Chipping’s Kirk Mill in multi-million pound redevelopment plans

PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 July 2014

Artists impression of how the new development at the Kirk Mill site will look

Artists impression of how the new development at the Kirk Mill site will look

not Archant

Hotels and extra housing divide opinion in this lovely little Lancashire community

H.J. Berry's furniture factory, Chipping, site of proposed developmentH.J. Berry's furniture factory, Chipping, site of proposed development

Kirk Mill has been a fixture in Chipping for generations but plans are now being considered which would see the historic site transformed into a leisure complex and visitor attraction. The £19m project includes two hotels, holiday cottages, gym and spa facilities and housing as well as a trailhead centre with a café, new footpaths, cycle routes and an outdoor area which could be used to stage farmers’ markets.

The Grade Two listed 18th century mill was once one of seven mills in Chipping and was built on the site of a much earlier corn mill. Furniture firm HJ Berry was founded in 1840 and took over the old cotton mill in 1880 where the factory was still powered by its original water wheel into the 1940s. The company was owned by five generations of the Berry family and was the oldest chair manufacturer in the UK when it closed in February 2010.

It had seemed that the debt-ridden company would be given a last minute reprieve when former Granada TV chief executive Gerry Robinson offered £1m of his own money as part of a Channel Four series. But the money was turned down and 170 years of furniture making came to an end.

The site was bought from the administrators in 2011 by Stephen Chicken of Horwich-based SCPi Bowland and they have now submitted plans which are expected to be considered by Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning committee late this summer.

H.J. Berry's furniture factory, Chipping, site of proposed developmentH.J. Berry's furniture factory, Chipping, site of proposed development

Under the plans the Grade Two listed Kirk Mill will be converted into a three-storey 18-bedroom hotel with a restaurant and pub, while the existing barn will be turned into seven holiday cottages and a new ‘barn style’ building will provide 20 additional hotel rooms, a gym and spa facilities. Developers say about 100 jobs will be created by the scheme which will also see Chipping Cricket Club relocate to a bigger purpose-built facility to the south of the development. The plans also include 56 family homes, with the possibility of larger four and five bedroom homes being developed at a later date.

SCPi Bowland director Mr Chicken said: ‘The new scheme has been designed to meet many of the needs identified in Chipping’s local village plan and has been subject to extensive consultation. While the majority of respondents are in favour of the scheme, there was some very detailed feedback which has been taken into consideration and the plans have been changed to reflect these comments.

‘I’m really proud of the end result which has been the culmination of many years’ work. This scheme will not only provide jobs and opportunities for local people but will also drive tourism and have a hugely beneficial impact in the local economy.’

The plans have been studied by Chipping residents who attended a consultation in the spring and some of them have expressed concerns at the scale of the development.

Barbara Green, the clerk to Chipping Parish Council, said: ‘We would like to see the mill developed, but in a sympathetic way. Generally people don’t like change, especially such a massive change and people are worried that if all the houses in the plan went ahead it could drown the village and change the character of the place.

‘This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and people don’t think it should be flooded with houses and the extra traffic they will bring. There are already new houses which have been built in the village which have not been sold. In the village and the surrounding area there are a lot of houses on the market, so there is a concern that the level of housing that has been proposed is not needed.’

Barbara, who is originally from London, moved to Chipping 22 years ago after living in Lincolnshire, and she added: ‘It’s a wonderful place to live, I love it here.’

This passion for the village is echoed by Roy and Sharon Pinkett, two more incomers who moved to the village earlier this year to take over the shop, which is the oldest continually trading shop in Britain.

It opened for business in 1668 when local-boy-made-good John Brabin used a fortune earned as a cloth merchant in London to build it, the house next door – which it is said he still haunts – and on his death, to leave a trust for the village that it still enjoys. The shop has been a butcher’s, an undertakers and more recently as a Post Office

Roy and Sharon moved from Nottinghamshire in April and Sharon, who is originally from Birmingham, said: ‘The locals seem to have accepted us. It’s much smaller than the village we used to live in but it’s a lovely place.’

Roy and Sharon were married last October and had been on the look-out for a shop for some time, having enjoyed selling their wares at craft fairs. Roy is a keen landscape and wildlife photographer while Sharon makes cards which are now available in the shop. ‘We had looked at a lot of properties but as soon as we saw this one, we loved it,’ Sharon added. ‘There’s a tea room and lots of space and potential. We have started to stock fruit and veg and we aim to stock as much locally sourced produce as possible, such as meat and cheese.’

Local artists’ work is on the shelves too and Sharon has plans for a book exchange scheme and a Christmas market.

Roy and Sharon took the business over from Paul Hunt who had run it since 2005. He also runs the Post Office in Longridge and is secretary of the Chipping Agricultural Show which will take place in the village next month. ‘I was asked to get involved about five years ago when the previous secretary was unwell and I thought it would be great way of meeting a cross section of the community I didn’t normally meet and it has been really good fun.’

The one-day event is expected to attract about 5,000 people who will see animal classes, craft and horticulture competitions and a range of exhibitions and displays in the show ring.

Paul, who also a member of the Parish Council, added: ‘There is quite a big cheese show too, which is now run by Faye Kitching from Leagram Organic Dairy and the supreme champion trophy is named after her dad Bob who founded the company and who sadly died last year.’

Among the other attractions are a display of vintage farm machinery, a fell race organised by Preston Harriers and lawnmower racing. ‘Towards the end of the day there’s egg catching too,’ Paul added. ‘That’s always fun after people have been in the beer tent in the afternoon.’

The road to Chipping

Where it is: Chipping sits in the Forest of Bowland around five miles north of Longridge. The nearest railway stations are at Clitheroe and Preston and buses connect Chipping with Longridge, Clitheroe and Blackburn. Type PR3 2GD into your sat nav to find the centre of the village.

Where to park: There is a pay and display car park close to the village centre.

Where to eat: For a small village, Chipping is remarkably well served. There are two fine pubs – The Sun Inn and The Tillotson Arms – there’s a tearoom at Brabin’s shop and the Cobbled Corner café serves a range of hot meals as well as homemade cakes. Just outside the village, the Gibbon Bridge Hotel is a perennial favourite offering classic food in beautiful surroundings.

What to do: Chipping Agricultural Show takes place on August 23 but whenever you visit there’s wonderful walks to enjoy, both around the village and on the fells to the north of the village.

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