Work has started on a £2 million project called Weaver’s Yard which will transform the historic Sunny Bank Mills complex in Farsley, near Leeds.
The iconic mills, once the home of Yorkshire Television’s Emmerdale and Heartbeat, are being regenerated by a high-quality modernisation programme which has created inspirational working and living space for the 21st century.
Owners and directors John and William Gaunt have invested £7 million in Sunny Bank Mills during the past ten years to regenerate the 10-acre site and to reclaim its status as the prime employer in Farsley.
Now the central part of the flourishing estate is being remodelled to create open spaces and to re-establish the prominence of historic mill buildings. The main contractor is Leeds-based CBM Construction and the work is scheduled to be completed within 12 months.
John Gaunt explained: “We are embarking on an exciting new stage of the regeneration of Sunny Bank Mills by selectively demolishing some commercially unviable buildings, totalling 65,000 sq ft, in the heart of the site. This is the biggest and most ambitious exciting development yet at Sunny Bank Mills.
“It will allow us to restore and develop some of the most important buildings at Sunny Banks Mills, such as the Old Woollen Mill, the oldest building on site, dating back to 1829. It is currently hemmed in on all sides. This will enable us to restore other buildings on site, including The Twisting Gallery and The Old Dyehouse.
“It will also transform the visibility, accessibility and parking at Sunny Bank Mills, while retaining the sense of history with pockets of mill yards and easily identifiable landmark buildings of a 19th century textile mill. Importantly, Weaver’s Yard will feature 5,000 sq ft of green space at the heart of the mill, effectively creating an amphitheatre that can be used for outdoor performances and break out space for the occupiers, tenants and visitors of Sunny Bank Mills”.
Rachel Slater of Leeds architects KPP, who have masterminded this transformation, explained: “Breaking through the defensive Town Street facade between the Festoon Rooms and the 1912 Mill will reveal views towards Weaver’s Yard and the northlight roofs of Red Lane Mill.
“Meanwhile demolition of the infill weaving sheds will expose facades the original mill buildings not seen for over 80 years.
“The area resulting from the demolition will deliver an open space at the heart of the mill complex, providing much needed connectivity across the site, from the Woodland car park to the Old Combing; and Red Lane Mill to the 1912 Mill.”
William Gaunt added: “We have already created 355 jobs at Sunny Bank Mills, with more than 70 companies on site. This next phase, which will be developed over the next few years, will ultimately create many more and regenerate these lovely old buildings. We now have the flexibility, the time and the confidence to deliver a sustainable future for Sunny Bank Mills.
“The remodelling of the heart of Sunny Banks Mills will ensure that the mill woodland is protected, while mill ponds will provide fantastic amenity space for everyone who lives and works here,” he explained. “It will also provide 96 more parking spaces.”
“We believe very strongly that we must preserve the legacy of Sunny Bank Mills for future generations. We are wholly our committed to the site and to the Farsley community, encouraging the community to become involved in what we are doing here.
“We have retained and refurbished existing historic buildings such as Sandsgate, the Mending Rooms and the 1912 Mill to create new jobs and to make Sunny Bank Mills the economic powerhouse of Farsley once again.
He added: “The iconic 1912 Mill, where Heartbeat and Emmerdale were filmed, now has a number of quality occupiers, but 16,000 sq ft of very flexible Grade A office space is available to lease now.
“I think the pedigree of business which has relocated here already reflects the quality of the refurbishments being undertaken and that even in a challenging commercial property market, Sunny Bank Mills and Farsley is succeeding succeed in its mission of being the top creative space for business in the region,” he explained.
Mike Haigh of Leeds-based property consultants Dove Haigh Phillips, who are joint marketing agents of the site with the Leeds office of JLL, said that this was one of the most significant mill regeneration projects currently being undertaken in Yorkshire.
He commented: “This is a genuinely exciting development. Steeped in history and with massive potential, Sunny Bank Mills is becoming one of the prime business locations in the West Leeds area. The extensive lettings so far underline this.
“The mix of historic buildings with first-class modern business facilities is a winning combination, whilst the location, in between Leeds and Bradford, close to Yorkshire’s superb motorway network, one mile from the nearest station and just five miles from Leeds- Bradford Airport, is perfect,” he said.