First glimpse of how Shrewsbury's Flax Mill could look

Here is the vision of what could very soon be reality at Shrewsbury's historic Flax Mill.

First glimpse of how Shrewsbury's Flax Mill could look

Here is the vision of what could very soon be reality at Shrewsbury's historic Flax Mill.

The campaign to breathe new life into the site, which has lain empty for 25 years, took a huge step forward when it was given more than £460,000 to develop plans to bring its buildings back into use.

Campaigners hope to see businesses, arts groups, bars, restaurants and eventually homes created at the site.

It would be a huge boost to the Ditherington area of the town and a tourist attraction in its own right.

The artists' impressions show that as many of the original features as possible will be retained, and there are even plans to make a water feature from a small section of the Shropshire Union Canal which once took deliveries to and from the site.

The £465,300 award means that Heritage Lottery Fund bosses like what they have seen so far, but want more details over the next 18 months before deciding whether to hand over the remaining £11.6 million needed to get the redevelopment off the drawing board.

But the partnership behind the plan hopes to get an application ready in about a year, meaning if all goes to plan work could begin as early as 2014.

Councillor Alan Mosley, chairman of the Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings, said the award was great news for the 200-year-old complex, which has seen numerous development ideas fall by the wayside since it fell empty in 1987.

The Flax Mill is of international importance because it is the world's first iron framed building – and therefore considered to be the grandfather of today's skyscrapers.

It was one of eight projects awarded £76m in initial funding, including the National Army Museum in London and Winchester Cathedral.

Although there is no guarantee that the Flax Mill will get the money it needs, Councillor Mosley said he was optimistic after the plans put forward by the Friends, Shropshire Council and English Heritage cleared the first major hurdle.

Eighty per cent of projects that get to this stage get the funding they need, he said.

"This is tremendous news and we are proud of the role we have played in making it happen," he said. "We now have the money to develop our capacity so that we can do even more in providing restoration, access, community involvement, learning and a whole range of activities which will bring these wonderful buildings to life again."

The Flax Mill was built for the wool trade in 1797 and 100 years later became a centre for making malt from barley for the brewing industry. John Yates, from English Heritage, which owns the site, said it was now time to give it a third lease of life.

The overall cost of the plan is estimated at more than £18m, and the lottery application is crucial to its success.

Reyahn King, the Heritage Lottery's West Midlands boss, said: "Getting a first found pass, especially in a very competitive process like this was, is an endorsement of the outlying proposal and the vision."

The Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings are holding open days this Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm. There will guided tours, an arts and craft fair, demonstrations, and exhibitions. Entry is free. For details visit www.flaxmill-maltings.co.uk

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