Town Mill, Colyton

Colyton’s historic Town Mill had languished for some 30 years before Axminster Property bought it in 2019 and devised plans for a series of small business units. The buildings were little more than a shell and had been heavily vandalised such that parts were unsafe.

The new development brings back to life the old two and three-storey Mill House and with it previous factory space as a series of light industrial premises of varying sizes. Tenants have flocked to the site, which is due for completion around the end of 2021.

The Town Mill project is about delivering value not just to investors, but also to a community. For local people in the historic town of Colyton, the dilapidated former grain mill has been a sad sight since it was abandoned some 30 years ago. Rescue came courtesy of Axminster Property, which saw an opportunity for its pension fund investors in restoring it to become a long-term commercial asset, and by identifying tenant businesses keen to operate in the popular town.

The challenge that Axminster Property set for itself and for its architectural (NDM Collins) and construction (Clarke Bros) partners was to bring back to life a development that was little more than a shell. Vandals had been at work in the long years that it was empty to the extent that even roof timbers had been removed, leaving it unsafe. The potential was, however, exceptional given the location right next to the River Coly with glorious farmland views along the valley.

Previous plans to redevelop the site for housing had never been advanced because the financial case was too fragile. Axminster Property saw a much more sustainable future in returning it to commercial use. The scheme developed by NDM Collins therefore proposed bringing the two to three-storey former Town Mill back into use as a single office/studio unit, with the adjoining previous factory sub-divided to provide light industrial premises of varying sizes. The whole development is bonded by a single brick built link building from the 1960s. Replacement of a further single building near the road entrance provided an opportunity for one additional solo business unit.

The proximity of the river to the site meant that the largely lost flood walling on the northern boundary needed to be restored to meet the requirements of the Environment Agency. It was agreed that now was the time to strip away the concrete roof tiles from the main building and restore the original natural slates to fit the local vernacular.  Render colours were chosen to match neighbouring properties.

The end result is a triumph for Axminster Property, its pension investors … and indeed the town of Colyton. Further sub-division of the units to suit the specific needs of smaller companies has made it possible for the site to provide a total of up to 11 units of varying size. In total, it is expected that the new Town Mill development will provide around 30 jobs and bring considerable additional spend into the town’s other businesses.

The verdict

The construction was still in its early stages when Jurassic Vets signed a lease on the two units closest to the river, so bringing a much needed facility to Colyton. Others were quick to follow as word spread of the quality of the development with other tenants including a fishmonger and a laundry for a holiday letting company.

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