Council demands owners make damaged chimney safe — then takes action against the couple after they removed all four

The property in in Yorke Street, Wrexham
(Image credit: Google)

Owners who removed four chimneys from their property after the local authority building control warned one was unsafe, have been refused retrospective planning permission for their removal.

One of the chimneys on the property – the latter identified as a building of visual interest in the Wrexham Town Centre Conservation Area Assessment and Management Plan – was damaged in a storm last year. Owners Jason Lewis and his wife, who had inherited the property, and were reportedly given just weeks to make the chimney safe, removed all four chimneystacks. 

The day after they were removed, conservation officers from Wrexham Council said that enforcement action would be taken against the couple for undertaking the work without planning permission to this non-residential building.

Couple given weeks to make chimneys safe

The local building control department had issued a dangerous structures notice, ordering the storm-damaged chimney to be repaired and loose materials to be removed.

The Wrexham Leader reported that Mr Lewis told councillors, during a planning committee meeting, that he was conforming to the authority’s notice in good faith, adding that the council’s departments had not talked to each other.

He said: “I was told we had a few weeks to do the work, and it was emphasised weeks not months.

“Advice or instruction was never given to contact any other department before commencement or during the work. 

“To the contrary, we were told health and safety superseded all other matters, there was no need to source permissions or permits to carry out the work immediately.”

Following the enforcement order, the couple subsequently applied for retrospective planning for the removal of the chimneys, on two occasions.

Spent £30,000 after insurance wouldn't pay out

The building insurers refused to pay for any work, claiming regular roof maintenance had not been undertaken.

Mr Lewis stated an assessment on the condition of the roof revealed that the roof needed reslating and remedial work was required to the other three chimneys. Due to the curved nature of the building, reslating required specialist skill.

“We advised the department we had taken the chimneys down and re-slated the whole roof," he added. "It added up to a cost of over £30,000."

Council issue enforcement action

The Leader reported that Mr Lewis had been given just weeks to carry out the safety work.

Mr Lewis added: “Not once in six weeks of the work did conservation visit the building, contact the owners or speak with building control.”

In the meeting, Councillor Jon Jolley defended Mr Lewis saying that by removing the chimneys he had made a “serious attempt to do the right thing”.

Councillor Marc Jones said: “Two different departments of the council were making competing demands on the owners.

“The applicants have pointed out the lack of consistency in imposing conditions along the conservation area and there’s some merit in that.”

Wrexham Council have been approached for a comment.

Retrospective planning permission rejected

The chief planning officer's report stated: 'Whilst the applicant has suggested that at least one other chimney was in poor condition, no evidence has been submitted regarding the condition of any of the other chimneys.

'The removal of chimneys from a non-residential property are works that materially alter the appearance of the building and therefore constitute development as defined by Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Non-residential properties do no benefit from any permitted deveopment rights to undertake such works. The applicant has therefore applied for planning permission retrospectively to regularise the works.

'The removal of the removal of the chimneys adversely affects the character of the building and the Wrexham Town Centre Conservation Area'.

The planning committee vote on whether retrospective planning permission should be granted was split with five votes for and five votes against.

Committee chair Councillor Morris had the casting vote, which decided that the application should be refused.

Earlier in the meeting he had said the work carried out was unauthorised, which has “consequences”.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.