What next for Hermitage Mill, one year after devastating fire

March has not been a good month for firefighters in Mansfield in recent years.
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The evening of March 14, 2023, saw a significant fire in the building housing Frank Innes estate agents in Mansfield town centre, while just four days later, textiles firm Savanna Rags saw its warehouse burnt to the ground in a major blaze.

And 12 months ago, another Mansfield building was almost destroyed in a blaze.

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Hermitage Mill was a water-powered textile mill built in 1782 for the fourth Duke of Portland.

Grade II-listed, for its special architectural and historic interest, it had latterly been used by a hosiery production company and then as a builders’ supplies warehouse by Aizlewoods, but had stood empty since 2008.

However, there was hope of a brighter future with plans under consideration at Mansfield Council for its conversion into a nursing home.

It was the latest in a string of applications to refurbish the derelict building.

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In 2015, plans were unveiled to convert the mill into 25 one and two-bedroom apartments, alongside the construction of 32 two-storey, three-bedroom semi-detached homes.

A similar scheme in 2018 planned to convert and extend the mill to create a 50-bedroom care home, alongside the construction of 32 assisted living apartments.

However, despite Mansfield Council granting planning permission for both schemes, neither got off the ground.

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Developer Hermitage Mill Developments had been in lengthy negotiations with the council and was hopeful of permission.

Hermitage Mill was built in 1782.Hermitage Mill was built in 1782.
Hermitage Mill was built in 1782.

Devastating fire

However, that all changed on March 28, 2022.

On arrival, crews were confronted by a “very well-developed fire” – area Manager Bryn Coleman, incident commander, described it as a “significant” blaze.

The building had stood empty for a number of years and fallen into disrepair.The building had stood empty for a number of years and fallen into disrepair.
The building had stood empty for a number of years and fallen into disrepair.
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Mr Coleman said: “We had 20 fire appliances from across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in attendance, plus a high volume pump from South Yorkshire and two aerial ladder platforms in attendance.”

Later that day, three teenagers were arrested on suspicion of arson, and later bailed pending further inquiries.

The building was almost destroyed, to the dismay of nearby residents and the fire service said what remained of the building was “extremely unsafe, extremely unstable” – leading to demolition of much of what remained.

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Less than two months after the devastating fire, the nursing home planning application was approved by the council.

Firefighters at the scene.Firefighters at the scene.
Firefighters at the scene.
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A report to councillors, recommending approval, said: “The application originally submitted comprised of two distinct elements: the conversion of the mill, incorporating an extension to provide a 70-bed care home and the erection of 31 semi-detached and terraced residential properties within the curtilage of the Mill.

“However, during the course of the application there was a fire at the mill, which resulted in large parts of the building being destroyed.

“The demolition was considered necessary to be carried out due to structural and safety problems.

“The applications have been amended to include the partial demolition and rebuild of the mill. As such, the application now proposes to rebuild, extend, repair and refurbish the mill to facilitate the conversion to a care home.”

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And a planning department spokesman told the council planning committee meeting: “The rebuilding of the mill and conversion into a care home will provide substantial environmental and social benefits.

“There would be further social benefits through the provision of 31 dwellings, providing family homes.

“Redevelopment of the site would also reduce instances of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage occurring over the years.”

What next for site?

However, a year on from the fire, and work has not started, with the developers admitting the huge additional costs incurred by the fire means they are having to “assess all options for the site”.

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A council spokesman said: “The council is in regular dialogue with the site owners/planning applicants at Hermitage Mill, with the last meeting in December.

“We continue to advise the applicants to progress with any planning application that they need to engage with Historic England and request the site is de-listed in the first instance.

“The decision by Historic England on this matter will then inform how the site is re-developed, as this is likely to affect how the remaining building elements are treated in any new scheme.

“The council remains open to discussing any owners’ plans for the site and welcomes the opportunity to engage in pre-application planning advice to ensure the site is bought back into use.”

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And Historic England confirmed it had received an application to de-list the site.

A spokeswoman said: “Historic England has been consulted on proposals for the redevelopment of the site following the fire. We have received an application to de-list the site, and our assessment is ongoing. Following consultation, we will make a recommendation to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport on whether or not the listing should be retained.”

Ian Radford, for the developers, said: “The situation is straightforward. Individuals made a choice to burn down our historic asset that we had worked incredibly hard, along with Mansfield Council, on.

“We had a view to create a robust future for a development we could have all been proud of. The damage caused has resulted in 85 per cent of the building fabric being destroyed, resulting in huge delays, costs, and no simple way forward from this point.

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“Unfortunately, due to the extensive damage coursed by the fire and the vast additional costs incurred, we are having to assess all options for the site.”

Three teenagers have been charged in connection with the fire. Nineteen-year-olds Taylor Cocker, of Carsic Lane, Sutton, Liam Lee, of The Elms, Netherfield, Nottingham, and Kian Wildsmith, of Carsic Lane, Sutton, have been bailed to appear at Nottingham Crown Court on August 21.