Horsham controversy over wood-burning stoves (West Sussex County Times 15th February 2021

Some fear that the fires are a danger to health and the environment.

And a Billingshurst man stoked up anger when he called on people to stop using them and suggested that the fires were merely ‘a fashion statement.’

Robert Bishop maintained that it was impossible to follow Government Covid advice and open windows because of smoke from neighbours’ wood fires.

But others have hit back, saying that, far from being a ‘fashion statement,’ the fires are an essential source of heat for many homes in the Horsham area without gas supplies.

And they maintain that wood is a renewable source of energy, unlike oil or gas.

However, Asthma UK says burning wood gives off tiny particles that can get into the airways.

A spokesman said: “Breathing them in can make your airways inflamed, bringing on asthma symptoms”.

Carrie Cort, founder of Sussex Green Living “If you’re using a wood-burning stove, make sure it’s well maintained, and that you’re using dry woods.”

The British Lung Foundation also cautions the use of wood-burners. A spokesman said: “Burning wood and coal in a stove or on an open fire releases particulate matter, which has shown a range of adverse health impacts, including decreased lung development and function, exacerbation of asthma, allergy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and increased risk of lung cancer.”

Carrie Cort, founder of Sussex Green Living, said: “Open fires and wood burning stoves are not eco … unless you coppice and burn your own wood. If everyone went to wood stoves there would be more air pollution and less forests. We import from Europe a lot of the wood pellets for wood chip boilers so there are big transportation issues too. She continued “Open fires are not very efficient, wood burners are much more efficient, however both do cause small particles of air pollution which find their way into the body’s lungs and blood. Using a fire or log burner from locally coppiced or fallen trees when the wood is dry, occasionally is OK”.

“Ideally we insulate our home and build new houses which are ‘Passive houses’ that don’t need heating or very little. If people like relaxing in front of a fire, ideally use an electric fire or stove using clean renewable energy, as found through our cost comparison energy switching site https://bigcleanswitch.org/sussexgreen, Everyone we have helped switch at the Horsham Repair Cafe has saved between £90 and £366 switching to clean energy.”

The solid fuel standards agency HETAS says that new legislation is being introduced soon that will ban the use of wet wood with a new ‘Ready to Burn’ scheme which comes into force in England in May this year.

A spokesman said: “Defra has appointed Woodsure to run its Ready to Burn certification scheme for firewood. Wood sold in volumes of up to 2m³ will need to be certified as having a moisture content of 20 per cent or less. Suppliers selling larger quantities will need to provide customers with clear instructions on storing and seasoning so it is dry to burn. For the past four years, Woodsure has been leading the way in championing the use of less polluting dry wood and driving awareness of its certification scheme.
The non-profit organisation’s independent inspectors verify the wood as having a moisture content of up to 20 per cent, which means it burns with less smoke than wetter wood. Woodsure works closely with suppliers and retailers to improve the quality of domestic firewood and to raise awareness among consumers about the need to use dry wood to reduce pollution and maximise heat efficiency.”