Leeds Victorian Chimney will be shortened over public safety fears | Leeds

A Victorian chimney in Leeds – seen as a prominent local landmark by campaigners – is to be shortened due to safety fears.

The 33m structure, which is over 150 years old, is part of Grade II listed Stonebridge Mills in Farnley which is being converted into homes as part of a £25million redevelopment.

Those involved in the assessment of the chimney reportedly said it was “severely damaged”, cracked on four sides, and warned that the top of it had to be removed “for reasons of public safety”. Instead, they plan to reduce the height of the chimney from six meters to 27 meters.

Leeds Civic Trust, one of several groups opposed to its abolition, said the decision at a planning meeting of Leeds City Council on Thursday was “disappointing”, but they “reluctantly accept” that the problems of health and safety may have been insurmountable.

Martin Hamilton, director of the trust, said: “Leeds Civic Trust supports the Stonebridge Mills scheme as a whole. The development is a nice mix of old and new. Our objection to dismantling the chimney was based on the idea that all options for preserving it should be considered first.

He added: “We reluctantly accept that it may not be possible to overcome health and safety issues.”

Green Party Councilor David Blackburn said the local landmark was the ‘gateway’ to Farnley and Wortley.

“It’s part of our history that goes back almost 200 years and we’ve lost way too many old landmarks in this area,” he added.

Trish Smith, a Conservative councillor, said while she accepted the safety needs of the works, they were “worth saving intact for future generations”.

She said: “Victorians didn’t always build to exacting standards and not everything was ornate; however, it was a real landmark in the region and it is a shame that an engineering solution could not be found to preserve this important piece of heritage.

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The planning director’s report said the plans “aim to retain the chimney while implementing structural safety work to ensure its long-term viability while preventing a risk to the general public”.

He added: ‘It is recognized that the proposal involves modifications to the chimney and thereby creates a degree of damage to the frame of the listed buildings, by reducing its overall height.’

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: ‘Although the proposal involves the removal of only the upper part of the Stonebridge Mills chimney – which will allow the rest of the structure to be safely retained and restored – it is recognized that this application has been of particular interest to the local community due to the prominent nature of the chimney.

“It is recognized that the proposal will have an impact on the framework of listed buildings. However, this impact will be limited as the majority of the chimney will be restored, repaired and conserved, ensuring its long-term preservation.

“Although previously approved plans for the development as a whole called for the chimney to remain at its current height, structural issues which have since come to light mean the reduction is necessary to remove a health and safety risk.”

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Edward L. Robinett