Update on Blackburn council building that poses 'major safety risk'

A council has given an update on much-needed repairs to a building it owns. Emergency works are required to stop the 'inevitable collapse of the Imperial Mill's roof in Blackburn

And the building's decaying windows are said to pose a ‘major health and safety risk.' The condition of the heritage-listed 1901 building in Gorse Street is revealed in documents submitted with a planning application for urgent repairs to its roof and windows.

Blackburn with Darwen Council bought the imposing and historic mill in February 2023 with the aim for restoring it to its former glory as a a job-creating hub for creative industries and cultural activities. Following the publication of the condition survey and design, access and heritage statement for the emergency roof and window works Conservative regeneration spokesman Cllr Marrow said: “This is extremely alarming.


“Imperial Mill is at risk of becoming a ‘White Elephant’ with a spiralling cost to the authority and its council taxpayers.” Blackburn with Darwen Council’s growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood said: “This is nothing that we did not know.

“We always knew that a lot of work would be required to restore the mill. That is why we secured £1million of Levelling Up cash for the project and are seeking heritage, lottery and other government grants.”

The reports are submitted with the planning application to the council for ‘a programme consisting of roof works and window protection including boarding up windows, incorporating the replacement of rainwater goods’. They say: “The condition survey makes clear why the repair of the roofs is necessary, as if water ingress is allowed to worsen, which would inevitably lead to the roof’s collapse, consequently causing almost irreparable damage to the heritage asset as a whole.

“To enable works to commence immediately, the first phase of the repair will make the roofs watertight. This will be followed by a permanent solution which will cover all of the roof areas of the mill under a separate application.

“The roof areas surveyed in this report were found in extremely poor condition and have greatly exceeded the expected lifespan. Water ingress was evident internally as the current occupants are collecting and pumping the surface water to an external drain.

“Widespread defects are evident, and the roof is beyond economic repair; Recommend all roof areas are replaced in full to ensure the building is watertight and preventing further internal damage as a result of water ingress.

“The timber windows, present a major health and safety risk to persons below, due to the failed glazing. This leaves the building unsecure and the potential for arson.

“Recommend replacing the timber windows with new or removing the glazing and overboard the frames with timber to prevent complete failure and also provide a watertight building fabric. The works proposed for the roofs constitute less than significant harm to the heritage asset as a whole, and the repair and replacement of the roofs will help to preserve the heritage asset, making it of great public interest.

“Said public interest undoubtedly outweighs the less than significant harm to the asset. Such work is necessary to shore up the mill, preventing access and improving structural integrity.

“The roof works, window protection, and replacement of rainwater goods form part of an ongoing programme of regeneration, which will restore the Imperial Mill, complementing the heritage asset’s original function, whilst ultimately providing a new purpose for the building to ensure its position and relevance within the Blackburn skyline.”

The latest application follows Blackburn with Darwen Council’s planning committee in April approving the demolition of structurally unsafe elements at the imposing 123-year-old canalside building including the Boiler House, Engine Room Extension, Masonry Annex and Steel Structure. Cllr Mahmood told meeting: “This is the start of the renovation of Imperial Mill.

“It is an iconic and historic mill – a magnificent building. It will be a long journey but we can make it the jewel in our crown.”

The approval was granted despite Cllr Marrow expressing concern about the structural soundness of the rest of the building in case the project became ‘a noose around the council’s neck’. Borough planning manager Gavin Prescott said the proposal was the first in a series of applications to regenerate the building with another for the loading bay expected soon.