Posted by: dianesims | December 10, 2016

Buildings at Newsome Mills three weeks after the fire – the condition, status and ownership of the remaining structures

Newsome Mills after the fire

In the early hours of Thursday 17th November 2016, the main building at Newsome Mills was destroyed by a terrible fire. The impact on our community has been devastating – three weeks on, we are still coming to terms with our loss.

This post focuses specifically on how the fire has affected the built structures at Newsome Mills. The information we’re sharing about the condition and status of these buildings is correct at the time of publication and has been verified with our local planning authority. Please bear in mind that things may change.


Structures in the ownership of Panorama Living Limited (formerly Royalle Estates)

The buildings at Newsome Mills which are owned by Panorama Living Limited are all Grade II Listed. The damaged caused by the fire and in its aftermath has not changed that. These buildings are:

1. Newsome Mill (the former four-storey mill on Ruth Street)
The entire interior structure of Newsome Mill – including the roof and all the original wooden floors, supporting columns and office partitions – collapsed at 6.08am on Thursday 17th November 2016. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had 20 pumps working on the site throughout the night to bring the fire under control and to stop it spreading to other buildings. In the morning, the four-storey shell of Newsome Mill was still standing.

A site inspection took place on the morning of Thursday 17th November 2016, between the Fire Officer in charge, a structural surveyor from Kirklees Council’s Building Control service, and a member of Kayedem Demolition (acting as the representative of the owner). As a result of this inspection, when the Fire Officer signed over control of the site to Kayedem, the notice given specified that the four-storey walls of the mill must be reduced to a safe height in order to avoid the sudden collapse of the building. There was no remaining internal structure, all the braces had melted in the fire, and the walls were sadly no longer stable.

The Newsome Mills Campaign was informed of the decision to demolish Newsome Mill shortly before 11am on Thursday 17th November 2016. This information came from the Conservation and Design group leader at Kirklees Council, who explained that the walls would be pushed in so that the debris would fall within the footprint of the mill, and that the walls would be reduced to the height of the first floor level. With the exception of the damage caused to the North light weaving sheds (see below) this is the procedure that was followed by Kayedem. We were also informed that the works would take place very quickly, under the powers of The Building Act 1984 – section 78 (Dangerous building — emergency measures). Demolition equipment arrived on site that evening and the demolition took place that night.

The Newsome Mills site has since been re-inspected by Kirklees Council. The council have given consent for the debris to be removed from the buildings (following a request by the owner), but the method of doing this is yet to be agreed. Kayedem claim that the remaining walls of the mill and the weaving sheds are unstable and should be demolished, but Kirklees Council disagree with this assessment.

Several courses of stone were removed from the gable-end mill wall at the corner of Ruth Street and Naomi Road (adjacent to the gateway arch) by Kayedem Demolition on Monday 28th November 2016. We believe this work was unnecessary and unauthorized, and we reported this to Kirklees Council, who are the local planning authority. Kirklees Council asked Kayedem to cease work on the mill immediately. They have since expressed concern that Kayedem’s planned method for removing the debris goes far beyond the works that Kirklees Council deem necessary.

On Wednesday 5th December 2016 a Senior Planning Officer from Kirklees Council gave this statement to Kayedem:

“I’ve discussed the stability of the building with our engineers. It is our opinion that the walls are currently in a safe condition although loose masonry should be removed from the top. In brief our engineers consider the piers around each window are robust enough to maintain support and the internal localised cracking is limited to the pockets formed around the original burnt out floor beams.”

Kirklees Council’s engineers say there’s nothing to suggest that any structures on the site are unstable at this time. To date, no further demolition or clearance works have taken place.

2. The clock tower at Newsome Mill
Clock tower at Newsome MillThe clock tower is part of the main mill building. It was not designed as a stand-alone structure, but it is stable following the removal of the four-storey mill walls and it has been declared safe by structural engineers at Kirklees Council.

On Friday 25th November 2016, the assistant director for Place at Kirklees Council issued this very clear statement to Councillor Andrew Cooper, for which we are grateful:

“As discussed; yesterday officers from the council (planning, heritage and building control) met the developer and demolition contractor on site. The meeting was a productive one we are of the view that the tower does not form a health and safety risk and whilst requiring some work it most certainly does not require demolition. There will however need to be some work undertaken on it in the future to repair it and that work will need the appropriate consent.”

The tower is a very prominent Huddersfield landmark and has huge significance for the residents of Newsome and for people who grew up here. Restoring the clock to full working order was a condition of the previously granted planning permission for Newsome Mill. Our campaign, which aims to see all the remaining structures at Newsome Mills retained and well used again, began with the stopping of the mill clock during Easter 2007. Our work will continue.

North light weaving sheds at Newsome Mills
3. The North light weaving sheds at Newsome Mill

The weaving sheds at the corner of Ruth Street and Hart Street are part of the main mill building. This part of the structure was unaffected by the fire. A large section of the weaving sheds were demolished by Kayedem Demolition on Friday 18th November 2016.

We believe that the partial demolition of the weaving sheds was unnecessary and unauthorized and we have reported this to Kirklees Council. Kayedem have stated that these works were carried out at the request of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, but Kirklees Council have been unable to verify this.

Currently, the majority of this structure remains standing, and it has been declared safe by Kirklees Council (with the exception of the overhanging shattered glass in the North light roof, which will need to be carefully removed). Kayedem claim that the structure is unstable and should be demolished, but Kirklees Council disagree with this assessment.

If you can offer any evidence about the damage caused to the weaving sheds – either photographs, video or eye-witness testimony – please send your evidence to:

4. The gateway arch
The gateway was unaffected by the fire and remains intact. The damage at the apex of the stone arch was caused in 2007 during the initial site clearance. This structure has been Grade II Listed since 1978.

5. The gate lodge
The lodge was unaffected by the fire and remains intact. This structure has been Grade II Listed since 2008.

6. The office building
The office building was unaffected by the fire in 2016. The fire damage that can been seen to the office roof was caused during an earlier, small fire. The front office wall includes the setting for the Newsome Mills war memorial. The memorial plaque was stolen from the site in February 2008 and was recovered by the Newsome Mills Campaign in March 2008 following a public appeal. The war memorial was then placed in the custodianship of Newsome Ward Community Forum, where it remains today. The office building has been Grade II Listed since 2008.


Structures in other ownerships

Vent on the coach house buildings at Newsome Mills7. The coach house buildings
The main section of the coach house buildings on Ruth Street (the former bakery site) is now owned by a company who are based there and who have recently begun leasing some of the space out to other businesses. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service prevented the fire from spreading to these buildings. The coach house has sustained some damage from the fire (including lost skylights, water damage and melted fixtures), but there is no structural damage. The business owners are continuing their work of getting the buildings up and running and we wish them well.

8. Private housing
Thanks to the efforts of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, there was no significant damage to The Coach House (private house on Naomi Road), to numbers 2 to 8 Hart Street or to other housing nearby. Some residents are dealing with damage to doors and windows, party due to the fire and partly as some doors had to be kicked in by West Yorkshire Police during the evacuation of the neighbourhood on the night of the fire.

9. Newsome Mill Ponds and culvert
The mill ponds are owned by Benjamin Bentley and partners, the former owners of Newsome Mill. On the night of the fire, water from the ponds was used to control the fire and to prevent the fire from spreading to the houses and businesses nearby. The ponds remain the subject of an active planning application (reference 2016/91479) which seeks to completely demolish both the ponds. The public consultation for this planning application closed at midnight on the night of the fire. The nineteenth century mill pond (off Naomi Road) is the oldest surviving part of Newsome Mills. It is a curtilage structure of the Grade II Listed Newsome Mill.

Newsome Mill pond


Open land on the Newsome Mills site

Land behind the mill
For clarity, the land behind the mill (off White Hart Drive) is owned by Panorama Living Limited. This is brownfield land which is allocated for housing in the draft Local Plan for Kirklees (we asked for this land to be designated for housing). The land behind the mill has had planning permission for new build housing for several years, but the planned scheme also included the conversion of the four-storey mill, so this is now invalid.

Land in front of the mill
The land at Hart Street (alongside the mill ponds, between Hart Street, Newsome Road and Naomi Road) is the former mill workers allotment site. This is greenfield land which is owned by Benjamin Bentley and Partners.

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