The Wood Burning Survey

The first element of the London Wood Burning Project (LWBP) was a survey of 5,000 residents in the fifteen member boroughs. The project team engaged specialists Opinium to manage the survey and ensure that it was representative, and it was conducted in winter 2022.

This survey had 17 questions, including demographics, and the intent of the survey was to measure attitudes and behaviours around wood and solid fuel burning in the member boroughs. We included general questions around the important issues that affect neighbourhoods including the urban environment, and we also asked people for their perceptions around air quality.

We asked people if they had an open fire or a solid fuel burner (SFB), how often they used them and reasons for their use. We also asked questions about the types of fuels that people use.

In our survey 21% of the survey participants have a useable open fireplace or solid fuel burning (SFB) stove in their home and have said that they are frequently used in winter. There were several reasons given for the use of open fires and SFBs, with the top reasons including creating a nice atmosphere, and it being perceived as cheaper than central heating. For a discussion around the costs of different methods of heating please see a recent report from Global Action Plan.

Only 29% of our respondents with home wood burners and open fires had ever seen information about solid fuel burning and air pollution locally, and we would like to increase this by providing information on the health impacts of domestic solid fuel burning in London today.

The LWBP aims to inform people about the health impacts of solid fuel burning and it is important for us to understand current views. We found that 23% of our respondents believe that solid fuel burning has a positive impact on the health of people at home, and 19% believe that it has a positive impact on the health of immediate neighbours. Solid fuel burning at home is a significant contributor to particulate pollution in London and there is a considerable body of evidence linking particulate pollution to asthma, lung cancer, other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, meaning that wood and solid fuel burning at home may be having a significant negative impact on the health of those burning these fuels at home, and their neighbours.  This makes raising awareness about the negative health impacts especially important in this project.

We also asked people if they were planning to install an open fire or SFB and 18% said yes. Their reasons were varied but perceived cost was given as a reason by 34% of respondents.

The results of this survey form a baseline of behaviours and attitudes towards solid fuel burning in London. We will be surveying residents again in the new year to measure any change.

Member London Boroughs