Developers behind plans for a student housing scheme at the Grade II listed Galgate Mill this week slammed city councillors after being told they could not go ahead with work on their scheme.
Lancaster City Council planning committee gave only partial approval to a listed building application on the historic mill, which would have meant work could begin on the structure of the property, although the change of use into student flats would not yet be possible.
An application for the mill to be converted into student accommodation was turned down by councillors at a planning meeting earlier this year. An appeal is currently in place.
Developer Ayub Hussain had hoped full permission would be granted for the listed building application to allow work to take place to secure the mill’s long-term future.
He has previously aired his fears that the building will not last another winter if work does not start soon.
But members of the city council planning committee agreed on Monday to approve a split decision, which granted permission for the external work to take place along with an internal ramp.
However, they refused permission for any other internal work to be carried out.
Galgate resident Anthony Pilling spoke at Monday’s meeting in favour of the scheme.
He said: “I am keen to see the mill rescued and managed.
“Galgate’s landmark mill must not be allowed to become another planning disaster to blight our community.
“Full consent is needed to save our mill before it is too late.”
Ward councillor Helen Helme said: “I support the application for student accommodation in the mill. I am very supportive of what’s going on but I am also supportive of our planning officers and i think we should be waiting for the appeal.”
Coun Andrew Kay said: “We don’t want another situation where a building is left dormant and decaying.
“What’s before us is necessary to give that building life.”
After the meeting, Mr Hussain said: “It is shameful that the committee members and planners have visited the mill, they acknowledge the mill is deteriorating and at risk yet they choose, in my view, to play games with a historically important asset.
“Lancaster City Council have partially refused consent knowing full well without full consent work cannot commence.
“In my view this has been partially refused because there is a Change of Use appeal in process and this would have strengthened our appeal and weakened their case had full consent been granted.
“All the reasons the listed building consent had previously been refused had been addressed, this in our view was just a tactical decision and against national policies.
“We are in the processes of lodging an appeal on this refusal too.”
Mr Pilling, who was chief architect for Lancashire County Council for 20 years, added: “Monday’s decision on the Galgate Silk Mill listed building application will unfortunately delay investment until 2016 and further increase the risk to the future of this locally and nationally important mill.
“The planning officer’s recommendation to split the decision, which was been approved by the council, makes no sense, as it can only be implemented by the developer carrying out the works inefficiently with critical operations in reverse order. The project would not be financially viable if carried out in this way.
“The delay caused by the extended planning process from which this rescue project is suffering, is allowing deterioration to accelerate.”
Planning committee chairman Coun Roger Sherlock said: “There’s no doubt that as it stands the mill is an eyesore and securing its long-term future is important to the village and district as a whole.
“Many of the external works proposed will involve repairing the historic fabric and preventing further deterioration and the committee was happy to grant permission for these to take place.
“The remainder of the works proposed, however, are intrinsically linked with the applicants’ recent proposals to provide an overly-extensive development of student accommodation and would result in harmful impacts on the architectural and historic relevance of the building.
“We therefore found ourselves in a situation where it was only possible to grant consent to certain works and not to others.
“The city council wants to see a sustainable future for this building and has now provided the permissions necessary to safeguard the fabric of the structure.
“In the event that the applicant wishes to submit a further application for a more comprehensive redevelopment we would, of course, be happy to discuss them with him.
“In the meantime, the applicant has already submitted an appeal against an earlier decision to refuse planning permission for the conversion works, and a government planning inspector will consider this appeal later this year.”