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Subject: Hayle Mill damaged by fire

Hayle Mill damaged by fire

From: Simon Barcham Green <simongreen>
Date: Monday, June 23, 2003
A serious fire occurred at Hayle Mill, Maidstone starting in the
late evening of June 20, 2003. Seven fire pumps attended very
promptly and quickly brought the fire under control. By the time I
arrived at 11:30 p.m. there was a lot of water and steam but very
little flame. Sadly Hayle Mill House has been completely destroyed
apart from the chimneys and lower parts of the stone walls. A small
section (about 5 metres long) of  the roof of the nursery behind has
also been burnt out. However the other buildings behind the house
were undamaged and the loft, rag house vat house and other buildings
were not affected.

Fire pumps from all over central and north Kent attended and did a
fantastic job. The crews were also exceptionally kind and
sympathetic to Maureen and I at a very distressing time. The officer
in charge expressed the view that arson was the likely cause.

Many readers will know Hayle Mill and the House and will appreciate
its vulnerability due to its largely softwood construction. Due to
concerns about fire risk we moved all of the archives, moulds and
other small artefacts to another location several years ago. They
are entirely unaffected. Maureen is continuing to research them at
that location pending us finding a long term home for them. This is
thought to be one of the best business archives in the UK and
possibly the most comprehensive paper mill archive in the world.
Please note we do not have the facility for people to visit or
research the archives at present.

I have not kept most people, apart from friends, up to date on the
Mill in recent times and this seems to be an appropriate occasion to
do so.

Production ceased in the summer of 1987. Most of the paper was sold
in the following year or so although I have some small stocks for
sale as well as moulds (details at
<URL:>). Over the intervening
years we have had numerous discussion with planners, English
Heritage, national conservation bodies, architects, developers and
potential buyers. For the first ten years, proposals were delayed as
council planners insisted there could be no change of use away from
commercial whilst no buyer ever came forward except for residential
conversion. We even secured permission for an office conversion to
test the market but no buyer was interested. We have discussed
museum options for several decades but there is no possibility of a
paper museum being a financially viable option in this case. In
addition access and parking are totally unsuitable for the tiny
roads and narrow valley.

In 2000, a practical scheme was turned down following an aggressive
campaign by a small group of NIMBY's. This proposal, like all others
that have any possibility of being viable and sustaining the
historic buildings, involved what is known as "enabling
development". This means converting the existing building from their
present industrial use to any economic use that enables the
buildings to be preserved. So converting a small barn to a house
enables it to be preserved. All enabling development involves
establishing a balance between the need to keep historic integrity
and current building standards for fire safety and escape, hygiene,
ventilation, energy conservation etc. Those of you who deal with
historic buildings know how difficult that is. At Hayle Mill we are
also in a Conservation Area (resulting from the struggle by
generations of my family to prevent the valley being overwhelmed by
railways and heavy industry), an Area of Special Landscape
Importance and the ponds and streams are a Site of Nature
Conservation Interesting.

Following the rejection in 2000, our own resources were exhausted -
having spent hundreds of thousands on maintenance, insurance,
architects etc over 13 years with the support of our ever patient
bank. However we were able to find a new partner who purchased the
Mill in June 2002. They are PJ Livesey Ltd, a nationally renowned
company specialising in restoring and converting historic buildings
to new use. Virtually all their projects involve listed buildings
and ancient monuments including mills, mansions, hospitals and
warehouses. Their details are at
<>. This does not yet include Hayle

Livesey have extensive experience of working with English Heritage
and having recently visited Claybury Hall in Essex, I consider their
attention to detail and workmanship to be exceptional. Livesey have
been developing detailed plans for the Mill over the last few months
as well as undertaking detailed survey work and having discussions
with all genuinely interested parties. A key feature of the
proposals is the inclusion of a heritage area which will be
accessible by appointment to visitors.

Livesey are also dealing with day to day maintenance and security
but the problems they face in protecting the buildings from vandals
have been enormous as I found over the years that I was responsible
for the empty buildings. This has not been helped by the way in
which the NIMBY's have publicised their campaign so that the
vulnerability of the mill is well known locally. Unfortunately the
vandalism has not only affected the buildings but also some of the
items of machinery which we had always intended to maintain as part
of the heritage areas (which I proposed back in the 1980s). Non
ferrous parts and lead linings have all been stripped from Hollander
beaters etc, whose historic value is now negligible.

Livesey told me today that it is their intention to submit the
planning application in the next two weeks. They do not intend to
change the plans as a result of the fire, and at present we would
hope to rebuild as appropriate where possible (subject to relevant
feedback and the legal position from the Council and the structural
stability etc etc).

If you wish to express support for the preservation of Hayle Mill
you can do so by contacting katiedean [at] pjlivesey__co__uk and please
copy to me at simongreen [at] aol__com.

Simon Barcham Green

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:4
                   Distributed: Monday, June 23, 2003
                        Message Id: cdl-17-4-001
Received on Monday, 23 June, 2003

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