Plans to rejuvenate historic ‘Emmerdale’ mill site revealed

John Gaunt, director at Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley
John Gaunt, director at Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley
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FOR almost two centuries the imposing Sunny Bank Mills was the bustling hub of Leeds’ textile industry.

Four years ago the site’s guardians, the Gaunt family, took the decision to halt textile production at the west Leeds mill.

But now they have set out their vision for the mill’s future to help rejuvenate Farsley by taking inspiration from Bradford’s World Heritage site Salts Mill.

The scheme, which will see the mill transformed into a business centre and leisure facility, aims to reclaim its status as one of the west Leeds village’s biggest employers.

The 10 year development plan could see up to 500 jobs created over the next seven years as part of a multi-million pound investment.

Owners and directors William and John Gaunt opened up the mill to give residents the chance to find out more about their ambitions for the historic site.

John Gaunt said: “We want to bring the mill back into the Farsley townscape and make Farsley proud of Sunny Bank Mills again.

“We are aiming for the Salts Mill of Farsley and we want people to feel proud of the mills again.

“Part of the vision is centred around making it commercially viable and we have looked at elements of the most successful sites including Salts Mill.

“We want to re-establish that pride.”

The Gaunt’s vision for the future includes creating a grand piazza area complete with cafes, a restaurant and a spa.

One of the buildings is set to be transformed into a gallery space and the scheme will see the site opened up by knocking down some of the crumbling buildings that are currently beyond repair.

The Gaunt’s plans could see the creation of additional parking spaces and they also want to retain the dense woodland and pond at the back of the sprawling site.

Mr Gaunt, who used to work on the shop floor during his school holidays, added: “Our aspirations are preserving the legacy which is in our blood.

“When I have worked here the site has been a manufacturing unit and it has become quieter and quieter.

“In my mind’s eye I’m seeing buildings lit up and lots of people pouring down the yards just as they did 50 years ago.

“I used to work here in the school holidays and on the shop floor.

“It’s just part of our upbringing and we are as committed to the mill as we are to Farsley.

“There will be some tasteful new buildings in order to rejuvenate life into the old buildings.”

The Gaunts are hoping to submit a formal planning application to Leeds City Council next year to be considered by planners for approval.

The mill, which dates back to 1829, has had a starring role in Leeds-based soap opera Emmerdale and former Yorkshire police drama Heartbeat.

The site developed and was bought by the colourful entrepreneur William C Gaunt, the great grandfather of its present directors.

Sunny Bank Mill was given a £2m revamp last year to attract small and medium sized businesses.

The 1912 Mill, part of the complex of five mills, has been transformed into a 21st century business centre.

An exhibition showcasing their plans at the mill is open for two weeks.