to an unavoidable mechanical failure of part of the plant that could not have been reasonably forseen
  • that is was solely due to the unavoidable use of unsuitable fuel
  • that it was due to any combination of the above

Section 2 of the act prohibits the emission of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises. This section includes dark smoke form bonfires at business premises. The emission of dark smoke is a strict offence and can be immediately prosecuted in the Magistrate's Court to a maximum of £5,000. The maximum penalty for causing statutory nuisance from a trade premises is £20,000.

Waste produced during the course of normal business activity should be disposed of in an apropriate manner. Disposal by burning is not permissible and will be referred to the Environment Agency for investigation under the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994, relating to the disposal of trade waste. Information regarding waste licensing can be obtained from the Environment Agency website [update link].

If you spot dark smoke coming from a trade or industrial premises (including farms) or you suspect someone is burning trade or industrial waste and causing dark smoke you should contact us immediately. If possible, an officer will visit the site to witness the offence and take the appropriate action.

If you are experiencing this type of nuisance and would like us to investigate further, please contact us.