THE first project of its kind is underway in Pendle to support the successful reuse of at-risk former textile mills, providing a lead for other local authorities and speeding up the challenging redevelopment of complex historic sites.

Historic England is working with Pendle Borough Council to prepare a design code to guide the reuse of historic mills across the borough, including in Barnoldswick. The project represents the first time anywhere in England that a group of historic buildings or industrial sites spread across a district has been given a design code to promote their reuse.

Just last month, a plan to build 50 new homes on the site of the former Brook Shed in Earby, and involving the demolition of the mill chimney and engine shed, was approved by the West Craven Committee of the council. Members heard the loss of historic assets was regrettable, but necessary if the project was to proceed.

The new guide will aim to show developers ways to redevelop mill sites to create new homes and business spaces with high-quality design and good conservation practice, and will set standards of design for developers to meet while being assured of planning success.

Historic England is providing funding for the project which will aim to show how design codes for historic sites can bring them back into use without losing their special value and contribution to local heritage.

Councillor 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, (Lib Dem, Barnoldswick) 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.”

Historic England’s Dr David Hampshire said: “Design Codes are advocated by the government to promote successful design that speeds up development whilst celebrating what makes areas like Pendle so special.

“Taking on the redevelopment of a complex historic industrial site like a mill can be challenging even for the most experienced developers, but it can provide huge rewards where it is done carefully. The design code will help developers to deliver projects that will breathe life into these historic buildings, whilst ensuring the contribution that Pendle's mills make to each town and village's identity is conserved.

“The code will provide simple, illustrated, design requirements that provide specific guidance for the development of a site or area.”

The code will be developed in collaboration with communities to provide a framework for heritage-led change and high-quality design to inform the sustainable reuse of historic industrial mills.

Its aim is to contribute to delivering more housing and jobs using brownfield land while preserving the greenbelt, as well as protecting the heritage and identity of communities.

Planning and design consultants, Lanpro, in partnership with David Morley Architects, have been commissioned to produce the design code.