Couple ordered to rebuild chimney they removed without planning permission, despite it posing a safety risk

A brick house with flat roof and 3 chimney sets
The chimney was said to be at risk of falling and a potential hazard but planning permission was never given for the removal of the entire chimney (Image credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council)

A couple has had their plans to remove a chimney stopped by their local council after it was found to be "detrimental" to the local area.

Charlotte Dickerson and her partner Rory McGrath removed a chimney in their house in Martham after an engineer stated the chimney could fall down and caused a significant hazard to them and their family.

However, Great Yarmouth Borough Council turned down the couple's retrospective planning permission request after claiming it created an "unbalanced look" and was of "heritage importance" to the area.

What did the plans include?

The application was for the removal of one of the original chimney stacks on the building, specifically the four-pot rectangular chimney located at the southern end of the roof's eastern slope.

Originally, there were two rectangular chimney stacks on the building – one with three pots to the north and one with four pots to the south, both of the same size.

The chimney is temporarily covered and the plans state this will be permanently covered with roofing materials matching the rest of the roof.

The temporary or re-roofed area is not visible from the street with the plan being to repair the roof and cover the hole with slates.

Removal requested due to safety concerns

The homeowners stated the reason for the removal of the chimneys was due to safety concerns.

The retrospective application included photos of two voids that existed on one cover of the chimney stack between the roof flashing (a thin, waterproof material) and the base of the chimney stack along with an indication of the deteriorated state of cement applied over and between the brickwork.

A letter from an engineer was also provided to offer support for the need to start repairs for the roof. The letter identified risk from strong winds and confirmed urgent repairs were necessary.

Ms Dickerson said: "When the damage was discovered we discussed it with the council who said it should be repaired if possible.

"We paid for a surveyor to look at it who said that due to the scale and location of the damage on the stack, it could not be successfully repaired and should be taken down."

A chimney with a gap underneath between the roof

The cement work at the base of the chimney was in a deteriorated state that required urgent repairs (Image credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council)

Why was planning permission needed?

The council said the removal of the chimneys required planning permission as per Section 72 (1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

This states for building or alterations within a conservation area "special attention must be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area".

The house was said to be prominent within the conservation area (Martham conservation area) as it is a "historic building of architectural interest".

The two chimneys on the roof, one towards the northern side and one on the southern side on the eastern aspect of the roof, were said to "create a balanced look to the house" and were "in keeping with the age of the property".

The chimneys were also said to have "created a point of interest in the roofscape of the immediate area" and indicated a building of some "greater status" as it was said to indicate the original owners were of relative wealth and influence, possibly further demonstrated by its subsequent extensions and the size plot it is set on.

Council rejected due to "weakening the heritage importance" of the property

Planning permission was refused by the council as they stated: "The removal of the southern chimney stack has created an unbalanced look to the property which is detrimental to the overall proportion of the building and the value of the dwelling in the conservation area."

They also stated removal would be "weakening the heritage importance and value that individual buildings can have as a link between modern and original forms of development in an area of historic interest."

They concluded: "Based on the above assessment the Conservation section cannot support the proposed development and recommends that the chimney stack is reinstated in a like-for-like manner."

Ms Dickerson responded: "We do accept the council’s decision, as we knew the requirements of living in a conservation area when we bought the house.

"However, it does feel a bit over the top when the chimney is barely visible and we are surrounded by new builds."

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.