An overwhelming majority of people in London support the banning of wood burners, which are the single biggest source of tiny air pollution particles in Britain.
An exclusive poll for the Guardian indicates that 67% of Londoners backed a ban, with 17% opposed and 16% saying they did not know. Across Britain, 44% supported a wood burner ban, with 36% opposed.
Government data published last week showed emissions of toxic pollution particles from wood-burning in UK homes had more than doubled in the past decade.
Dirty air causes 26,000 to 38,000 early deaths a year in England, with the particles linked to many health problems, including heart and lung disease as well as dementia and depression.
About only 8% of people in the UK burn solid fuels indoors, meaning a small minority are responsible for significant amounts of pollution. Two-thirds of these people live in urban areas, where the impact of air pollution is worst, and virtually all of them have other sources of heating.
The poll, conducted by Omnisis, posed the question: “Wood burners are significant contributors to air pollution in urban areas. Do you think they should be banned in towns and cities?”
The results found that among supporters of all the main political parties, more people agreed with a ban than disagreed. The same applied for all age categories, with the strongest backing for a ban among over-75s, with 58% in favour and 32% opposed.
Support for a wood burner ban was strongest in London, followed by the east Midlands. Overall, in seven of the 11 areas in the poll – nine English regions, plus Scotland and Wales – more people were in favour than against. However, more people in Scotland disagreed with a ban, where opposition was strongest with 49% against and 34% in favour. More people also disagreed with a ban in Wales, the north-west and Yorkshire/the Humber, according to the poll.
The government has required new wood burners to meet an “eco” standard since the start of 2022. However, these still produce 450 times more small particle pollution than gas heating, according to a report by Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England.
Ministers also banned the sale of damp wood, which is four times more polluting than dry wood, from May 2022, but dry wood remains highly polluting.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in effect banned wood burners in new and refurbished homes this month, by setting new air pollution limits. The government recently urged councils to use their powers to issue householders with £300 on-the-spot fines for flouting air pollution rules when burning logs at home. However, English councils have issued only 17 fines over six years, despite more than 18,000 complaints.
The Omnisis poll also asked people about changes being made to how UK farmers are paid taxpayer-funded subsidies, after Brexit. There was strong support for farmers being given these subsidies to support food production – 64% were in favour. People also backed subsidies to support the recovery of wildlife and nature (67%) and reduce global warming by planting trees (66%).
The poll questioned 1,258 people on 15 and 16 February and is weighted to a nationally representative population. Omnisis is a member of the British Polling Council.
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