The community-based group aiming to kick-start regeneration of the former Fox Bros mill at Tonedale is to unveil an alternative vision providing new uses for the buildings at a public Consultation Day next week.
“We’ve been working with local heritage architect Claire Fear and her team at the Thread practice to come up with some radical new thinking for the site,” said Keith Wheatley, a director of Wellington Mills CIC. “Now we want to show these concepts to people in the town and get their ideas and feedback.
“The current planning permission for hundreds of expensive apartments at Tonedale has been in place for nearly 10 years and obviously isn’t viable or the flats would have been built by now. But we think people are a lot more imaginative than that and we’re keen to hear what ideas local people have for how Tonedale Mill can be brought back to the heart of Wellington life.
“Any project here is going to have a huge impact on the town – and now’s the time for people to get involved – to come along and have their say about what they would like to see happen. Offices, workshops, studios, homes, markets, cafes, education outlets – a mix of all these? At this point, we’re all ears.”
The Wellington Mills CIC has been working closely with Dr Joanne O’Hara, Wellington’s Heritage-at-Risk manager, to develop new thinking about the possibilities at Tonedale and has received grants from Somerset Community Foundation and the Architectural Heritage Fund to develop alternative uses for the site. Historic England has also provided invaluable advice and support.
“This is not some impossible dream. We’ve visited regenerated historic industrial sites from Watchet to Derbyshire and seen what amazing things can be achieved by turning these 19th century factories into offices, workshops, studios and homes. It’s the mix of uses that’s crucial in making the projects economically viable,” said Ben Fox, another CIC director.
The original timber structure at Tonedale was built in 1754, and rebuilt in brick after a fire in 1821. At its busiest, making wool serge, and later khaki dye for British Army uniforms, it was once the largest mill in the south-west, employing more than 3,600 people at its WW1 peak.
The Consultation Day on Saturday, October 27th, will run from 10.00am to 3.00pm in the car park near the Brazier coffee shop at Wellington TA21 0AW. People who can’t attend on the day will be able to share their comments and ideas, as well as view the presentations afterwards at www.wellingtonmills.org