Councillors’ concern over policy on borough’s smoke control areas
TWO local councillors have voiced their dismay at a leaflet campaign by Antrim Borough Council targetting residents living in smoke control areas.
DUP Councillor Trevor Clarke and Sinn Fein’s Noel Maguire said they were concerned to hear that a leaflet drop was carried out by the council, warning of the implications - including fines of up to £1,000 - of burning the wrong type of fuels in these areas.
Raising the issue at Antrim Council’s recent monthly meeting, Cllr. Clarke said that at a time when local people were facing financial hardship and fuel poverty, the council had sent out leaflets to local residents warning they faced fines of £1,000 for using the wrong type of fuel.
He added that while it smoke control areas had been necessary during times of greater industrial activity in the borough, he questioned whether the smoke control areas remained relevant.
“This order was put in place over 40 years ago and at a time when we had the Enkalon and Old Bleach factories in operation,” Cllr. Clarke said.
He added: “There is less industry and pollution in the area now.”
Cllr. Clarke also voiced concern over the cost of smokeless fuels, adding: “They are more expensive.”
He also called on the council to look into the issue further to see if changes could be made.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr. Maguire said he was dismayed that council had elected to launch a leaflet campaign.
“Council policy on these ‘smoke control areas’ really needs to be revisited, and the rationale for the designation of such areas fully explained,” Cllr. Maguire said.
He added that Antrim Borough Council had done some “valiant work” in support of initiatives concerning fuel poverty, adding: “Yet we are now threatening people with fines of up to £1000 for the burning of certain fuels.”
Cllr. Maguire added: “Many people will have adapted their home heating arrangements in order to make heating more affordable, and many more are forced to revert to cheaper fuels in order to maintain some level of comfort.
“Among these will be the most vulnerable including the elderly and lone parents struggling to make ends meet.
“There are certainly many ratepayers who have elected to use wood burning appliances which are both economical and which of course use a renewable fuel as opposed to fossil fuels.”
Cllr. Maguire said that a “blanket ban” on certain fuels “has to be questioned in the current economic climate”.
“We need to be more sensitive to the danger of driving people further into fuel poverty and must therefore re-examine policy,” Cllr. Maguire said.
He added: “In the short term the designated smoke control areas certainly give rise to a perception of inequality concerning what areas fall within the control zones and what areas appear ‘exempt’.”
Among the areas included in the borough’s smoke control areas are: the Dublin Road estates, the Greystone estate, Newpark, the Steeple estate, Stiles and Town Parks North and South.
A spokesperson for Antrim Borough Council said that since 1964 legislation has been in place enabling councils to declare Smoke Control Areas.
“If you live within one of these areas, it is illegal to burn unauthorised fuels such as household coal, slack, turf or wood. If you wish to light a fire you should ensure that you only burn an approved smokeless fuel,” the spokesperson said.
She added: “In addition to creating dirt, blackening buildings, reducing visibility and damaging many materials, smoke adversely affects health.
“People living in areas where the air is smoky are more likely to suffer from bronchitis and other chest complaints.”
Regarding the leaflet drop, the spokesperson said it was in the wake of complaints from local residents.
“Following complaints from local residents who were concerned that the wrong type of fuel was being burned within their smoke control areas, a leaflet drop was carried out to try and provide help and advice to residents on what fuels they should be burning and which were unauthorised,” the spokesperson said.
She added: “Should anyone have any concerns, would like a list of the smoke control areas and approved fuels or would like further information please contact the Environmental Health team on 028 9446 3113.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Antrim
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South east