In October 2014 Prewett’s Mill, built in 1861, is now under a possible threat of being converted from office space into residential accommodation affecting the mill and its attached offices. The West Sussex County Times (WSCT) are reporting that retirement home developers McCarthy & Stone have acquired ‘an interest in the site’ in the land and are proposing to redevelop it to provide ‘assisted living accommodation’. The property still has Crickmays for sale board up, the site particulars copied here: Prewetts Mill.

The plans on the Horsham District Council Website show that they intend to convert the building not demolish it as some of the interviewees think. They propose to put (pack!!) apartments in what is now the office space and  convert the basement of the old mill section into a residents’ gymnasium. The lower floor of the other ground level pedestal is being converted to a cycle store so clearly they are envisaging a more active selection of tenants than one might normally associate with McCarthy & Stone. Perhaps conversion to a mobility scooter storage area would be more appropriate.

The building is not protected by being listed, this has been confirmed by a visit to English Heritage’s website. In a somewhat third hand quote a McCarthy & Stone spokesman is quoted by WSCT as saying “Horsham District Council has omitted the site from the local list of buildings of historic interest as the redevelopment in recent years has destroyed much of the building’s integrity.” This would appear to be a reference dating back to 1982 when a Planning Application for “Restoration and conversion of existing mill and erection of new offices with link to existing building (From old Planning History)” was ‘decided’.  The date is assumed to be 1982 as the application is referenced as HU/198/82. This era (1982 or 1983) is also confirmed by ‘Horsham: Economic history‘ see below. However, the frontage of the building is still in its original format and should, in the view of this site, be retained. Admittedly the exterior has been visually damaged by replacing the rear wall with glass. In a possible further blow to the town’s heritage in the same news story McCarthy & Stone have also not expressed an interest in keeping the name of Prewett’s Mill.

In an attempt to expand the impact of the story WSCT have walked the 800 yds to Homestream House and interviewed the residents; they share the access road Mill Bay Lane. There were concerns raised about access to their homes but, clearly, any redevelopment (during and after) is not going to inhibit their access and WSCT, are wrong to even publish this as an issue – it should have been dispelled at source and never reached the newsroom.

We should take a step back from this and look at the Planning Application which refers to “Conversion of existing office building (use class B1) to create 45 studios, 1 and 2 bedroom flats with associated residents gym and secure cycle storage. (Prior Notification)” and this, on 27th October 2014, has received the decision “Prior Approval Permitted With Conditions”. It does seem to have been processed with remarkable haste with the application only going in on 4th September 2014 so very little time to appeal or comment.

It should also be noted that this not planning permission but rather an assessment as to whether the proposal complies with the Governments permitted development rights which allows the conversion of office buildings to residential without the need for planning permission. This prior approval, which can only consider transport, contamination and flooding, has been approved by the Council through reference DC/14/1909.

In the meantime the Horsham Photographer is preparing a photographic record of Prewett’s Mill.

A steam mill below the town mill at Tan Bridge was built in 1861 and sold in 1872 to W. Prewett, who also in 1874 had Warnham mill. (fn. 87)  The mill was later much enlarged. (fn. 88)  In 1905 the firm of W. Prewett worked a dairy farm, Spencer’s farm, along with the mill, and had engineering, electrical, and motor works at the mill site. (fn. 89)  In 1945 c. 42 men we reemployed, (fn. 90)  and there were 60 in 1962. (fn. 91)  The mill was powered by electricity from c. 1940; c. 1955, when the firm also worked the town mill, it exported stone-ground flour to Africa and Canada as well as all over England. The engineering works was sold in 1948 and closed in 1957. (fn. 92)  In 1975 stone-ground flour was still being produced. (fn. 93)  The mill was closed in 1978, (fn. 94)  and converted into offices in 1983. (fn. 95)  There was another steam mill by 1869 in Denne Road, which had ceased to be used by 1896, (fn. 96)  a bus depot being built on the site after 1935. (fn. 97)

 From: ‘Horsham: Economic history’, A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 2: Bramber Rape (North-Western Part) including Horsham (1986), pp. 166-180. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18352&strquery=prewett  Date accessed: 27 October 2014.

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