Western Isles outrage over 'confusing' wood-burning stove 'ban'

'Urban-style' rules on heating systems are being 'foisted' onto island communities, a council leader has claimed.

Western Isles outrage over ‘confusing’ wood-burning stove ‘ban’ ‘foisted’ onto islands by Scottish Government Getty Images

The leader of the council in the Western Isles has accused the Scottish Government of “foisting” a “confusing” “urban-style policy” onto island communities.

Paul Steele hit out at ministers in Edinburgh over a ban on some wood-burning stoves in Scotland.

The new rules, part of the push to reach net zero, mean they won’t be allowed in houses built after April 1 as well as some conversions.

The Scottish Government said there will be an exception for when they are used as emergency heating systems.

The announcement last week sparked concern among those living in rural Scotland where wood-burning stoves are often used if power goes out.

The leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said he is seeking clarification on what the ban means for those living in the area.

“The definitions within the amendments to the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 are confused and confusing,” he said.

“Comhairle officers have been seeking clarity around the regulation and we await that clarity from Government. 

“Wood-burning stoves have long been considered to provide ‘low or zero carbon’ heating, so this change appears over-zealous and does not take into account island contexts. 

“This looks, once again, like an urban style policy being foisted onto island communities without proper consideration of island circumstances. 

“The Comhairle will continue to engage with the Government to make the case for island-proofing and to ensure an approach that does not disadvantage islanders.”

‘Wood-burning stoves are not being banned’

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green MSP and minister for zero-carbon buildings, said people who already have wood-burning stoves won’t need to give them up.

“I’m seeing some claims floating about here that the Scottish Government has ‘banned’ woodburning/biomass heating,” he said.

“This isn’t true. I’ve seen people worried by these claims, thinking they’ll be forced to rip out their wood burner. No, you won’t.

“What’s changing is rules for new buildings and major conversions applying for a building warrant from this month.

“It has nothing to do with existing heating systems or replacements that aren’t part of a building conversion. There are exemptions for emergency heating systems too.

“This is because it’s better, easier and cheaper to install clean heating systems from the outset, rather than go back and retrofit later.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “There is no ban on wood burning stoves.

“The New Build Heat Standard applies only to new buildings applying for a building warrant from 1 April 2024. Under the Standard wood burning stoves can still be installed in new homes to provide emergency heating where required. This recognises the unique needs of Scotland’s rural communities.

“Proposals for the New Build Heat Standard were subject to full consultation in 2021 and again in 2022, and both consultations showed strong support.

“Heating our homes and buildings represents about a fifth of Scotland’s carbon emissions so tackling the climate emergency requires us to address these emissions. That is why the Scottish Government has recently finished consulting on plans for introducing clean heating systems in existing homes and buildings and is currently considering responses.

“This consultation recognised that bioenergy systems, like wood burning stoves, are a renewable, and in many cases, a net zero form of heating which may be the best solution for some homes – especially in rural Scotland.

“That is why we asked for views on how to ensure a flexible approach which still enables the use of bioenergy heating systems as we move towards net zero.

“We will continue engaging with and supporting local authorities to ensure that the regulations are implemented appropriately. This will allow us to identify any need to review elements of the guidance if required – this is part of the regular implementation process.”

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