RESIDENTS have backed a campaign to save a historic mill from demolition.
A survey was held by Bishop’s Waltham Parish Council to assess public opinion on what should happen to the Abbey Mill in the town.
Sainsbury’s was originally going to build a supermarket, plus a petrol station and doctor’s surgery, on the land. But it pulled out last November after its profits fell short.
It had faced a long battle to get permission as it faced opposition from some villagers, who feared that the new store would kill trade on the High Street.
Since then, the site has been derelict, with the 120-year old Abbey Mill deteriorating.
Now Savills is marketing the site for an undisclosed multimillion-pound sum, which has prompted residents to think about what they would like to see built on the land.
The public survey into the Abbey Mill’s future found a ‘substantial majority in favour of restoration’.
Of 474 responses, nearly half (242) were ‘strongly in favour’ and another third (147) would ‘prefer to see it restored’, leaving only 62 preferring demolition and 23 ‘don’t knows’.
Nearly 400 separate comments revealed the community wanted ‘more to do’ and ‘public access’. Mixes of community and visitor attractions, cultural and arts uses were preferred, with shops and cafes popular suggestions for the mill.
The overcrowded Bishop’s Waltham GP surgery proved the biggest concern, with many voicing a hope it would find a new home on the site.
‘This would be an ambitious and expensive community project,’ said Trish Simpson-Davis, co-ordinater of the Abbey Mill – Future group.
‘And we have to be sure it’s worth it for Bishop’s Waltham.
‘We’re only too aware the mill needs an economically sustainable long-term future, and that a development must increase footfall in the high street.
‘That means a feasibility study is the logical next step, before making any binding decisions to go forward or demolish.
‘As soon as we know more about the buyer’s plans, we’ll be asking the council to set up a local partnership, if that’s the appropriate move.’