One of Aberdeen’s most historically significant buildings could be partially demolished as part of a £100 million project to transform it into an urban village.
Broadford Works, which was once home to the largest collection of category A-listed buildings at risk in Scotland, has been taken over by developer Inhabit.
But it has been lying vacant since 2004, following the closure of the Richards textile factory.
Now the developer intends to lodge plans within weeks to transform it into 460 homes, with accommodation for 430 students, shops and offices.
Inhabit has claimed as part of its plans to revive the area, about 40% of the site’s iconic Grey Mill will need to be bulldozed. The firm believes retaining the current structure as it stands would be unfeasible and unsafe.
Instead, it is seeking to retain the character of the Grey Mill by keeping the southern wall and gable as a facade, with contemporary construction in fitting with the rest of the Broadford Works replacing any demolished parts.
Project director David Westwater said: “Since acquiring the site last year, and as part of our planning applications, we have consulted a number of specialists and concluded that parts of the Grey Mill South had deteriorated to such an extent that it is too unsafe for redevelopment.
“Therefore, we have taken the difficult decision to apply for partial demolition.
“We continue to work closely with Aberdeen City Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Scottish Historic Building Trust and other local interest groups to ensure our regeneration vision for the Broadford Works fits into the fabric of the local community and celebrates the rich history of the Grey Mill and the broader site.”
Mr Westwater stressed that Inhabit wants to retain three buildings next to Ann Street, which were previously earmarked for demolition.
The five-storey high Grey Mill building was built in 1808, and was used for textile manufacturing.
Dominic Fairlie, of Aberdeen Civic Society, said: “I think it’s absolutely despicable, and they should be forced to keep the Grey Mill. As property owners they have an obligation, particularly with listed buildings, to repair.
“The Grey Mill is an important building. I’ve been inside it, and it’s very unusual, and there’s no reason why it can’t be repaired.
“Yes, it would cost money, but perhaps they need to spend the money. Why should people in Aberdeen accept that a historic building should be knocked down and replaced with something that is inferior?”
The site had been earmarked for a £50m redevelopment project by North-east oil tycoon Ian Suttie, who had consent for more than 500 homes, restaurants and a nursery.
The plans never came to fruition and Inhabit took over ownership last summer.