Published: 00:01, 15 April 2019
| Updated: 09:48, 15 April 2019
Confusion over new restrictions to wood burning stoves are driving some of a district’s businesses into the ground.
Shop owners in Canterbury who sell and manufacture the stoves say they are being forced to lay off staff due to a lack of work.
They warn that the industry is becoming “ruthless” as fitters and sellers fight for limited custom across the country.
The sharp drop in customers has been sparked by “misleading” stories in the national press reporting a ban on wood burning stoves, when actually it is only those that do not meet environmental standards that are being phased out.
Graham Thornhill, who runs Cosi in Wincheap and designed Thornhill Range Cookers, says the majority of stoves already meet high standards and there are virtually none of the higher polluting versions left.
“It’s scaremongering and this has caused footfall in the shop to drop to 2% on last year,” he said.
“We’ve laid off half of our workforce. We just don’t have the work for them. I’ve been in the business since 1979 and I’ve never seen a drop like it. If it carries on this way, this time next year we will have shut.”
He says he has also had Customers coming in are asking when they will have to have their stoves removed.
“They won’t - the government is not going to ban stoves,” he said.
“New measures are being introduced that will make sure people burn cleaner fuels and that stoves emit fewer pollutants.”
He added: “The impact of all this is not only damaging to business, but it’s damaging to the planet as it could stop woodland being coppiced.”
Wood for the stoves typically comes from coppiced woodland, of which there are 600,000 acres in Kent and Sussex. Traditional use of coppiced materials, such as hop poles, sheep hurdles and fence posts, has significantly reduced, meaning much of the wood is now used for the stoves.
Coppicing benefits wildlife and trees and allows new species to grow and without this the biodiversity is negatively impacted.
Andrew Hemsley, who has run The Woodstove Shop in Herne since 1973, says the environmental impact is a big concern.
He says he too has seen a significant drop in business and has had to lay off staff.
“Sometimes I’ve checked to make sure I haven’t forgotten to unlock the door or left the phone off the hook because of the lack of people coming in or phoning,” he said.
“We might get people calling up asking questions about their stoves or if they need something looked at, but that’s not going to pay the bills.
“The public is being misled and as an industry we don’t have a strong voice so we need to get the message out there.”