MILLS are the focus of a new research project in East Lancs to support the re-use of historic buildings at risk, protect their character and provide a lead for other councils and developers nationally.

The Pendle project represents the first time anywhere in England a group of historic buildings or industrial sites across a district has been given a design code to promote their reuse, borough chiefs say.

Pendle Council is involved in a  a new design code system to promote the re-use of textile mills. Historic England, town planning consultancy Lanpro and David Morley Architects are key organisations involved.

There are still 93 historic textile mill buildings in Pendle and 158 across Lancashire. The new project will focus on in-depth case studies to help a better understanding about the future potential of sites, including mills in Brierfield, Colne, Nelson and Barnoldswick.

Design codes will clearly indicate potential new uses for different parts of mills to developers, property owners, planners and the public, create new housing opportunities and protect green spaces,  the council says.

Dr David Hampshire, who grew up in a mill town near Bradford, is now with the project in Pendle.

He said: “Historic England has quite a long history of work with mills in both Lancashire and Yorkshire. This has included documenting buildings, supporting research and sponsoring PhD studies.

“With this new design codes, the aim is to have a planning system which inspires new uses. If the bar is set too high for developers, people won’t jump it because they think it will be a big drain on their resources. So commercial viability has got to be taken into account.

Cllr Asjad Mahmood, leader of Pendle Council, said: “Mills were once powerhouses of the industrial revolution and have shaped the landscape of the north of England.

“Textile mills are an important part of our country’s heritage and fundamental to understanding the history and culture of the communities they sit within.”

Cllr Tom Whipp, who has responsibility for planning, added: “Hundreds of textile mills still exist in the north, including 93 in Pendle alone, but many are vacant or underused and at risk of loss, threatening local identity.”

Recently the future of Brook Shed Engine House has come into focus amid plans for new homes there, with another bid lodged for Colne's Derby Street Mill.