Setback for renovation of High Street shops as council sweep aside bid to remove chimney

THE renovation of a shop in Ely’s High Street looks a long way off after an application to remove a chimney stack was refused because it adds “character to the roofscape”.

The dilapidated Southminster House and the former Sue Ryder Charity Shop, in High Street, have sat empty since the charity moved to new premises in The Cloisters.

The properties are in need of complete renovation and landlord Bertie Vince applied to remove the redundant three-pot chimney stack as he said it “represents a significant maintenance burden”.

But officers at East Cambridgeshire District Council have refused permission to remove the chimney, which, they say, “is clearly visible from High Street Back”.

The refusal notice says: “Not only is it a feature of verticality but it also adds variety and breaks up the nine-metre long ridgeline of No.25.

“Loss of this important feature would have an adverse impact and would set a dangerous precedent for the loss of other chimneystacks.”

The refusal was despite a letter from Ely Standard reader Melanie Challis who pleaded for shop renovation to become a higher priority than protecting chimneys.

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She said: “The chimney is not visible from the High Street unless you are standing against the window of the chocolate shop. Would it not make more aesthetic sense to get the shop renovated and tenants installed?

“I cannot understand the reasoning behind the commitment to the chimney!!

“Ely has come such a long way in the 20 years I have lived in the area, please let us get the High Street filled with shops which is, I know, a challenge in the current economic climate.”

Lorraine King, the council’s conservation officer, said the application did not include anything to suggest that the chimney was a safety risk.

She said: “The main justification for the removal of the chimney is that it will require the owner to undertake maintenance to ensure it does not become dangerous.

“Unfortunately this is not sufficient justification for the removal of features such as these.”