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Thursday, July 25, 2024

“Massive hole” could be left in Marsden if mill development falls through

While the scheme is currently financially "unviable", the team is "confident" their preferred option can be realised

A “massive hole” could be left in the centre of Marsden if the development of New Mills doesn’t come to fruition, a ward councillor has said.

Last week, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) reported that council documents showed that multi-million-pound plans to transform Marsden’s New Mills are financially “unviable”. This is despite £5.6m being awarded to the scheme from the government’s Levelling Up fund March 2023 and £11.7m of private sector funding.

A sketch of part of the scheme under the current preferred option. Image: Kirklees Council

However, the pre-application team remains “confident” that their preferred option – ‘Option 6’ – can be delivered, a meeting of the council’s Strategic Planning Committee heard on Thursday 20 June, with additional funding being sought. This option differs slightly from the one that secured the funding and would see some of the mill buildings bulldozed and replaced, and others refurbished.

Planning consultant, Matthew Sheppard, told the meeting: “The Crowther family have owned New Mills for generations and they’ve been on a long journey with this site. The buildings are falling further into disrepair, it’s becoming a liability both for them and for Marsden.

“The local people we’ve spoken to over the past few days really want to see something positive happening here.”

He added: “If we can’t make it work financially, then the default option will be to do nothing which will probably lead to the buildings falling down, becoming even more of an eyesore and just becoming a liability for everyone. That isn’t a great outcome for the applicant, or for Marsden, and we really want to avoid that happening.”

Mr Sheppard also spoke of the balance to be struck between retaining the historic buildings and delivering a viable scheme.

While the plans are still at the pre-application stage, the report explains that the preferred option would create around 339 jobs and 21 flats along with office and retail space.

After the mill closed its doors in the early 2000s, a development was approved a few years later in 2006. This would have seen some of the mill buildings demolished and a doctor’s surgery, new apartments and office and retail space brought to the site, but this didn’t come off.

Colne Valley ward councillor, Harry McCarthy (Labour), described the current scheme as “a great opportunity for Marsden” and spoke of the benefits for employment and housing in the village and the wider Kirklees area.

A diagram of the preferred option for the scheme. Image: Kirklees Council

One area of concern was a shortfall of parking spaces mentioned in the report, particularly due to traffic and parking being some of the key issues said to be raised by locals during consultation.

The councillor added: “Any scheme for the redevelopment of this site has to be considered against ‘option 1’ – doing nothing. Doing nothing means actively deciding to allow the mills to continue to decay and actively leaving what is effectively a massive hole in the centre of an otherwise thriving village.”

When commenting on the plans, the committee was generally supportive, with Cllr Mohan Sokhal (Labour, Greenhead) saying he “welcomed” the plans. Councillor Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) suggested the site be photographed before buildings are demolished as a record of its heritage.

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