Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Demolished chimneys must be reinstated, says council

THE demolition of two chimneys on a listed building in Henley has sparked calls for legal action against the owner.

THE demolition of two chimneys on a listed building in Henley has sparked calls for legal action against the owner.

Courtcroft Properties applied to South Oxfordshire District Council to replace two chimney stacks on a Grade II-listed building in New Street, a conservation area.

But when conservation officer Eddie Booth carried out a site visit to inspect them, he found that they had already been demolished and rebuilt.

Mr Booth said that he found that all the historic fabric of the building had been removed.

“I visited and was surprised to find that the whole of the historic structure chimney stack and external chimney breast has been demolished,” he said. “New foundations have been laid and brickwork has been rebuilt in new materials almost up to eaves level. The new bricks have been laid using a cement mortar and the builder told me that the joints have been left recessed so that they can be finished with lime mortar pointing.

“This is not good practice for historic buildings and it is notable that the surveyor’s report, on which the applicant relies, emphasises a recommendation that reconstruction should be undertaken using lime.

“If I had had the opportunity to inspect the evidence before it was demolished, I would have been able to consider the extent to which rebuilding was necessary and options for retaining historic fabric. Then, it would have been possible to reach an outcome that balanced the interests of safety and building conservation.”

He added: “Clearly, it is a nonsense to grant consent subject to conditions that cannot be fulfilled. I therefore strongly recommend refusal of listed building consent.”

Henley Town Council’s planning committee recommended that listed building consent is refused and for the original chimneys to be reinstated.

Chairman Dieter Hinke told last Tuesday’s meeting: “It is quite annoying to get this [application].

“They have asked for permission but they have demolished all the historical pointing and brick work and rebuilt it.

“I think the conservation officer is quite incensed. He didn’t have a chance to inspect what was there before. Anyone who owns a Grade-II listed building needs to realise that this is an illegal act.”

Deputy Mayor Martin Akehurst agreed. He said: “This is about as legal as my cats motorway driving. I am fed up of people in Henley having listed buildings and having work done to them, covering it up, and coming back to get planning permission.

“This is why we have this sort of work made illegal under the law. I really want to urge legal action on this.”

Councillor Hinke proposed rejecting the application, adding: “This is a bad example of pulling history down.”

The Henley Society, a pressure group which assesses planning applications, also objected to the demolition work having been carried out without listed building consent.

Neither Courtcroft Properties or planning agents Edgington Spink and Hyne would comment.

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