Government approach to turf regulations welcomed
I welcome today’s agreement by the Government on Solid Fuel Regulations as a balanced and considered solution, that allow people in the Midlands who have traditionally relied on turf to continue to do so.
There was scaremongering and speculation around the draft Regulations earlier this year, no doubt for a variety of purposes. At that time, I brought my concerns to Minister Ryan and these are reflected in the final Regulations. They offer a balance between protecting public health and allowing people continued access to traditional forms of fuel.
First and foremost, in securing agreement today on these Solid Fuels Regulations, the Government has brought about a very welcome ban on smoky coal, something previous governments failed to do. The most significant change in respect of turf is to the commercial sale of turf: It will no longer be possible to sell turf from retail premises (such as shops, petrol stations or fuel depots) or to sell it online or through traditional media channels, e.g. newspapers. Importantly, these regulations do not make any changes to existing turf cutting rights. Neither do they introduce a regulation on who can burn turf.
There is no doubt that the smoke from turf is harmful, and that burning it is an inefficient and unsustainable way of heating a home. However, particularly in the Midlands, there is a long-standing reliance on it, and the regulations agreed by Government today recognise that.
I will continue to encourage people to consider the Government retrofit scheme and, for eligible households, the Warmer Homes scheme. A move to heat pump technology and energy efficiency means lower bills, a more comfortable home, and contributes to meaningful climate action. I am particularly looking forward to the planned low-cost residential retrofit loan scheme which will be introduced later this year under the National Retrofit Plan to help households to finance the balance of the retrofit cost.