Video: demolition under way at Briggate Mill
An historic north Norfolk landmark is rapidly disappearing this week as a demolition crew sets about flattening Briggate Mill.
A mechanical claw this morning began nibbling away at the wobbling walls of the mill's 120-year-old granary in a delicate operation which is expected to last several weeks.
North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) took the demolition decision after a year-long, unsuccessful legal quest to track down the owner of the crumbling building, which sits beside the North Walsham and Dilham Canal in the parish of Honing, south of North Walsham.
Mark Whitmore, environmental protection team leader with NNDC, said they had hoped to reduce the height to a safe level, retaining some of the structure, but a recent inspection had revealed that it had deteriorated so much that it would probably all need to come down to ensure public safety.
The council had set aside a �20,000 budget but that would increase because of the extra work now needed.
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Diana Howes, chairman of Honing Parish Council and a leading light in a campaign to have the mill site recognised as a community asset, said she understood that the work needed to be done.
'It's a sad day because it's part of our heritage but there are a lot of very big cracks in it, more and more bricks have been falling from it, and it's dangerous,' she added.
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The mill, which closed in 1969, has been in a state of decline since at least 1975 when it caught fire.
The drama led to a headline-hitting court case ending in the imprisonment of two men, including its owner Michael Howard, for their part in an insurance-fraud conspiracy.
Following an alleged land-grabbing bid in 2008, local campaigners unsuccessfully tried to register the site as a village green.
Despite their failure, they still hoped to have it recognised as a wildlife area for community use. Many villagers would like the cleared site to be planted with trees in memory of members of the community, according to Mrs Howes.
But Mr Whitmore said the site's future would be discussed by NNDC members who would need to consider ways of recovering the cost to the authority. One option could be an application to court to force the sale of the land.