High Mill, Alston
Not only is High Mill in Alston of great historical significance, it has been identified as a site which could play a key role in the regeneration of the town. Until several years ago, it was a major employer in a town where such opportunities are not numerous. The town has a rich stock of historic buildings and most of its centre is a Conservation Area. Eden District Council has already been working with a local community group, the Alston Moor Partnership (AMP), to administer a Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme. Historic England has also been involved.
High Mill is composed of several different buildings. The stone cornmill (centre right of the photo) was listed relatively recently in 2014 when its early date (1767), relative intactness and surviving water wheel were cited among other reasons why it merited a Grade II* listing. It is also thought to be the only surviving mill built by the eminent 18th century engineer, John Smeaton. The water wheel, at a mighty 21 feet, is an impressive survivor.
AMP recently held a short exhibition with a number of possible proposals and seeking local views. We understand that three options were presented for the buildings surrounding the cornmill, all residential with varying degrees of demolition. As for the listed corn mill, a scheme involving the preservation and recreation of the mill workings combined with other uses were mooted. However, there does not appear to have been a very extensive consultation process and it is not clear whether the regeneration potential of the buildings has been fully explored with the right stakeholders.