Prince Charles letters: decaying state of High Peak mill “makes me weep”

Prince Charles.
Prince Charles.

Newly-released correspondence from Prince Charles have revealed his concern for the future of historic listed buildings, such as the derelict Torr Vale Mill in New Mills.

Among letters written by The Prince of Wales to government ministers is one from March 2008 to the then housing and planning minister Caroline Flint MP, in which he states how the decaying state of the Grade II* listed former cotton mill “makes me weep”.

Torr Vale Mill, New Mills

Torr Vale Mill, New Mills

The letters are the second batch to be made public following a long-running legal fight.

The future monarch also talks generally of difficulties in completing heritage-led regeneration projects experienced by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, criticising “the reluctance or inability of local councils” to save buildings from dereliction “at the hands of careless private owners”.

He wrote: “I am not sure if I managed to mention to you the enormous frustration my Regeneration Trust has experienced over the past 15 years in relation to countless local heritage-led regeneration projects where progress has ground to an expensive halt because of the reluctance or inability of local councils to assert their powers at the optimum time to save historic buildings from complete dereliction at the hands of careless private ownership, where they could have become real community assets providing wonderful places to live and work?

“The terrible loss of value represented by decaying buildings such as Denbigh Hospital in Wales and Torr Vale Mill in Derbyshire, for instance, makes me weep!

The terrible loss of value represented by decaying buildings such as Denbigh Hospital in Wales and Torr Vale Mill in Derbyshire, for instance, makes me weep!

Prince Charles

“In both cases my Trust has sympathetic developers and sponsors waiting in the wings and yet the councils still prevaricate and countless opportunities for providing a mixed form of housing tenure in attractive surroundings are being tragically and scandalously lost.”

The Prince highlighted a mixed-use development in Paisley, Scotland - Anchor Mills - as an example of what could be achieved.

In her response dated May 1, 2008, Ms Flint wrote: “Torr Vale Mill in Derbyshire is clearly in a very poor state, and we shall certainly look at ways in which we might help authorities use their powers to the best effect to ensure that historic buildings like this receive the protection they deserve.”

Constructed in the late 1700s overlooking the River Goyt, the five-storey Torr Vale Mill has stood largely derelict for several years and been a target of vandals. It is currently on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register.

A manufacturing business operates from one part of the complex, with plans approved in 2013 to bring other parts into use as a restaurant and drinking establishment, and for retail, assembly and leisure.

In recent years, the building has hosted art exhibitions and live music events.

The newly-released batch of 17 letters, penned by Prince Charles, ministers and private secretaries, covers a period from September 2007 to June 2009.

Commenting on their release, a spokesperson for Clarence House said they demonstrated the range of The Prince of Wales’ concerns and interests.

They added: “The letters published by the Government show The Prince of Wales expressing concern about issues that he has raised in public like affordable rural housing, the quality of hospital food, the preservation and regeneration of historic buildings, an integrated approach to healthcare, climate change, and others.

“In all these cases, The Prince of Wales is raising issues of public concern, and trying to find practical ways to address the issues.”