Columns inside Dalton Mills, Keighley, Yorkshire
Interior of Grade II* listed Dalton Mills in Keighley, Bradford © Historic England
Interior of Grade II* listed Dalton Mills in Keighley, Bradford © Historic England

Report Calls For More Developers and Owners To Take On Mill Regeneration

  • Textile mills are iconic landmarks shaping the character of West Yorkshire and where they are successfully converted make a positive contribution to the region
  • Over 1000 of the region's textile mills are either vacant or underused and bringing them back into use could accommodate 27,000 homes or 150,000 jobs
  • Developers, owners and agents are being asked to bring forward ideas for textile mills conversions and work collaboratively with public sector partners to make these projects happen

Engines of Prosperity: new uses for old mills, a report published today, calls for action from developers, textile mill owners and public bodies to work together to maximise the potential of the region's historic textile mill buildings to bring benefits to local communities and the economy.

The Leeds City Region was at the centre of the Industrial Revolution thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the textile mill owners. Salts Mill and Dean Clough Mills were among the earliest major industrial reuse projects in the country but a generation on from these pioneering developments there are still significant number of mills sitting idle and at risk of decay.

In autumn 2015, Historic England appointed property consultants Cushman & Wakefield and architects Lathams to investigate potential solutions for bringing the region's vacant textile mills back into use. The report offers insights into how some of the best conversions like Victoria Mills, Shipley and Marshalls Mill in Leeds have been achieved and it offers solutions for some of the most challenging underused mills like Old Town Mill, Hebden Bridge. The study also concludes there is a need for partners to collaborate on these important places to facilitate investment in reuse.

During the course of the study, there have been fires at vacant mills across the region including two of the mills represented in the study and news reporting of these fires illustrates how communities can be devastated by the loss. In January 2016, residents of Manningham, Bradford and across the city expressed grief at losing the impressive and imposing Drummond Mill - a place that had given their area such a strong identity. Each incident emphasises the need for action to secure a sustainable future for the remaining mills.

Yet there is reason to be optimistic. The report identifies positive emerging trends creating renewed impetus for regenerating mills. There is market improvement across residential and commercial sectors generating increased occupier demand and at the same time there is growing investor and developer appetite. It will take a focus from the local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnership and other partners to unlock the delivery of some of these difficult sites. But such delivery could reap huge rewards for the economy of the local area, for the character and quality of local environment and deliver much needed housing on existing brownfield sites.

Historic England Planning Director for Yorkshire, Trevor Mitchell said: "These textile mills are the original Northern Powerhouse and a great resource for the future. They still shape our skyline and are providing new spaces for the creative and digital industries as well as housing for the 21st Century. We want to work with partners willing to find creative solutions to bring new uses to these old mills to secure their future."

Director at Cushman & Wakefield, Stephen Miles said: "The scale of the opportunity is vast, but mills are considered high risk ventures by some. We need to overcome this by learning from those that have done it well and by marshalling the expertise and funding to have a lasting impact on the region's economy and on the survival of our heritage."