Restoring mill sites ‘may help create new jobs’ in Yorkshire

Rawson's Mill, Halifax
Rawson's Mill, Halifax
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Redundant mill sites which symbolise the North’s industrial heritage could create thousands of homes and jobs if interventions were taken for regeneration, Historic England has said.

Across Yorkshire, the public body has found, there are an estimated 1,350 redundant and under-used mill buildings with the capacity to deliver up to 27,000 homes and 150,000 jobs. With intervention they could be brought back into public use, it has argued, providing a solution for local authorities struggling to find sites for development and housing need. Now a feasibility study, commissioned by West Yorkshire Combined Authority and looking at a sample of 10 historic sites to assess their potential, has found that with intervention and initial investment of around £7.5m, these 10 sites alone could create 1,223 homes or 4,800 new jobs.

“The potential is huge, at a time when local authorities are struggling to find land,” said Deborah Wall, historic places principal advisor for Historic England. “Mills can provide a ready made solution. They really are what defines our region. This is about how we pool our resources and try and get Yorkshire’s mills back into operation.”

A report today to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Land and Assets Panel provides an update on an ongoing feasibility study by commercial real estate agency Cushman and Wakefield and Historic England.

Aiming to provide examples of the work and investment that would be needed, it looked initially at the sample of these 10 sites. Five authorities in the region put forward sites across Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield, Leeds and Kirklees, examining what could be created. Eight of the 10 are in private ownership and today’s report says that any work required would include brokerage with owners, to undertake further feasibility work, seek access to loans and grants that may be available and planning strategies.

Coun Tim Swift, panel chair and leader of Calderdale Council said: “Today’s update report on the progress of these sample studies shows the potential role that these mill buildings, which are an important part of West Yorkshire proud industrial heritage, could play in the future provision of new employment opportunities and homes. However the report also indicates that significant work and funding would be required to achieve this, more details of which will be contained in Cushman and Wakefield’s finalised report due later this year.”

While the study is ongoing, Historic England says it shows there is real potential here.

“This has proved there are mills sitting there that, with a little nudge, could get into use and could provide housing,” said Miss Wall. “People don’t always notice these buildings day to day, they walk past and take them for granted. It’s only when they’re lost that communities realise how much they mean.

“They really do symbolise the north’s industrial heritage. Without them, we do lose our identity.”

The 10 examples looked as part of the study

Laconia Building, Bradford - With grants or loans to stabilise the building and undertake additional feasibility study, could create 155 homes

Queen’s Mill, Castleford - With grant funding for site works, and investment of £700,500, capacity to create 17 jobs, heritage hub and community centre

Rutland Mills, Wakefield - With a review and update of its 2006 whole floods strategy, and investment for abnormal costs, could create 800 jobs

Shaw Lodge Mills, Halifax - With a feasibility study and project brief, and initial investment of £100,000, could create a space for 208 jobs

Abbey Mills, Kirkstall, Leeds - With surveys completed, and initial investment of £100,000, has capacity to create 486 jobs or 90 homes

Stonebridge Mills, Wortley, Leeds - With interventions around a planning strategy and brokerage, has capacity to create 125 new homes

Rawson’s Mill, Calderdale - With brokerage with owner, or acquisition of site, and investment of £3m asking price, could create 136+ homes

Conditioning House, Bradford - With a planning strategy and brokerage, as well as investment or grants, could create 133 homes, office space and 133 jobs

Bank Bottom Mills, Marsden - Alongside New Mills in Marsden, these two sites would need brokerage with landowner, feasibility studies and project brief.

New Mills, Marsden - These site, together with Bank Bottom Mills, could create 486 jobs or 90 homes, with an initial investment of £100,000.