Plan to buy historic mill

Belper's North Mill
Belper's North Mill

Ambitious multi-million pound plans to buy Belper’s historic mill site and completely renovate the buildings have been unveiled.

It is hoped the North and East mills would be included in an initial £5 million project, which would include renovations to the North Mill.

A further Lottery grant could then be sought to renovate East Mill.

The plan could include creating some luxury apartments, as well as business use.

Belper North Mill chairman Peter Arnold claims the Grade-II listed East Mill is deteriorating to the extent that it might eventually have to be demolished if money isn’t ploughed into its restoration.

Lancashire firm FI Real Estate Management, which owns both mill buildings, has already carried out repairs at North Mill after English Heritage secured a court order in 2012 to make the firm improve the roof.

The repairs did however draw criticism from mill trustees when they were carried out a year later, who felt they were unsatisfactory.

This was denied by the firm which said at the time it had worked closely with Amber Valley Borough Council and English Heritage to set up a continued repair programme for the roof to make sure it was watertight.

Now, Mr Arnold wants to arrange a meeting with bosses at FI Real Estate Management to see if they would be willing to sell both mill buildings to trustees, who are hoping to fund the purchase with a Heritage Lottery Fund enterprise grant.

He said: “I worry that it (East Mill) will deteriorate to such a degree that the only option would be demolition and that would be a terrific loss. I want to see if we can get them to sell it.

“The priority is the North Mill at the moment as that houses the museum.

“We would need a start-up grant, to get professional advice for a valuation survey and business plan. I know it sounds ambitious but if you don’t aim for these things then they don’t happen.

“It would be a tragedy if the mills were to go. The town would lose credibility as far as tourism goes.”

He added: “The East Mill would be made available for mixed use including possibly some luxury apartments on the upper floors, because then you have got a continuous income, along with office and craft space.”

“We only have to look at Cromford where the lottery are funding the improvements to Building 17.”

A spokesperson for FI Real Estate Management , asset and property managers at Belper Mills, said that news of the trustees’ proposals had not officially reached them yet so it was difficult to comment further.

However, she said: “Of course, we hold ourselves open to any dialogue with the Trustees on this if they approach us for a meeting.”