False chimneys on new homes in Wetherby branded 'dangerous' by Leeds campaigners

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False chimneys on new homes in Wetherby are unnecessary and will put people in danger, according to campaigners.

Wetherby Civic Society has spoken out over the design of a handful of the 785 new homes set to be built close to the town’s racecourse. The controversial Taylor Wimpey development, which was approved in principle in 2020, passed its final hurdle at a council planning meeting on Thursday, as the proposed appearance and layout of the scheme were accepted.

Around 15 per cent of the homes will have chimneys attached as a design feature to complement their appearance. But as the houses themselves won’t be powered by gas, the chimneys won’t actually function in the traditional sense.

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Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Civic Society representative Peter Catton said: “It may be claimed that chimneys are necessary to blend in with existing nearby housing. Let me remind you the new estate is at least half-a-mile away from significant numbers of houses that have real chimneys.

The homes outlined in the new Taylor Wimpey developmentThe homes outlined in the new Taylor Wimpey development
The homes outlined in the new Taylor Wimpey development

“Many of the houses built in the north and west of Wetherby built in 1980s don’t have proper chimneys. They’re a potential danger to the public and property if they’re not maintained and chimney pots fall. Deaths are recorded annually from falling chimney pots. Indeed, a neighbour of mine and someone I know had one fall on top of their car.”

But representing the developers, Mark Johnson said: “Taylor Wimpey are not wedded to the chimneys, but they do think they make a contribution in terms of the roofscape and the design. To have them in several parts of the site that have a traditional appearance to them, we think is the right approach.

“Do Taylor Wimpey get any more money from a house with a false chimney on? Probably not. But from a design point of view we think it works well.”

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Councillors expressed mixed views on the chimneys themselves, but praised the appearance and layout of the scheme as a whole, saying it was much improved on a previous version that was shown to them last March.

Developers were also thanked for co-operating with the local community, despite the strong waves of opposition that had formed against the principle of the scheme several years ago.

Wetherby councillor Alan Lamb said: “We’d prefer the site was going to stay as nice green fields, but that ship sailed a long time ago. We’ve ended up, through a collaborative process, getting the best we could in the circumstances and that’s a great credit to the community, (the council’s) planning team and the developer.”