Firewood supply rule changes – Will it encourage the black economy?

24 February 2021

New rules announced by DEFRA on 16th February will, with effect from 1st May, regulate the sale and supply of firewood for domestic use.

The rules, which have been introduced in order to reduce the emissions from the burning of damp wood, will require firewood suppliers to register with “Woodsure Ltd” and certify that wood sold in small volumes is properly labelled and has moisture content of below 20%. The rules will apply to the supply of firewood or wood briquettes in single retail bags or in loose volumes of less than 2 cubic meters.

Registration will require details of how wood is sourced and dried, together with lists of retail outlets supplied, websites, storage depots and turnover. There will be a range of costs, with an initial registration fee of £122.40, an annual fee of £385.20 and further annual audit fees of between £134.40 and £2448, depending on volume. The rules will be enforced by local authorities, and fines for non-compliance can start at £300.

Businesses which supplied less than 600 cubic metres of fuel in the year ending 300th April 2021 do not need to comply until 1st May 2022, and those supplying fuel in loads of over 2 cubic meters only need provide customers with appropriate burning advice (in a prescribed wording).

Whilst the new rules will be irritating to those who sell a few logs or kindling to passing traffic at the farm gate, it is hard to see how it will have any material effect on emissions. Those who buy their dry wood at the garage or garden centre will continue to do so. Those who use wood burners regularly will continue to buy their logs, wet or dry, by the tipper load and those who cannot now find any legitimate local firewood will continue to steal it when they are out walking!

It should be noted that the rules include both sales and supply of fuel, and presumably will also include those who include fuel within the cost of a holiday letting rent – so buying fuel in bulk and then supplying small quantities to holidaymakers free of charge will also be caught by the new conditions.

Commenting on the changes, MHA agricultural partner Sarah Dodds remarked

“These rules, which many will see as pointless and irritating will not go down well. In future advertising firewood for sale will bring in trading standards officers, and showing the sales in the farm books will oblige the accountant to report the proceeds of a criminal activity. Sales will be entirely in cash, probably to regular customers and neighbours, and for small amounts. It is hard to think of a better way of driving income into the black economy”

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