Historic cotton mill which became a ‘magnet for vandalism’ could be in line for huge 285-home regeneration scheme


An historic cotton mill could be in line for a huge 285-home regeneration scheme, according to papers lodged with Rochdale council.

Warwick Mill, in Middleton, has been vacant for several years, becoming a magnet for vandalism, fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour. A serious fire also broke out at the Grade-II listed building in 2018.

Plans to convert it into a £50m ‘global trade hub’ expired four years ago – much to the frustration of councillors, who urged then-applicant LED Emporium to bring forward new proposals as soon as possible.

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But now developer Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd has submitted papers revealing major new plans are in the pipeline for the Oldham Road mill, which dates back to 1907.

This is not a planning application, but requests the council’s opinion on whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) would be required as part of any scheme.

However, the documents make clear significant proposals are being prepared with a view to a planning application being made in the near future.

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These include:

  • Conversion of Warwick Mill into a mixed-use development boasting up to 140 apartments.
  • Demolition of neighboring London House to be replaced by a new building of up to 145 apartments.
  • Up to 6,500 sq m of commercial ‘floorspace’

Although Warwick Mill itself is five-storey, the proposed new buildings would be ‘mid-rise’ with a maximum height of 10 floors above ground level.

However, the document argues the scale of the development ‘generally follows’ those of the surrounding buildings in the area.

The applicant has also shared a ‘draft heritage assessment’ with the council, outlining the extent of work needed to regenerate and repurpose the mill.

It acknowledges this would involve ‘direct harm’ to the Edwardian-era building, ‘including areas of internal demolition on some floors’ as well as a new atrium and rooftop apartments.

While accepting there would be ‘major changes to the internal layout of the mill’, it says the project would allow its significance to be ‘better revealed and preserved’.

Middleton town center from above

Elsewhere, the document makes similar arguments.

“The townscape will be improved through the demolition of buildings on the site, as it will open up the views of the listed building, enhancing its setting within the wider townscape,” it reads.

The development could also contain the remains of the engine and boiler house at Warwick Mill, as well as what is left of Irk Mill – a building which stood on part of the London House site from the mid 1800s to the late 20th century.

A ‘preliminary risk assessment’ of the site’s potential contamination and geographical limitations, has also been submitted to the council.

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This notes ‘the site’s long industrial usage’ – including as a cotton mill, furniture makers, weatherproofing works and a garage.

It adds: “Given there is a potential for contamination at the site and risks from ground gas associated with made ground and the underlying coal measures formation / coal workings, intrusive exploratory works with supplementary laboratory testing, monitoring and subsequent risk assessment is recommended.”

The Lighthouse Project was based on the ground floor of Warwick Mill before moving out in 2015, leaving the site fully vacant.

Should planning permission eventually be granted, the construction process if expected to take between two and three years, with a completion date of early 2025.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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