The government has announced new restrictions on the sale of solid fuel in England, to come into force next year.

Solid Fuel

From February 2021, sales of wood in volumes of less than two cubic metres must have a moisture content of 20% or less, while the sale of all pre-packaged traditional bituminous house coal will be banned outright. The restrictions follow a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on ways to tackle air pollution due to domestic burning.

Suppliers of wood will need to apply for mandatory certification to demonstrate that their wood has less than 20% moisture, and retailers will be required to check that their supplier has received this certification, which will be made available online.

Retailers will also be required to store seasoned wood in such a way as to keep it dry, and the government has confirmed that they will produce guidance on how retailers can comply with this requirement.

There is no sell-through period proposed, which means that retailers will need to have sold through all wet and seasoned wood stock (as it has not been certified to have less than 20% moisture) as well as pre-packaged traditional house coal by February 2021, despite the fact that suppliers will still be able to sell non-compliant products right up until the deadline.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The government’s plans to ban the sale of solid fuels has widespread implications for retailers in our sector, particularly for stores operating on forecourts and in more rural and isolated areas. There is a need for clarity on how retailers can comply with these measures, particularly the requirement for retailers to store wood in a dry place.

“We are working with Defra officials and we will produce assured advice on the regulations so that retailers can rely on one interpretation of their obligations, and communicate details of the ban to customers.

“We have also outlined our concerns about the timescales to government, urging them to consider the introducing the ban in two stages: first with the ban to the sale of wood by suppliers followed by a separate sell through period for retailers. This would ensure that retailers have enough time to sell through non-compliant stock.”