Dismay over plans to transform derelict mill at beauty spot

Date published: 04 April 2012

Rakewood Lower Mill in Littleborough could be transformed into a hostel, community café and bike hire shop - much to the dismay of local residents.

A planning application submitted to Rochdale Council also shows that the height of the mill could also be increased to provide 5 residential units as well as the construction of 27 residential properties with associated car parking.

The mill, on Rakewood Road, has been derelict for many years and is in a bad state of repair and whilst local residents feel that something needs to be done, they say the plans put forward are not ‘in keeping with the area’.

Behind the mill complex is old woodland with mature trees that are home to many species of birds and bats. An early footpath linking Rakewood with the listed buildings of Hollingworth Fold also runs through the woodland.

The entire site lies within the Rakewood Conservation area and also within the greenbelt.

The plans, drawn up by Ian Simpson Architects on behalf of Bryan Weddell of Bolton Road, Marland, would see all of the mill buildings, except the outer walls of the weaving shed and the chimney, demolished. Much of the woodland will also be cleared and the footpath moved from its current location to an area with much steeper terrain.

Resident, Robert Stedall, said: “The new complex will cover far more land than the current buildings. The weaving shed will have a two storey glass and steel box put on the top of it that at least doubles the height of the existing building, this will be apartments.

“The complex will provide 100 bedrooms plus and more than doubles the population of the existing hamlet in one go, even without the hostel.

“The community at large may welcome the addition of yet another café in the area and look forward to hiring a bike for a ride in the hills but unfortunately the plans allow absolutely no parking for the commercial aspect of the project or the hostel.

“When you remember the nearest car park and public transport is a mile away and that Rakewood Road, the only access, is a single track road with passing places it is obvious that problems with indiscriminate parking will bring chaos to this already stressed beauty spot.”

He added: “The residents agree that something should be done with the old mill but this takes away so much more than it saves and threatens yet more traffic chaos on this narrow road.

“The residents have been canvassing support to prevent this area from being spoilt and have had almost 100% backing for their aims.

“In talking to people, most are horrified at what is planned and families from as far as Haslingden, Bolton and Manchester that have come just to enjoy what we now have, because they have lost all their open areas, beg us to fight to stop this plan as it now stands.”

One objector said in a letter to the council: “We feel that this proposal fails to take into consideration that the area is a conservation area in a country park. This dangerous, derelict site would be better cleared and turned over into trees and parkland.

“The road infrastructure is not suitable for traffic of the density which would be created by this urbanisation. Also the building works would take years before becoming eco-neutral and would cause huge disruption to residents, country park visitors and wildlife. We are completely opposed to this urbanisation of one of the few beautiful areas left in the Rochdale vicinity.”

Another objector added: “The above application appears to be some twenty years too late, the buildings are in such a state of dereliction that the council should be demanding their clearance for both safety and visual impact reasons. Development of a residential type at this site is undesirable.”

A decision has not yet been made on the application. It will be considered at a planning committee meeting in the coming months.

Councillor for Littleborough Lakeside, Stephanie Mills, said: “I feel that whilst the design is outstanding, it is not appropriate for the area.

“It will double the size of this unique village and I think the design is more suitable for a city centre.”

Councillor Mills also expressed concern over the structural stability of the mill and said the plans would have a big impact on the greenbelt.

Councillor Peter Evans and Councillor Ann Stott, members of the planning committee, declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Ian Simpson Architects, said: “The scheme is a highly sensitive restoration project focused on the retention and transformation of the former Rakewood Lower Mill building.

“In addition to the restoration of the mill, the scheme aims to provide very high quality family homes, adopting sustainable design and the use of natural materials where possible.

“The design aims to complement and enhance the character of the conservation area, with the proposed housing organised around a courtyard and set behind the existing mill.

“The derelict mill complex is presently a ‘Brownfield’ site. Under the currently approved industrial use, it is possible for HGVs to have permanent access to the site.
“We don’t believe industrial use is appropriate or sustainable in this location. We are seeking to change the site use from industrial to residential, and to complement this with new community facilities created within the original mill building.

“The existing mill is currently in a state of dereliction, and in grave danger of collapse.

“This would be a sad and irreplaceable loss to the character of the conservation area. In its present condition, the mill building ‘doesn’t have long left’.

“We are keen to take the opportunity to try to help save to this important building and try to create something special and sustainable in Rakewood.”

A spokesperson for Rochdale Council declined to comment prior to the plans being considered.

Plans to convert Rakewood Upper Mill into a renewable energy centre with a 30m wind turbine were refused by the council in February.

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