Joanne O’Hara, who is Wellington’s new heritage-at-risk manager, has made an impact in her first few weeks at work with an impassioned plea on BBC television news to save Tonedale Mill. Asked by reporter Clinton Rogers if the massive regeration project could be afforded, Dr O’Hara replied “We can’t afford not to. These buildings are so important to the history of the town.” If you missed the TV interview catch up here.
Joanne’s work will be targeted at the historic former mill buildings – Tonedale and Toneworks – as well as Cornhill in the centre of town and Wellington Monument. Historic England is funding most of the cost of Dr O’Hara’s job with the balance met by Taunton Deane Borough Council.
￼Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, Cllr John Williams, said: “I am delighted with these significant steps forward in the extremely important task of protecting Wellington’s heritage.
“Dr O’Hara’s expertise together with the Regeneration Strategy means that real progress can be made in preserving Wellington’s heritage, including the nationally important Fox’s Mill complex.”
The partnership between TDBC and Historic England has commissioned consultants Ingham Pinnock Associates, who specialise in working with historic market towns, heritage buildings and local government, to prepare a regeneration strategy for Tonedale.
This summer SAVE, the historic buildings pressure group, listed the Tonedale complex as the most significant threatened building in the south of England. Recent months have seen arson at the site, owned by a London-based property company, and unauthorised gutting of listed sections of Tonedale House. The factory buildings currently have planning permission for conversion to 232 apartments.
However, the Taunton council is currently addressing unauthorised work carried out at Grade II listed Tonedale House and Grade II* listed Tonedale Mill earlier this year; and is also in the process of preparing an Urgent Works Notice to be served on the main contractor to try and ensure preservation of the historic structure.
Historic England is a public body that looks after England’s historic environment to ‘champion and protect historic places’. A recently published report by Historic England and You Gov found that 90% of adults in England believe that historic mills are an important part of the country’s heritage, story and character and 85% do not want to see historic mills demolished and replaced.