SAVE, the heritage charity, is about to publish its annual buildings-at-risk survey and will feature Tonedale Mill at the very top of its 2017 UK list.
Save’s buildings-at-risk expert, Liz Fuller, said “the vast Tonedale Mills in Wellington, Somerset, a cliff-face of broken windows and crumbling red bricks, is the biggest and most challenging site of the 2017 entries”.
However, after years of inactivity, owners Sheikh Holdings Ltd has begun work at Tonedale with a team of around 20 foreign builders living on-site in a cluster of mobile homes. The long-neglected security fencing around the mill has been restored.
A planning official from Taunton Deane council has visited the site recently and is believed to have found that work has begun on the first phase of the project that has permission to convert the derelict factory buildings into 232 flats.
The original timber structure at tonedale was built in 1754, and rebuilt in brick after a fire in 1821. At its peak, making wool serge, and later khaki dye for British Army uniforms, it was the largest mill in the south-west, employing more than 3,600 people at its WW1 peak.
Plans for redevelopment were stymied when the housing market collapsed in the 2008 financial crash, which also hit restoration plans for several other the buildings on the list, and Tonedale has been looking for a new use ever since.