Burning issue for council

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Craigavon Council has been accused of failing ratepayers in enforcing smokeless fuel zones.

At issue is the use of fuels that are not allowed in smokeless zones, with some householders taking advantage of a loophole in the legislation - which allows smoke to issue from a chimney when first lighting the fire.

One frustrated ‘MAIL’ teader said: “A friend of mine bought a house in Lurgan, she noticed her neighbour was burning what was clearly not smokeless fuels. She asked was this area not smokeless, she was told she could burn what she wanted as in the woman’s words ‘the council will send you the odd letter, ignore them, the Environmental Health department of Craigavon Council might send out the odd officer’.

“She added, ‘If the Environmental Health officer calls to the door don’t let them in, they have no powers to see the type of fuel you are burning. If they come back, tell them they are witnessing the kindling period. You are allowed this start up time, if they sit watching your house, turn all the lights on and leave all the blinds open, make yourself seen at the windows if you know what I mean’.”

Craigavon Council signed up to the Clean Air act over 30 years ago but our source said: “In that time they have sent out warning letters and knocked on a few doors, to this date they have never pursued any habitual offender or brought them to court.

“Why does the council employ Environmental Health officers if they don’t have the ability to carry out the role of their employment in what clearly is illegal burning of non smokeless fuels in a designated Smokeless Zone.

“Ratepayers be aware of this. Clearly comfortable jobs at a desk, without fieldwork.”

A spokesman for Craigavon Council said: “The Council has designated smoke control areas that include the whole of Craigavon and areas within Lurgan and Portadown. This means if your property is located within a Smoke Control Area you must not burn unauthorised fuel such as wood, turf or household coal.

“Clean fuels include gas, oil and electric and can be used in a smoke control area. Some solid ‘smokeless fuels’ can also be used as they burn with minimum smoke.

“It is worth stating that smoke from chimneys within a smoke control area may occur for a short time when the fire is being initially lit – this is caused by the use of firelighters, sticks and papers to light the fire and would be considered acceptable for a short time period (also known as kindling).

“Craigavon Borough Council will investigate all complaints concerning smoke being emitted from a chimney within a smoke control area.”

Council has previously served enforcement notices and takes breaches of legislation seriously.