Skip to main content

SWT intervenes to commence urgent works at Tonedale Mill

21 February 2022 : Council news, Planning and development

Failure by the owners to start urgent work to protect Wellington’s Grade II* listed Tonedale Mill, has impelled Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council to undertake the repairs directly with the aid of a grant from Historic England.

In January, SWT served an Urgent Works Notice under Section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 on the site’s primary owners, Mancraft Ltd.

The Notice required Mancraft Ltd to commence repair works within 14 days on one of the principal buildings known as Block H in the East Complex of Tonedale Mill.

Sections of Block H’s roof have collapsed leaving it exposed to the elements and threatening the building’s future. Further damage has now occurred across the site during Storm Eunice which SWT officers will be assessing.

Regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of its kind, Tonedale Mill was the largest textile manufacturing site in the South West, famous for producing twill fabrics such as ‘serge’, and later khaki cloth and puttees used by the British Army in WWI.

A significant proportion of the early 19th century mill remains, however, many of the privately-owned buildings have fallen into disrepair and are now registered as ‘Heritage at Risk’ by Historic England.

As Mancraft Ltd has failed to demonstrate its intention to carry out the necessary works, the Council is now seeking to complete the works ‘in default’ to ensure the Grade II* listed building is appropriately protected.

Although previous statutory notices have been served by the Council, many of their requirements have not been fully complied with by Mancraft Ltd.

Previous actions have included serving an Urgent Works Notice (Section 54 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990) in Spring 2018 in respect of Tonedale House; a Section 215 Notice (Town and Country Planning Act 1990) in early 2020; an Enforcement Notice (Section 172 Town and County Planning Act 1990) in Summer 2018 in respect of unauthorised caravans; and most significantly, three Repairs Notices (Section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990) in June 2020 as the first step in a potential compulsory purchase of the site.

Executive Member for Planning and Transport, Cllr Mike Rigby, said: “Given that Mancraft Ltd have failed to comply with the Urgent Works Notice we issued last month, we must intervene to ensure the preservation of Block H which is a prominent and historically important building within the larger Tonedale Mills site.

“Once we've completed the necessary works to make the building weather-proof, stable and safe from collapse, we'll reclaim the costs from Mancraft Ltd retrospectively.

“I’d like to extend my thanks to Historic England for their support in helping to fund the protective works.”

With financial support from Historic England, SWT-appointed contractors will begin work on site from Monday, 21 February, of which the subsequent costs will be reclaimed from Mancraft Ltd.

The protective works are expected to last for approximately eight weeks.