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Chimneys- why are they such a big deal?

Do you own a property in a special character or heritage area? Thinking about a new development, or additions to an existing dwelling but not sure where to start? Then this blog series is for you! This is the second blog in our new series, all about developing in special character or heritage areas. The blogs will be full of useful tips and information, to help you on your development journey.


Last week’s blog covered what the Special Character Areas Overlay is in the Auckland Unitary Plan and its purpose. You can read it here. This week, we will look into the significance of chimneys in the Special Character Areas Overlay.


If you own a house in the Special Character Areas Overlay, the Auckland Unitary Plan has more restrictive rules relating to different types of development in the Special Character Areas Overlay, requiring resource consent to be applied for many works, including most additions and alterations to an existing dwelling, construction of a new building or even changes to your fencing. This blog focuses on chimneys, and situations where people want to alter or remove them.


You may want to remove a chimney due to structural concerns or to increase the internal floor area, to improve the layout for more modern day living or to allow an addition to the building. However, you need to be aware of the significance chimneys can have in the Special Character Areas Overlay of the Auckland Unitary Plan.


Significance of chimneys

In the Special Character Area Overlay, the Auckland Unitary Plan includes a Special Character Statement for each area which defines the specific special values of that area and describes why these should be protected. The Special Character Statements may identify chimneys as being a significant or important feature of buildings and rooflines in the area. Chimneys can be considered a feature that is predominant in the special character area and that they interrelate with other special character elements.


Chimneys can also contribute to the heritage values of the building itself. Chimneys are common features of villas and bungalows and were distinctive in these housing styles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The chimneys of these houses were often tall and ornate and constructed out of brick, which contrasted against the typical weatherboard cladding of villas and bungalows. This made the chimneys easily identifiable and visible when viewed along the street and other public areas.






Because of this, Auckland Council often has concerns about the loss of special character values when people are wanting to remove their chimneys.


What is Auckland Council assessing?

When you’re making a resource consent application that includes removal of or alteration to a chimney, what is the Council assessing? The Council planner and heritage specialist will use the Auckland Unitary Plan as the base of their assessments, and will be specifically considering:

  • The special character values of the streetscape – The effects of removing or altering the chimney on the streetscape and special character values outlined in the Special Character Area Statement,

  • The special character values of the building – The building and its contribution to streetscape character, and what the effects of removing or altering the chimney will have on this.


What should you do?


1. Avoid removal or minimise the works

If your chimney is identified as contributing to the special character values, then avoiding the removal of the chimney is the preferred option. However, if you were wanting to remove your chimney to increase the internal space of your dwelling or improve the layout for modern day living, you could look into removing the internal fireplace and chimney breast (internally) but retaining the existing chimney stack. This will enable you to achieve the improved layout you want and also retain the special character values that the chimney contributes to the dwelling and surrounding environment.


Cumulative effects

Although some houses on your street and surrounding area may have had their chimneys removed, it does not automatically mean that Council will allow you to remove your chimney too. Council will take consider the cumulative effects on the special character values of removing the chimney and therefore you cannot always use the argument that your neighbours have had their chimneys removed to justify the removal of yours.


2. Faux chimneys

If you can’t avoid chimney removal or minimise the works to it, you should then consider how you can minimise the adverse effects created. If your chimney provides a high contribution to the special character values of the dwelling and surrounding area, but you still need to remove the chimney, you could consider installing a faux chimney. This replicates the original chimney in terms of size, location, appearance and materials. It usually sits on the roof/ roof cavity and doesn’t continue into the dwelling itself- freeing up space inside.


You will need to have photos and accurate plans to show that the faux chimney you are installing is the same as the existing chimney. A faux chimney is often considered more favourably by Auckland Council’s heritage specialists as helps to retain the special character values of the building and surrounding area.


3. When mitigation isn’t needed


In some cases, mitigation isn’t required. This could include cases where the building is more modern and doesn’t have special character values, where the chimney is already reconstructed and was a later addition to the building or where the chimney can be removed without notably affecting the special character values. This is an issue that you should discuss with your planner as part of preparing the resource consent application.


Overall

Overall, chimneys can be prominent features of buildings in the Special Character Areas Overlay. Removing these chimneys could mean losing part of the special character values of the building and surrounding environment. So, it is recommended that in these cases works to chimneys are avoided or otherwise minimised. In other instances where avoiding and minimising isn’t possible, then you can consider mitigation measures, such as installing a faux chimney to retain the special character values associated with the chimneys, identified in the Auckland Unitary Plan.


Have more questions?

Are you thinking of undertaking alterations or additions to your heritage dwelling? Do you need a resource consent but don’t know where to start? Feel free to contact us at hello@planningplus.co.nz or 427 9966 and we can discuss this further with you.



Mary Zhou is a Planner at Planning Plus®. Mary has been part of the Planning Plus team since 2021 and has a real passion and drive for all things planning. Mary has experience with a variety of projects including rural and urban land use, subdivision and feasibility analysis.





Disclaimer

As with all our blogs, this information is preliminary in nature only and we have used our best endeavours to ensure it is correct at the time of writing. It is not intended to substitute for your own investigations or obtain specific advice on your proposal from professionals. Planning Plus LtdTM is not liable in any way for any errors or omissions.


© Planning Plus Ltd 2023


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