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Owning and Developing an Industrial Site

If you are the owner or developer of an industrial site where do you start?

You may be the owner of a ruin such as a former mining site, furnace or kiln and want help and advice in looking after the structure. Alternatively, as a developer, you might be considering the reuse of a redundant industrial building and how your emerging proposals can be taken forward with certainty and the minimum of risk.

Grants from Natural England's Environmental Stewardship Scheme have helped to repair the scheduled 19th century Low Slit lead mine in Weardale. The site was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2011
Grants from Natural England's Environmental Stewardship Scheme have helped to repair the scheduled 19th century Low Slit lead mine in Weardale. The site was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2011

Understanding the site

The first step is to understand the place in question by researching the history of the site which can be revealed from the fabric of the place as well as from relevant historic sources. It is also vital to find out which parts of the site may or may not be of significance. 

It is now easy to check whether any part of the site is protected through listing or scheduling by searching the National Heritage List for England.

Local authority historic environment records also contain useful information on industrial sites within the local area and details of their location can be obtained from Heritage Gateway.

Information and advice

Where a site is protected as a scheduled monument, permission must first be obtained from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for any work that affects that monument. Further advice on what it means when a monument is scheduled and guidance on how to manage your monument can be obtained from Historic England.

For those sites that contain listed buildings, any alterations or extensions that affect its character as a building of special interest will require Listed Building Consent from your local authority. We strongly recommend that you consult your local authority's conservation officer at an early stage to discuss any proposed changes and to get a better understanding of what the listing status will mean for you.

Other sites may also be of interest by being locally designated, recorded on the historic environment record, include potentially significant buried archaeological remains or contribute to the character of the local area. It is always advisable to seek the advice and discuss any emerging plans that may affect an industrial heritage site or building with your local authority conservation and archaeological officer who will be able to help. 

You can find further practical advice on the steps you need to take if you want to make changes to a listed building or scheduled monument in the Your Home section of our website. This section also explains the role of Historic England in the planning system and the service we provide.

Converted to offices the grade II* listed Folly Hall Mill in Huddersfield was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2010. The scheme successfully retains a number of features associated with its former use as a textile mill
Converted to offices the grade II* listed Folly Hall Mill in Huddersfield was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2010. The scheme successfully retains a number of features associated with its former use as a textile mill

Reuse

Once you have understood the site then you can consider potential uses for it. This will range from carrying on an industrial use (which is what the site was built for) through to imaginative new uses. There are often constraints such as existing buildings, flood risk, contamination or ecological interest that need to be taken into account when devising a scheme. 

Historic buildings and archaeology can, with careful design, often be turned to an advantage. Early discussion with the local planning authority will help to establish the range of uses which will be acceptable.

Further information together with details of successful conversion schemes can be found at Re-using Industrial Sites which also includes the findings from research we have carried out with developers. 'Constructive Conservation' also includes a number of innovative examples that look at the reuse of industrial buildings.

For any substantial development, appropriate professional advice will help to produce a positive and good quality outcome. For the heritage elements of a site, that advice may be from an appropriately qualified and experienced historic environment consultant, architect and/or surveyor.

Of course, not all sites can be converted to new uses and this is especially true for those that survive as upstanding ruins or whose interior is largely occupied by historic machinery. In these situations the establishment of a suitable trust is an option worth exploring.

The Heritage at Risk case studies provide further examples of sites that have been saved together with those that are still on the Register.

Redundant industrial buildings

In the current economic climate it may not be possible to find a new use for a redundant industrial building and schemes may have to be put on hold until conditions improve.

An abandoned building will rapidly deteriorate but a limited amount of money spent on making sure that the roof, rainwater goods and windows are sound will preserve its value. 

The best way to protect a building is to make sure it is occupied even if it is only on a temporary or partial basis. To help reduce the risks facing empty buildings English Heritage (now Historic England) produced: 'Vacant Historic Buildings: An owners' guide to temporary uses, maintenance and mothballing'.

More specialist help for developers

Research carried out by English Heritage (now Historic England) found that developers were often unaware of the advice and information that is already available from us. We have therefore created a dedicated section for developers on our website which covers all types of historic sites including industrial buildings.

Nadler Hotel, developed from a former engineering works in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool.
Nadler Hotel was developed from a former engineering works in the Ropewalks area of Liverpool. It is currently the number two hotel in Liverpool on Trip Advisor (16 October 2015).

Grants

For owners and developers grants are available from various bodies. These include the Heritage Lottery Fund for publicly or charitably owned elements of a site, and Historic England who can fund private and commercial owners in certain circumstances.

Where the buildings or other remains are on agricultural land, Natural England can also provide grants for private owners through its Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This can be especially helpful for sites in rural areas which can't be reused and includes payments for maintenance and for capital works, including restoration.

It is important not to assume that public funding will be available as resources are very scarce and criteria for offering assistance vary considerably between organisations.

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