Wiltshire Publications

W437 – Historic building at risk of ruin

BITHAM MILL residents have called for help to preserve one of Westbury’s oldest buildings which has been “left to ruin” after its developers went into liquidation.

Although a section of the grade-two listed building has been developed into homes, the remainder of the old mill has been left to ruin, say residents. The mill’s history has been traced back to the 1500s.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous said, “We are trying to shine a light on the building’s state of disrepair and how, for almost five years now, there has been no work on the mill itself. It’s pretty bad.”

Andrew Murrison MP for Westbury went to visit residents last Friday. He said, “My constituents are fed up with living in a building site at which no work is being done. They are concerned about the fabric of Bitham Mill and the implications for the safety of their own adjoining property.”
Steps have been taken towards forming a residents’ association to put pressure on developers Bellacre to preserve the historical aspect of the site. Unfortunately for the residents, said Dr Murrison, the issue has been clouded by the fact that developers Bellacre are now believed to be in liquidation.
He said, “The developer or liquidator need to sort out Bitham Mill before it falls into an even more advanced state of decay. It is an important listed building, part of Westbury’s heritage and at the moment poses a real threat to people living nearby.”
Dr Murrison was joined on his visit by Wiltshire Council director George Batten. He said “It’s a most unsatisfactory situation for the residents and Wiltshire Council will be doing everything it can to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.”
George Batten said that whilst it was too early to say for sure what the outcome might be if Bellacre could not be made to rectify the situation, a positive outcome would be for the site to be sold to another developer.
He said, “If we can all help speed things up in that direction that is probably one if the best things the council could do. If the building becomes dangerous and is likely to collapse then we, the council, will make it safe.”
Residents of Bitham Mill have already been forced to take matters into their own hands, spraying weeds that were threatening to erode the historic mill’s brickwork.
“Freeholders bought here in the good faith that this was a grade-two historic area and we want to keep it that way,” said a resident.
“I’m not an engineer but I’m sure Wiltshire Council will be able to gauge how safe the building is. It certainly doesn’t look very safe.” He explained that developers had assured residents that work would be finished within a year but added, “Some of us have been here for four years now and still not seen it finished!”