Hilden Mill goes back on the market again

Hilden Mill - The well known Hilden Mill was formerly home to the Barbour Thread factory which had occupied the site since 1823, employing around 2,000 local people at its peak. In the early 1900s it was the largest producer of linen thread in the world, but closed in 2006 as a result of global competition.  Seen here from a hilltop in Tullynacross at sunset.
Hilden Mill - The well known Hilden Mill was formerly home to the Barbour Thread factory which had occupied the site since 1823, employing around 2,000 local people at its peak. In the early 1900s it was the largest producer of linen thread in the world, but closed in 2006 as a result of global competition. Seen here from a hilltop in Tullynacross at sunset.

There was disappointment this week at the news at one of Lisburn’s most iconic landmarks, Hilden Mill, has gone back on the market again.

Hilden Mill, which has been empty for almost a decade since Barbour Threads closed in 2006, had been earmarked for a multi-million pound regeneration scheme by Clanmil Housing Association.

Clanmil had signed an option agreement with NAMA for the purchase of the site, with plans to create 600 homes, as well as recreation and retail opportunities.

Clanmil said it made an unsuccessful offer for the site before the option deal expired.

The association added that it was “extremely disappointed that, despite all our efforts, we have as yet been unable to find a viable way forward that would allow us to progress with the development of this site”.

However, Clanmil have said they have not given up on the scheme. “We continue to believe that Hilden Mill could be a great place to live and work, and are keen to explore options with potential partners to take this project forward.”

David McNellis, Director of the Agency Department at Lisney, joint selling agents, said there were extecting strong interest in the site now that it is back on the market.

“Hilden Mill is an iconic local landmark with the potential to become one of the biggest mixed-use development projects in Northern Ireland,” he said. “It’s not very often a site of this size and scale comes to the market and we are expecting major interest from throughout Britain and Ireland.”

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was disappointed that Clanmil Housing Association were “unable to proceed with their ambitious plans for the site.”

He added: “I want to see a mixed use development for this site that will provide affordable homes for first time buyers and some social housing to ease the pressure on waiting lists in the Lisburn area. There is also great scope for providing accommodation at the upper end of the market with the proximity of the site to the Lagan and the proposed redevelopment of the Lagan Canal. There is a need to ensure a coordinated approach to the development of the Hilden Mill site with adequate respect shown for the built heritage of this former industrial powerhouse.”

Lisburn Deputy Mayor, Councillor Alexander Redpath said the cost of decontaminating the site was a major obstacle. “Clanmil had an excellent proposal but sadly the challenges facing the development were too great,” he continued. “I very much hope that this site can attract a buyer who will develop it as soon as possible. At present the Mill is the site of ongoing anti-social behaviour and it would be a relief for local residents if it could be put to a useful purpose.”

Councillor Jenny Palmer also expressed disappointment that the project has stalled. “I am hugely disappointed that Hilden Mill site is back on the market and that the hoped for housing regeneration scheme has not been successful in delivering the much needed housing for the locality. I hope whoever buys it recognises the need for mixed housing within the regeneration scheme.”

Councillor Stephen Martin said that Hilden Mill going back on the market is a wake up call to all involved in the potential regeneration of the landmark site. “There is a need for Minister Mervyn Storey to make the Hilden Mill project a priority for his Department otherwise we run the risk of the project not getting off the ground,” he said. “I am still hopeful this can get over the finish line but it really needs to go right to the top of everyone’s to-do lists.”