Plan to transform historic mill into hundreds of new flats set to be given the go-ahead

Date published: 30 January 2020

Plans to transform an historic cotton mill into hundreds of new flats look set to be given the go-ahead next week.

The scheme which would see Grade-II listed Mutual Mills, in Heywood, converted into 298 apartments has been recommended for approval by officers.

Rochdale council’s planning committee will decide on Thursday whether to approve Mandale Homes’ proposals for the landmark Victorian mill.

Objections have been lodged over the impact an influx of new residents will have on traffic, parking and public services.

However, a report to the panel recommends granting permission for the developer’s plan to turn mills 1 and 2 at the Aspinall Street complex into ‘quality’ one and two-bedroom homes.

A third mill – also Grade-II listed – is not included in the developer’s plans for the brownfield site.

The report states: “The proposed development would put two key heritage assets, which are currently in a state of decline, to viable uses which would be consistent with their conservation.”

And it adds that the scheme would make ‘efficient use’ of the five-and-six storey mills, given they would be converted, rather than demolished and rebuilt.

Letters received by the council in support of the plans include one which states ‘any investment in Heywood is more than overdue and the mills have been abandoned for decades’.

Another, expressing ‘full support’ for the proposals adds: “Mutual Mills played an important role in Heywood’s history and now it can provide quality living for the next generation of Heywood families.”

Yet the proposals – which also include 348 parking spaces – are not wholly uncontroversial.

Those opposed to the scheme say the traffic caused by the development would cause ‘gridlock on Orchard Street, Barley Hall Street and Aspinall Street’, while creating more ‘noise and pollution in the area’.

Others say that the area would struggle to cope with so many new residents – claiming that local schools are oversubscribed, while services such as doctors and dentists already have large waiting lists.

The planning officer’s report concedes the development would increase pressure on local amenities and infrastructure.

It adds that ‘harmful impacts’ of the scheme can be offset by Mandale Homes making financial contributions towards schools, public transport, affordable housing, air quality monitoring and sport facilities.

However, the council has accepted that it is not financially viable for the developer to pay the full amount and has agreed a ‘commuted sum’ with the firm.

This is subject to the council being able to ‘claw-back’ extra cash should the development prove more profitable than expected.

The mills, which closed in 1986, once employed hundreds of people – and allowing the site to be used for residential purposes is contrary to the council’s development plan.

However, officers say the ‘significant and demonstrable benefits’ of restoring and conserving the buildings, while securing their long-term future justifies the departure.

Rochdale council’s planning and licensing committee meets at Number One Riverside, on Thursday 6 February from 6pm.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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