In our town we have Strutt’s North Mill, one of the most important buildings in the history and culture of England. Together with the East Mill the site has huge economic potential – just like the Silk Mill, which has secured over £9 million to turn it into a going concern.
For years the current owner of the two mills has let the East Mills rot and done precious little with the Grade 1 listed North Mills. It is called Carfrae Holdings and, needless to say, registered in Jersey. Amber Valley Borough Council has tried to persuade this lot to stop just ‘holding’ our heritage and do something positive but they ignore it. Our Neighbourhood Plan is being developed by volunteers to establish the principle of Brown Field not Green Field in Belper. The Mills are a classic case of a wonderful multi faceted development, as has happened in many other towns, being neglected. Meanwhile, year after year the applications for houses on the fields at Bullsmoor, Belper Lane or Bessalone roll in.
Since being elected as a councillor last year I have been a trustee of Belper North Mill Trust and, like the volunteers on the Trust and many other people, I am sick of this merry go round. Belper needs a coherent plan and active positive partners to look after our heritage and our present and future needs , which is fully supported by its people, not a hotchpotch of building by developers who calmly ignore us.
Belper North Mill Trust has just published an important report which it commissioned last year. It is called ‘An Outline Masterplan for the Development of the Belper Mills Site’. The Trust does not own the site and is of course routinely ignored by the present owner. But this vision for the Mills gives the people of Belper a good idea of what is possible and a cause to rally round. The report can be found here.
Read it, tell your friends and feed back to the Trust. We must get more people to understand what is at stake and even more important, what we can all do about it as a town. We must not be victims of an unfair planning system and irreponsible owners.
Cllr Maurice Neville