Local authorities, health and environment
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Case-study: Smoke control
in the United Kingdom

In the UK and indeed elsewhere in Europe smogs, accompanied by respiratory diseases had been accepted as the "price" of industrial progress. However, the infamous smog (smoke + fog = smog) which blanketed London from the 5-8 December 1952, and which was responsible for 4700 additional deaths, finally spurred the Government into action. The result was the Clean Air Act 1956.

This Act, which was amended in 1968, regulated pollution from smoke, grit and dust from domestic, commercial and industrial sources. The legislation prohibited the emission of "dark smoke" from any chimney and enabled local authorities to declare all or part of their area a "smoke control area". In such areas it is an offense to emit smoke unless it can be proved that only an "authorised fuel" (listed in Regulations) had been used. Certain fireplaces - "exempted fireplaces" - which can burn other types of (unauthorised) fuels may be utilised so long as they can do so without emitting any, or a substantial quantity of, smoke.

In a smoke control area, the local authority may serve a notice on the owner of a private dwelling (i.e. not commercial or industrial premises) requiring fireplaces to be adapted to smokeless operation. So long as the work has been carried out to the local authority's satisfaction, it should repay seven-tenths of the reasonable cost of the work; it had the option of repaying all or part of the remaining three-tenths. Grants were not available for "new" dwellings begun on or after 16 August 1964. Until the end of 1996 local authorities could reclaim from the Government a proportion of their expenditure for grants made towards the conversion of domestic fires to smokeless operation.

Although most local authorities have either completed or, for one reason or another, stopped their smoke control programme, some are still continuing. Thus while the total costs of implementing a smoke control programme can be considerable, in the UK the costs have been spread over some 40 years. The costs for individual authorities will depend on the number of houses involved and local appliance and installation costs

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