Work on site delayed but progress being made

On behalf of the Trustees of the Friends the Chair, Alan Mosley, has made a statementexplaining the current situation.

On behalf of all partners to the project English Heritage has issued a press release about the visit to the site of the Duke of Gloucester while also announcing significant changes to the Project management and future progress.

English Heritage Takes on Management of Shrewsbury’s Flax Mill Maltings project

English Heritage has announced they will be taking the lead in the regeneration of Shrewsbury’s Flax Mill Maltings. They have appointed one of their senior managers, Tim Johnston, the Planning and Conservation Director for the West Midlands to run the project for the next 12 months. He will be devoting his time to progress the first stage and creating a long-term future for the Flax Mill Maltings.

The announcement coincides with the visit of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester to the site. He was shown around by Tim Johnston and during the tour was introduced to Dr Tim Jenkins, Heritage Projects Manager Shropshire Council and Cllr Alan Mosley, Chairman of the Friends of Flaxmill Maltings.

He also met children and the head teacher of Martin Wilson School and Early Years Centre, previous employees who worked at the site during the Maltings phase, and members of the Friends of Flaxmill Maltings.

The visit of the Duke of Gloucester to the Shrewsbury site provides the opportunity for English Heritage to outline their hopes for the conservation and re-use of this historic asset.

English Heritage is currently drawing in key personnel, and establishing a management structure in order to maximise the potential funding for the project that is on offer, including £12.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £6.6m from the European Regional Development Fund.

Following an analysis of the tender packages, English Heritage are already exploring amended proposals to realise the Masterplan’s vision to bring the world’s first iron-framed building back to life and to stimulate wider regeneration of the area. During the project English Heritage will be working closely with the Friends of Flaxmill Maltings and also with Shropshire Council staff. It is great news that the current funders, all remain extremely supportive.

The Flax Mill is the world’s first cast-iron framed building and is the forerunner of the modern skyscraper. In 2005 English Heritage acquired the derelict buildings to halt its further decline. They have since funded and managed emergency repairs to ensure the buildings are secure and weather-tight.

Chris Smith, English Heritage’s National Planning Director said: “Shrewsbury’s Flax Mill Maltings is one of the most significant monuments of the Industrial Revolution – an outstanding structure that changed the world of construction and design. English Heritage remains committed to the conserving this unique site for future generations.”

Tim Johnston, English Heritage West Midlands Planning and Conservation Director said: “Shrewsbury’s Flax Mill Maltings is the most important industrial building on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register and one of English Heritage’s top priorities in the West Midlands. I am delighted to be working on this project and am currently drawing in key players such as the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and the current funders, who have been incredibly supportive throughout this transition. We are committed to bringing the world’s first iron-framed building back to life and to stimulate a wider regeneration.”

Alan Mosley, Chairman of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, said: “Our Board, Committee and volunteers have been greatly reassured by that fact that English Heritage has responded so quickly to move forward with this Project, and has already initiated work to establish an alternative strategy to utilise the funding previously achieved. We are highly confident that a regeneration and restoration project will be in place soon.

We look forward to working closely with English Heritage to ensure this happens and then to bringing exciting new opportunities for interpretation, community, learning and cultural activities on to the renewed site, in due course. In the meantime we will shortly be announcing a programme to open up the site again so that the local and wider community can renew their interest in this fabulous, iconic and internationally important site and the stories which lie within, until work commences.”

Cllr. Mal Price, Shropshire Council's Cabinet member for Housing and Planning, said:"Shropshire Council and all the project partners retain our strong desire to regenerate the Flax Mill Maltings site - something that will provide a huge boost not just to this area of Shrewsbury, but to the town as a whole, and to the Shropshire economy.
We feel it makes sense for English Heritage to take the lead on the project and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them, the Friends and the funders to bring these internationally-important buildings back to life."

Dear All

I am writing on behalf of the Trustees of the Friends to give you some bad and then good news regarding progress on our Flaxmill Maltings project. Some of this you may have already picked up from media reports.

The bad news is that the programme of works has been delayed and that the contractor has left the site. This has followed a series of setbacks as tenders for work have been returned and the programme timetable has been extended. Hence, there is a need to review the Phase one project so that funding can be maximised with the best possible outcomes for conservation, regeneration and community.

However, the good news is that the project is still very much alive and the funders are still on board and very supportive of us moving forward once options have been appraised. Above all it is good to report that English Heritage have now taken over from Shropshire Council as the project managers. They have already set up a powerful Project Board and I am delighted that the Friends will be party to that and that they continue to see the role of the Friends as integral to success and as a key end user. 

Much of this information is contained within the official press release which I have attached. You will find that this is built around the visit of the Duke of Gloucester as a lead in to our main news about the project. This is due to be released on Wednesday 12th March at 5.30pm.

However, this does not give news of a particularly sad feature of events over the last few months. Given delays in the project, external funding has not been available for our staff posts and now that the project has come to a temporary halt it is unlikely that any will become available for some time. In the circumstances the Board had to give redundancy notice to Lisa Cowley and Fay Bailey, and as a consequence they will be leaving the Friends on 21st March.

Lisa and Fay have made a tremendous difference to our work. They have contributed much to the project overall while greatly enhancing our capacity, operations and status. We are now a well-structured organisation providing a wide variety of service and so much better equipped to pursue our aims. They have shown great skills, ability, insight, hard work and commitment. Many of you have worked closely with them and most will have had enough contact to know how good they are.

Thanks to English Heritage we are going to receive funding for a half time post and support for our activity groups to continue with their excellent work. The post will provide us with essential administrative and financial services in support of the Board, Coordinating Committee, Activity Groups and volunteers. I can also report that Shropshire Council have agreed that their Heritage Project Manager, Tim Jenkins, will be seconded to us for one day per week. This will be to support the transition, provide expert support for activity groups and to generally assist with heritage related matters as and when necessary.

Thank you for all you have done to support the Friends aims and objectives so far and we very much hope that this will continue in future.



Alan Mosley – Chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings