Gayle Mill will reopen in 2019, say its owners – but the volunteers who have run the building for the last ten years have questioned whether this is likely.
In its first public statement since the visitor attraction’s closure was revealed by Richmondshire Today earlier this month, North of England Civic Trust (NECT) says the mill reopen for Easter next year.
It says the closure is necessary because planned work will compromise access and public safety.
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It adds that it was always the plan to do further improvements following the initial work to restore the building and open access to the public ten years ago.
NECT said in the statement issued after it emerged Gayle Mill Trust (GMT) has been given notice to leave n March that it was in January 2016 that the need for further work were becoming apparent.
NECT said it advised GMT that the mill would need to close to the public during this work.
It added: “The next round of works (Phase 4) will compromise operational access and public safety in a constrained site and building, hence the need to close the site while work is in hand.
“This will include engineering works to the leat (previously not possible and likely to include underpinning and riverbank stabilisation) and launder, upgrading the water power systems, upgrading and improving facilities, and recording and stabilisation works to the mill pond (also was not included in any phases to date).”
NECT said it could only proceed with engineering surveys and investigative works once GMT had vacated the mill.
It added: “If GMT does so as it has stated at the end of March 2018, NECT can begin the process of surveys, apply for a range of consents and tender for the works.
“The mill therefore will need to be closed during 2018 but will re-open by Easter 2019 having benefited from the fourth phase of investment and improvements by NECT – a commitment that began in November 1996.”
But in a strongly worded response to the NECT statement, GMT has questioned whether the timescale to reopen is feasible and has accused NECT of bullying the volunteers out of the building.
They have also repeated their claim that NECT was made aware of major flaws in the original restoration work before the builders left and the job was signed off.
GMT says it has repeatedly asked NECT over the last few weeks to meet with the volunteer group to discuss the eviction, but NECT has refused.
GMT said: “They have declined this request, the last time being via their solicitors on 12th December, because a meeting ‘would not be productive’ – if they will not meet with us how can they know that this would be the outcome? Or do they simply not want to answer difficult questions?”
GMT added in its statement:
- “NECT have threatened us with court proceedings, initially and repeatedly giving GMT only two weeks notice to quit the Mill-as far as we are aware this has never been a reasonable or legal notice period, and is not how you would expect one charity to treat another
- “In December GMT via our solicitors advised NECT that we would quit the Mill by 31st March 2018-we have not yet had a response from them so can only assume that this is acceptable from their recent statement
- “NECT have, as one charity to another, bullied GMT out of Gayle Mill”
GMT goes on to question why NECT has not addressed the issue of the original restoration work which it says was wrong or not to the standard it should have been.
“Members of GMT advised them of that at the time, and that the work should not be signed off, but NECT went against this and signed the work off,” it adds.
“The statement that funding was tight should not hide the fact that these items should have been overseen to an appropriate standard and not signed off if they were not fit for purpose.”
On the issue of the reopening GMT questions the timescale proposed by NECT of one year.
“If they have not been able to move forward with what they are proposing for the last seven years, what has changed now?
“They will need to complete their surveys, quantify the work to be undertaken, request quotes, apply for funding, request tenders for the work, identify contractors to complete the work and get them on site, and then manage that through-we simply don’t accept that all this can happen and the mill reopen within 12 months and would ask NECT to justify and stand by their timescales accordingly.”
They added: “NECT state that they need GMT to leave the mill so that they can undertake engineering surveys and investigative works – why do GMT need to leave the mill for this to happen and why hasn’t it taken place before now?
“As we understand it, most of the work planned by NECT is outside the building, unless this has changed to their original Phase 4 plans, and as such, again why do GMT need to vacate the building so completely?”
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) David Butterworth sits on the chair of NECT, but it is understood he has declared an interest when discussions on Gayle Mill have taken place.
YDNPA director of conservation and community Gary Smith this week described the mill as “a national treasure” which was treasured locally.
He added: “That is why the authority gave more than £140,000 towards its restoration between 2003 and 2007.
“The mill is a really important part of the tourism offer in Gayle and Hawes, and we want to see it conserved and brought back into use again as soon as possible.
“We know how much time and effort has already gone into restoring and then running the mill. The authority stands ready to assist if it can.”
You can view the full NECT statement here.
You can download GMT’s response in full here.