Furious Dibnah Is Fined over Smoke That Led to Ire; NEIGHBOUR SHOPPED ME BECAUSE OF EIGHT-YEAR FEUD, SAYS STEEPLEJACK
Byline: ANDREW LOUDON
HE has demolished belching chimneys for 30 years.
But yesterday Fred Dibnah, Britain's best-known steeplejack, was fuming after being fined [pounds sterling]100 for letting woodsmoke billow from a furnace in his garden.
The 59-year-old former TV personality blamed a feud with a neighbour for landing him before magistrates in his home town of Bolton.
His solicitor Steve Calderbank said Frank Simon, who lives two doors from Mr Dibnah, had created an 'intolerable situation' with incessant complaints.
When council officials took no action, he complained about them too, but the local government ombudsman later cleared all parties.
On December 19 last year, Mr Simon got his big break, the court hear. Mr Dibnah was expecting a party of disabled children to visit his workshop to see a collection of 14 machines, including lathes, saws and drills, all driven by belts from a 125ft-shaft. To turn the shaft he used a 1904 fixed steam engine, fuelled by old redwood window frames.
Mr Simon spotted grey smoke rising in the winter sky and called Bolton council. Seven months later, Mr Dibnah was prosecuted under the Clean Air Act.
Yesterday he told the court: 'I've been told to plead guilty, but I don't feel guilty.' His lawyer added: 'The defendant has spent his life around chimneys, furnaces and boilers and is quite an expert on the combustion process.
His chimney was emitting clean woodsmoke - nothing more obnoxious, offensive or dangerous than might be given off from a garden bonfire. …