Investor behind Derbyshire mills renovation scheme 'on brink of pulling out'

The investor behind a renovation scheme at an historic Derbyshire mills complex is on the verge of pulling out the project if planning permission is not granted “imminently”, a source close to the firm says.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 8:59 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 1:39 pm

Plans to refurbish and repair the historic Belper mill complex, a flagship of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, have been pending for more than three years.

Now a source close to UK Investment Group, which aims to rescue the derelict 200-year-old mill complex and turn it into 117 apartments, has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the firm is on the brink of stepping aside.

The source said that there is no other company which is currently interested in taking on the building or has the funds to rescue it, suspecting that the historic complex may have to be demolished.

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Part of the historic Belper Mills complex

In April, Amber Valley Borough Council had given the developer which submitted the renovation plans, FI Real Estate Management (FIREM), a final deadline of the end of April to submit vital missing paperwork for its proposed scheme – which it hit.

The council has not yet discussed the plans but has listed for it to be considered by the authority’s planning board by October 29, in nearly three weeks.

However, the council does not have a planning board meeting before that date.

The source told the LDRS that the council, whose financial situation has been particularly rocky over the past couple of years, does not have the money to buy the site through compulsory purchase and repair the site.

This is what the council had said it was considering doing in March, in cooperation with Historic England and Derbyshire County Council.

The source told the LDRS: “A deal was struck with FIREM to buy the Belper site and UKIG has the funding and everything it needs to get boots on the ground.

“Huge costs have been accumulated so far and UKIG and FIREM really want to get things moving.”

The source said: “UKIG has to make sound investment decisions and wants to invest that in the Belper Mills, but soon that will have to be invested in other sites instead. It is getting to the stage where they may pull their funding.

“The council has all of the power to approve this development.

“If UKIG pulls out there would be two choices left: A, the council would be forced to compulsory purchase, which it cannot afford; or B, it would be another year before anyone else comes forward, but there is nobody else interested.”

A spokesperson for Amber Valley Borough Council said: “The council is continuing to work with the applicant and consultees, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, to ensure that the applications are considered by its planning board as soon as possible.

“The planning board’s decision will be the most significant milestone in the future of the mills complex but it cannot be predicted. The council is on record, however, for stating that it will use all powers available to it to ensure the protection and repair of the mills.”