Exclusive Interview On Mills With A Regeneration Specialist
In a BEN exclusive we spoke with Tom Stannard, Corporate Director of Economic Growth and Regeneration at Wakefield Council to discuss the development of Mills. Wakefield Council will be presenting at our upcoming Mills Development Conference.
- Wakefield Council has worked extensively with developers City & Provincial on redeveloping Rutland Mills Complex, how did that partnership come about?
After the Council’s previous developer decided not to proceed with Phase 3 of the waterfront masterplan, the council acquired their holdings to bring the entire site under Council control.
The Council engaged in a process of de-risking the site, through selective demolition of minor buildings, recreating the original courtyard, and re-purposing one building as temporary art space for the adjacent Hepworth to utilise.
This enabled potential developers to better understand both the site’s potential, and to use the Hepworth reputation to raise Rutland’s profile.
The Council highlighted the opportunity to invest at both the UK & European (Cannes) MIPIM property exhibitions in 2015. CPPI initially expressed interest, then visited the site, with the partnership developing from there.
- Wakefield has cultivated a cultural and artistic reputation, particularly from the Hepworth, how does the council intend to push that further?
The District has a strong cultural offering; including two internationally respected destinations; the Hepworth Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In addition the city hosts two facilities for new artists, The Art House and Westgate Studios.
A regional performing arts college (CAPA) is currently under construction, which will train 500 students opening in September 2020
Council is currently developing a Cultural Strategy to harness all these strengths and raise the profile of the district at regional and national level.
- Are there any other Mills that the council are targeting for redevelopment?
The Rutland Mills complex comprises seven buildings which will be restored in 2 phases over a 7 year period.
The only other remaining mill in the district that the council is supporting as a regeneration project is Queens Mill in Castleford.
- Queen’s Mill in Castleford is another mill that has received recent modernisation, what are the council’s long term plans for that development?
Queens Mill is owned by Castleford Heritage Trust which is a registered charity and a limited company which aims to promote the community’s heritage and culture. The Council supports
CHT, who have carried out major refurbishment works, and become an established Community Anchor for the Wakefield District, welcoming new businesses to the site, re-established flour production, and hosted community events and exhibitions. The development of the Mill is an on-going community led project.
- Are there any mills that have provided too many challenges to be viable for development?
Unfortunately many mills closed and were demolished in the 1970s and 1980’s before their potential was generally recognised. However, The Council identified, as did many others, in the late 1990s, that waterfronts were an asset to the city and the long process of master planning, identifying appropriate developers and secure grant funding commenced.
- How does the council balance preserving heritage, while converting these buildings into buildings with modern standards?
There is a fine balance between preservation and conservation, as it is important to retain the integrity of these historic buildings, whilst ensuring they can be re-purposed. The Councils conservation team has worked with Historic England and the developer’s architects to find acceptable solutions and minimise the impact on the buildings.
- What potential do you feel that these developments have for leading a wider revitalisation?
Due to the historical value that mills have in local industrial heritage there is a temptation to see them as iconic projects, but I believe that Mill developments should not be seen as a leading project in isolation of their surroundings. They need to be repurposed within a context and vision for the regeneration area within which they reside, whilst maximising their heritage integrity.