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The Economics of Historic Mill Regeneration Projects

At the height of the cotton industry there were over 1,600 textile mill sites in Lancashire. Fewer than 620 of these remain and many of these are deemed to be at risk. Although there have been many successful mill regeneration projects across the North of England (Ilex Mill, Rawtenstall; West Mill, Huddersfield; Folly Mill, Huddersfield), very few projects have been developed in Pennine Lancashire over the last decade.

English Heritage commissioned this study to explore the reasons why mill regeneration has been limited in Pennine Lancashire and to understand to what extent heritage designation (listing) is perceived to be a constraint on development.

Heritage Works headed a very strong, multi-disciplinary team comprising Ken Moth (conservation architect), Mike Robinson Consulting (structural engineer), Bernard Williams Associates (cost consultants), Mattin MacLean Ltd (chartered architects), Oxford Archaeology North (industrial heritage archaeologists), Gerald Eve (chartered surveyors & valuation agents) and Urban Splash (developers).

The study report provides:

  • an analysis of the typical construction defects, repair requirements and physical constraints demonstrated by textile mills;
  • indicative costs for repairs of defects, on an elemental basis;
  • broadbrush costs for repair, conversion and fit out for mills across four condition categories and several end uses;
  • a spreadsheet cost calculator tool;
  • an analysis of the current market in Pennine Lancashire;
  • a discussion of the development deficits inherent in many projects;
  • signposting towards gap funding sources;
  • advice for owners and local authorities on 'down time' measures to progress projects and on mothballing;
  • recommendations.

The report is honest in identifying the challenges facing owners, developers and local authorities in the current economic climate. It strongly recommends a prioritisation of mills at risk, to identify those most likely to come forward as the economy improves:

  • greatest heritage merit (Oxford Archaeology North assessment of significance);
  • fewest condition issues and physical constraints;
  • no ownership or access issues;
  • stakeholder and community support - political will;
  • greatest regeneration potential and ability to support employment.

The report provides a literature review of sources of information about successful mill regeneration projects and includes two case studies of projects undertaken within the last two years.

The economics of industrial building conservation projects in Pennine Lancashire: Main Report, Sept 2011 [PDF 796Kb]

The economics of industrial building conservation projects in Pennine Lancashire: Executive Summary, Sept 2011 [PDF 145Kb]

For further information and a copy of the cost calculator tools, please contact: Darren Ratcliffe, English Heritage North West.

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