Darley Mill has been standing empty for more than a year after the shock closure of its shopping units and restaurant which former owners YLC Holdings said was due to the centre no longer being a viable retail proposition.
A planning application submitted by property developers YorPlace to convert the Grade II listed mill into nine apartments and homes has been turned down by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee. The application also included plans to build five extra homes behind the mill.
The committee pulled the plug on the grounds that the additional homes and their location would “adversely impact on the character of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, and would be isolated from the mill and the village, despite support from councillors of the mill conversion itself.
Darley Parish Council’s clerk Sue Welch attended the meeting to hear the decision.
She said: “Personally, and for the parish council and the village, its rejection was a disappointment. The parish council is keen for the mill building and site to be redeveloped as it has already been empty for over 12 months and is deteriorating fast.
“Currently it is an eyesore at the entrance to the village, with its dilapidated exterior, boarded windows and unsightly metal security fence. Darley has a hard-working In Bloom Group that only 10 years ago won the best village in the UK award. The current state of this major building would certainly count against it in future competitions.”
The mill is steeped in history, and the parish council is keen to see it honoured.
Sue said: “The mill is featured in the Darley Heritage Trail and its history has been included in the three local history books produced by the Darley Heritage Group. This group certainly hoped that it could be improved or preserved for the next generation.
“The parish council considers that the additional enabling development which sees five houses being built within the AONB is outweighed by the fact that the heritage listed mill building would be tastefully and sympathetically developed to provide housing, and steps would be put in place to ensure the continued management of the building and site to preserve it into the future.”
Concerns about the impact of the building’s deterioration on tourism and the village’s attraction to visitors has also been feared by the parish council.
Sue said: “The Sportive Bike Race being run in conjunction with the Tour de Yorkshire in May will see several hundred amateur cyclists hurtling down the B6451 past the mill as they ride part of the route earlier in the day on May 6. It would give a far better impression of the area if the mill was without its fencing and looking as if it is on the way to conversion, rather than in an even worse state than it is now.”
Parish councillor Alan Cottrill said the parish council would be happy to see the site being further developed, particularly for affordable housing, by working with a community land trust.