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A raft of regulations and directives control how and where biomass derived fuels and conversion technologies can be used. These regulations need to be understood before a biomass heat or power generation project is initiated.

Forestry Regulations

These apply to the growing and harvesting of woodfuels from trees, and their transport and importation.

Regulations affecting the installation of biomass systems

Regulations applying to the combustion of biomass (and other) fuels for energy in a domestic context.

In addition there are a number of sets of regulations, including those that apply to industrial and commercial scale biomass systems.

Environmental Permitting Programme (EPP)

Phase 1 of the Environmental Permitting Programme (2005-2008) created a single regulatory system to integrate Waste Management Licensing and Pollution Prevention and Control and create a simplified system. EPP 1 was introduced in 2007 as the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2007, replacing individual 41 statutory instruments to provide industry, regulators and others with a single extended permitting and compliance system, called the Environmental Permitting System.

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 provided an update to this and the Environmental permitting guidance: Core guidance is available on the website.

Environmental permitting covers any activity that could pollute the air, water or land, increase flood risk or adversely affect land drainage. In the context of biomass for energy and woodfuel, this includes burning any form of biomass or wood categorised as a waste, disposal of the products of combustion (such as ash), or the transport or storage of material classified as waste.

An Environmental Permit is also required for specific classes of “installation” that produces potentially harmful substances, including incineration and co-incineration plant with or without energy generation. If classified as a Part A(1) activity then it is regulated by the Environment Agency; if Part A(2) or Part B then by the local authority. Part A(1) covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a rated thermal input (or aggregated output from all appliances on a site) of 50 MW or more and guidance is available from DEFRA: Environmental Permitting Guidance – Core guidance. Part A(2) applies to specific activities, not combustion processes. Part B covers burning any fuel in an appliance with a net rated thermal input of 20 MW or more, but less than 50 MW, and also burning waste oil in an appliance of less than 3 MW. Guidance on Part A(2) and Part B installations is also available.

Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)

The IED replaces the Waste Incineration Directive (WID), and includes many of the same provisions. The ‘thermal treatment’, which includes combustion, gasification and pyrolysis, of solids or liquids that can be defined as waste (‘which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’) is now covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive. Chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)applies to all waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants that thermally treat solid or liquid waste, unless an exclusion applies. Some plants also fall within chapter 2. There is guidance on waste incineration under Environmental Permitting.

There area number of specific wastes excluded from chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive:

  • vegetable waste from agriculture and forestry
  • vegetable waste from the food processing industry (providing the heat generated is recovered)
  • fibrous vegetable waste from pulp making (provided this happens on the site of waste generation and the heat generated is recovered)
  • wood waste (except wood waste which has been treated with wood preservatives or coatings containing halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals)
  • cork waste
  • radioactive waste
  • animal carcasses not for human consumption

However the Environment Agency have stated their position that they do not consider virgin timber as waste, and it is not subject to waste regulatory controls. This, however, only covers virgin timber, which is defined in their regulatory position statement. Timber that has been treated in any way, or used, is classed as non-virgin timber, and is not totally de-regulated in this way, though may still be exempt from IED if not treated with halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals.

In addition, experimental plants that are used for research, demonstration and testing, and also treat less than 50 tonnes of waste per year, are also excluded from the IED.

Plants that are excluded from the IED by virtue of the fact that they only treat excluded wastes may still require a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit, a Waste Management Licence or an Exemption.

Under very limited circumstances waste derived fuel (WDF) may cease to be waste before it is used as fuel if it has been subject to some form of processing, however this is subject to ruling by courts and is not expected to apply in many cases.

Thermal conversion of treated wood waste, as well as other industrial wastes and co-products, is most likely to be covered by the IED. In addition, material defined as ‘hazardous waste’ is subject to specific constraints under the IED. Timber from construction and demolition sites is also assumed to be covered by IED unless it can be shown to be otherwise.

The IED imposes requirements on the types of waste permitted at a given plant, delivery and reception of the waste, the thermal conversion equipment used, and the operating conditions required, abatement plant, emissions monitoring requirements and emission limits values to air and water. Disposal of ash is not specifically covered by the IED, however other EU legislation is relevant, such as the Landfill Directive. Waste is defined as either non-hazardous under the IED (according to the European Waste Catalogue) or hazardous, and the technical requirements of the processing plant are different in each case.

Building Regulations

The Building Regulations impose minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure safety and environmental performance. They cover such matters as health and safety for people in and around the buildings and energy efficiency. Building Regulations Part J cover combustion appliances and fuel storage systems and cover issues such as fire safety, provision of ventilation and requirements for flue design and dimensions.

Information about Building Regulations and Planning Permission from the DirectGov website.

The Approved Documents of all the individual Parts of the current Building Regulations, including Part J, can be downloaded from here.

Some information on the Planning Portal from their “Common Projects” section about when planning permission might and probably won’t be required for a biomass boiler.

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were a response to the smogs of the 1950s and 60s and allowed local authorities to define smoke control areas. They were consolidated into the Clean Air Act of 1993.

Within smoke control areas authorised fuels, which include gas, electricity anthracite and specified manufactured smokeless fuels, may be used. Any other fuels, including wood and pellets, may only be burned in an exempt appliance that has been specifically tested and approved under the Clean Air Act.

Defra guidance on the Local Authority Pollution Control (LAPC) regime consists of:

  • a short, simple 3-page guide to LAPC
  • a statutory General Guidance Manual which sets out the procedures and policy
  • statutory process guidance (PG) notes which set out the Secretary of State’s view on what constitutes Best Available Techniques for each of the main sectors regulated to control their air emissions (so-called “Part B” activities)
  • statutory sector guidance (SG) notes which do the same for the sectors regulated under integrated pollution prevention and control (so-called “A(2)” activities
  • a set of additional guidance (AQ) notes covering various other issues
  • miscellaneous other guidance.

Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD)

The Large Combustion Plant Directive applies to combustion plants with a thermal output greater than 50 MW.

There is information on Environmental permitting and the LCPD on the website. There is also a guidance document available.

Importing wood

Plant Health controls apply to a wide range of imported wood products. This includes material imported for use as woodfuel.

Biofuel import controls

Plant Health Import Regulations applying to biofuels. From the Forestry Commission May 2011 (PDF 34 kB)

Forestry Commission Plant Health Guide: Importing firewood

Plant Health guide (PDF – 250 kB)

Forestry Commission Plant Health Guide: Importing woodchip

Plant Health guide (PDF – 267 kB)

Importing wood, wood products and bark

Requirements for landing controlled material into Great Britain. From the Forestry Commission. (PDF709 kB)

Guide to implementation of phytosanitary standards in forestry

FAO Forestry paper No 164. A guide from the FAO on phytosanitation in forestry (PDF – 1.5 MB)

Forestry regulations

Forestry in the UK is tightly regulated and you should make sure that you are aware of your legal requirements before conducting woodland management operations. This can seem a daunting task at first, but the Forestry Commission has a network of woodland officers who are able to advise you on your obligations and best practice. There is a list of contact details for Forestry Commission England, including local woodland officers can be found on the Office access and opening times – Forestry Commission – GOV.UK ( of the website

N.B. This material is provided free of charge by the Biomass Energy Centre to give woodland owners general guidance, relevant to forestry legislation the UK in September 2011. This page does not cover this material in detail and as such is no substitute for project-specific expert advice. While the Biomass Energy Centre endeavours to provide accurate information and data, it makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability or suitability of the guidance contained or generated herein. The user understands that neither the Biomass Energy Centre nor the Forestry Commission accept any liability for any loss or damage whatsoever arising from any use of or reliance on this guidance and that that use of this guidance does not constitute a contract wherein any conditions, warranties or other terms implied by statute or common law can be relied upon.

Felling Licences

There is a presumption under the Forestry Act (1967) that any felling of living trees will require a Felling Licence, unless an exemption applies. An exemption may include felling small quantities, or when felling in specific areas (for example: gardens). Licences are free, and are issued by the Forestry Commission. If you do not obtain a Felling Licence where one is required, you face legal action. Contact your woodland officer for more details. There is also information available on the FC website at Tree felling: overview – GOV.UK (

Tree Preservation Orders and Conservation Areas

If any tree or woodland area is covered by a TPO, or is within a Conservation Area, you must inform the Forestry Commission before any felling takes place (in addition to requesting a felling licence where appropriate). Contact your woodland officer for more details.

Environmental Impact Assessment

The Forestry Commission is responsible for administering the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 and the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999. These regulations affect four forestry operations. These are:

  • Afforestation:
    Planting new woods and forests, includes direct seeding or natural regeneration, planting Christmas trees or short rotation coppice.
  • Deforestation:
    Felling woodland to use the land for a different purpose.
  • Forest Roads:
    The formation, alteration or maintenance of private ways on land used (or to be used) for forestry purposes. This includes roads within a forest or leading to one.
  • Forestry Quarries:
    Quarrying to obtain materials required for forest road works on land that is used, or will be used, for forestry purposes or on land held or occupied with that land area thresholds.

For these projects an EIA is required when the project exceeds a minimum threshold or when it is adjacent to land where these activities have recently taken place. Contact your woodland officer for more details.

Habitat Regulations

Since 1994 it has been an offence, under these Regulations, to deliberately kill or cause significant disturbance to a protected species, or to deliberately destroy their eggs. It has also been an offence to ‘damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place’ used by them (such as a bat roost in a tree or a dormouse nest on the woodland floor). However, the level of protection has been increased to ensure it complies with the EU Habitats Directive, as set out to the UK Government following a judgement in the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This judgement set the UK Government a tight deadline for incorporating the ECJ ruling into law.

The amended Regulations include as an offence any damage or destruction of a breeding site or resting place. Previously if damage was ‘an incidental result of a lawful operation’ and reasonable precautions had been taken to avoid it, it would not have been an offence. Therefore there is a risk of woodland operators committing an offence if they have not carried out planned operations carefully, with the necessary checks and sought a licence where required.

Woodland managers need to consider the presence of protected species and follow good practice guidance to avoid committing an offence. In some cases management practices may need to be modified or rescheduled to a less sensitive time of year, and where this is not possible or adequate then operators may need to apply for a licence to remain within the law. Most activities will be able to continue without the need for a licence through the following of good practice guidance. The species that can occur in England’s woodland are:

  • all 17 species of bat
  • Dormouse
  • Great crested newt
  • Otter
  • sand lizard
  • smooth snake
  • (The natterjack toad and some of the plant species, such as yellow marsh saxifrage, may rarely occur in woodlands or be affected by forest operations.)

The Forestry Commission has extensive guidelines for dealing with these species all of which is available here.

Countryside and Rights of Way Act

If a site has been dedicated under the CRoW act, or if there is a right of way on the site, there will be legal limitations regarding the extent of the disruption public access allowed. You should also bear in mind that if paths on site have been subject to unchallenged use by the public for at least 20 years, there may be a presumption of dedication under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980.

Plant Health

The Plant Health Service regulates and advises on topics including timber treatment, wood marking, wood packaging, quarantine controls, phytosanitary certificates, and imports and exports of timber and wood materials.

There are a number of legal restrictions on the import and export; and movement within the UK of some timber species. This is covered by a number of pieces of legislation listed here. There is guidance on the plant health aspects of timber and wood import and export.

If you need more information, then contact Plant Health England or check with your local woodland officer.

Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) Regulations

The discovery of Chalara fraxinea in ash trees in Great Britain required the passing of legislation on 29th October 2012 to minimize the spread of the disease. Its primary impact is to restrict the importing and movement of ash trees for planting.

If a site is found to have Chalara infection, a Plant Health Notice will be issued. This prevents the movement of all ash material from the site, however the wood may be used for fuel on the site. For sites that are free of infection there is no restriction on the sale of firewood and wood chips.

There is general information about the disease on the Forest Research website at: Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) – Forest Research.

This includes information on financial assistance to assist woodland owners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Importing wood

Plant Health controls apply to a wide range of imported wood products. This includes material imported for use as woodfuel.

Plant Health legislation for forestry
Plant Health Regulations applying to biofuels, trees, wood and other plant material. From the website.

Import firewood into England, Scotland or Wales
Guidance from the Forestry Commission

Import timber, wood products and bark
Requirements for landing controlled material into Great Britain. From the Forestry Commission.

Guide to implementation of phytosanitary standards in forestry
FAO Forestry paper No 164. A guide from the FAO on phytosanitation in forestry (PDF – 1.5 MB)

Forest Reproductive Material Regulation

The FRM regulations provide a system of identification and control of seeds, cuttings and planting stock used for forestry purposes in Great Britain. This is defined as ‘woodland planting of any description for any forestry purpose including, timber production, forests and woodlands for tourist, recreational, sporting, educational or amenity purposes and the conservation and enhancement of the forest and woodland environment.’

The Regulations ensure that planting stock is traceable through the collection and production process to a registered source of basic material (e.g. trees from which the seed is collected or cuttings taken). This allows those who buy FRM to have sufficient information about the material being bought, such as provenance and origin. Further information is available from the FC website here.

Regulations affecting the installation of biomass systems

There are a number of regulations relating to the installation of solid fuel heating systems that apply to biomass systems. Many are derived from those originally drawn up for coal and smokeless fuel systems and may be imperfectly suited for modern biomass systems, which can cause difficulties.

Building Regulations

Building regulations place requirements on the installation of solid fuel systems, including room ventilation, flue characteristics and a fireproof hearth.

There can be difficulties with flue approval as the Building Regulation Part J (para 2.4) states that:

“Flue pipes should have the same diameter or equivalent cross sectional area as that of the appliance flue outlet and should not be smaller than the size recommended by the appliance manufacturer”

However para 2.5 states:

“Flues should be at least the size shown in Table 2 relevant to the particular appliance…”

and for most biomass appliances Table 2 requires:

  • 150 mm diameter (or equivalent cross sectional area) for appliances up to 30 kW
  • 175 mm diameter for appliances between 30 kW and 50 kW.

For appliance such as small pellet stoves with a 100 mm diameter flue outlet this can cause difficulties with compliance.

Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act 1993 requires that in designated Smoke Control Areas only “authorised fuels” may be used, except in exempt appliances. “Authorised fuels” include gas, electricity, anthracite and specified manufactured smokeless fuels, but not biomass.

In order to qualify as an exempt appliance, a stove, oven or boiler must undertake specific testing. There are lists (below) of exempt appliances for the countries of the UK however many European and American appliances have not been approved, especially small pellet stoves.

Although BS EN 303-5:1999 sets emission limits, testing to this standard cannot at present be used to obtain exempt appliance status, a separate test is required.

BS EN 303-5:1999

British implementation of European standard for solid fuel heating boilers up to 300kW. Sets requirements, including for performance, efficiency and emissions, and testing and marking of equipment.

The test methods within BS EN 303-5 are used within the RHI for approval of equipment.

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