Demolition fears at historic Briggate Mill

A site visit is due to take place this Monday, October 31, at Briggate Mill where residents fear a decision to demolish the historic building may have been taken without consulting them.

Rumours that demolition could be imminent began when Briggate resident Diana Howes, who is working to keep the site for the community, heard from a third party that North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) was seeking quotes for the work from local firms.

But the council says while it may have been making enquiries about costings, no decision has been made.

Mrs Howes and Paul Morse, county councillor for the area, are angry that NNDC has not kept residents informed of developments at the mill, near North Walsham, and they are now anxious about its future.

Land around the mill, whose ownership is unknown, was fenced off in July after an NNDC structural survey found that it was unsafe.

The fencing put paid to residents' efforts to maintain the land as part of a seven-year project aimed at persuading the Land Registry to approve community ownership following an alleged land-grabbing attempt in 2008.

John Lee, NNDC deputy leader, said he had been contacted by Mr Morse and would be visiting the mill on Monday to inform himself about the situation.

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'I appreciate their point and apologise to them that they had to hear about this second-hand. In future I will keep them informed,' he pledged.

Mark Whitmore, environmental protection team leader with NNDC, said they were currently seeking a court order requiring the landowner to undertake safety works.

If no owner came forward, NNDC would have the authority to carry out the necessary works itself.

The amount of work needed to make the building safe had not yet been determined.

He also pledged that the council would keep local members, the parish council and local residents informed of developments.

Mr Morse said he accepted that safety was paramount but residents, who had a long history of caring for the site - including a failed bid to register it as a village green - should not be hearing 'through the back door' that NNDC was seeking quotes for partial or full demolition.

'Residents have a right to know about the options for this site and they need to be given the opportunity to have their say about what they hope its future will be. The district council has cut us all off really,' he added.

Mrs Howes said she realised that some of the old granary would need demolishing but hoped part could be kept to show its relationship to the nearby mill building because it was an important part of the area's heritage.

'The district council's been keeping everything very close. They haven't said anything to us,' she said. 'I wish they would involved the village in what's going on.'