Longfords Mill, Gloucestershire

The optimum conservation outcome for a challenging site

In its heyday, this area of Stroud held some 80 separate mills and factories. Of these, the 19-acre Longfords Mills was the largest, housing 38 individually listed buildings and large factories amongst lakes, ponds, waterways and several workers’ cottages.

Nash Partnership was commissioned to act as lead consultant, architects, planners, urban designers and heritage consultants to secure planning permission for a new pattern of use. This would allow its industrial owner to dispose of the site against the benefit of a clearly established planning permission.

Lying deep in a wooded valley, Longfords Mill had many serious technical challenges. These included:

  • The risk of the failure of an upstream reservoir dam
  • Seriously inadequate and unsafe vehicle access
  • A wide biodiversity which needed protecting

Its future was the subject of considerable interest to local residents, too.

We studied and researched all these issues with specialist consultants and demonstrated how these challenges could be most economically resolved. We showed how each of the listed buildings could be converted to either residential or employment use and how the landscape could be sub-divided for optimum management. To create the extensive subsidies such a scheme would need, we showed how the sites of the 20th century mill buildings could all be redeveloped as bespoke housing in harmony with the old buildings. Making extensive use of development appraisals, we showed the local planning authority that the resulting design scheme would represent the optimum conservation outcome. From this, the necessary enabling planning permission and listed building consents were secured to allow the site to be sold for development.

The large site straddled two local planning authorities, with each requiring planning permission for the whole. We found when the LPA’s policies had been written, they had not anticipated the sort of challenge such a site represented. So our task was constantly to help the local planning authorities to see that the buildings would have a confident future only if the particular circumstances facing the estate were realistically recognised.