Straw burning bye-laws repealed

Local authority bye-laws controlling the burning of straw and stubble in England and Wales have been repealed en masse by the Government in preparation for a virtual statutory ban on the practice later this year.1

The Order repealing the bye-laws came into force on 2 April. The Government has promised to ban field burning of straw and stubble produced by most crops after the 1992 harvest in England and Wales. This year's final burns will be controlled under interim regulations introduced in 1991 under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (ENDS Report 198, pp 37-8).

The latest annual straw burning survey carried out by the National Society for Clean Air (NSCA) confirms that only a ban will end the environmental damage caused by the practice. While the acreage of cereals on which straw was burned declined by almost 20% last year (ENDS Report 203, p 7), the number of public complaints received by local authorities about pollution, nuisance and damage increased from 1,088 in 1990 to 1,153 in 1991.

On some indicators the position improved last year. Fire brigade call-outs to straw and stubble fires declined by more than 50%, and 66 of the 159 local authorities which responded to the survey reported that the situation was better in 1991.

However, 33 councils reported a deteriorating situation. And sizeable numbers also detected breaches of the new regulations in areas such as burning in unsuitable weather conditions or after sunset, fire supervision and firebreak requirements, and prior notification of burning to fire authorities and environmental health departments.

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