Locals empathise with resident’s smoke problem

Locals empathise with resident’s smoke problem
Rhonda Dredge

Other local residents have bought into the wood fire issue, reported in last month’s edition of North West City News, in support of local resident Jan Lacey’s right to clean air.

Ray Cowling, a resident of Capel St, West Melbourne, read the article and has written a letter to the Lord Mayor expressing his concerns.

Mr Cowling empathises with Ms Lacey’s struggle to keep irritating smoke from a nearby chimney out of her flat.

He says the elderly are more prone to the negative effects of smoke and should be protected, particularly those with respiratory problems.

Mr Cowling said he had suffered from smoke ingress in the past and, despite papering up the floorboards and taping the windows, the smoke penetrated his house.

“In order to reduce smoke into our house we have sealed wall vents, used No More Gaps between floorboards and skirting, added timber to door frames and yet still the smoke comes in,” he said. “It’s impossible to shut the smoke out.”

The retiree has lived in Capel St for more than 30 years and he sees the smoke problem as part of a wider issue involving changes to the micro-climate in West and North Melbourne.

At the back of his house is a wall of CBD towers that weren’t there when he first moved in.


“The environment has changed so much that the regulations have to change,” he said.


“We don’t have the cooling effect at night that we used to get. We don’t get the wind coming across from the south and the east.”

He said there’s a valley running through North Melbourne where Abbotsford St dipped as it went down from Arden St and up to Flemington Rd.

“When smoke cools down it has heavy particles in it,” he said. These sink and are difficult to keep out of houses in a hollow.

In the row of terraces in Capel St, chimneys were once fitted with sewage pipes to dissipate smoke at a higher level.

“Even in Victorian times, people added sewage pipes to the top of chimneys to reduce the smoke ingress,” he said.

At his miner’s cottage in the country, he has seen the smoke from a wood-fired heater come down, travel along the side of the house, round a corner and enter the front closed window of the house.

“The problem was greatly reduced by adding a one-metre flue - note that the chimney was already high, and that the house was on top of a hill.”

When the Capel St terrace was renovated, the heritage advisor said the pipes should be removed. Mr Cowling is not currently affected by smoke from nearby chimneys, but he is empathetic to those who are.

He said it was too expensive for Ms Lacey to go down the legal path. “I have a real concern for Jan’s sort of position.” •


Caption: Ray Cowling outside his home in West Melbourne.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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