A MAJOR attraction could become the latest victim of town hall cuts if a bid to surrender the lease is accepted.
Wyre Council is hoping to give the maintenance lease of Marsh Mill back to owners Melrose Investments who also own the retail units and offices on the site.
The authority hopes returning the mill to the private sector will ease some of the financial strain the council is facing and make more of an asset of the mill.
Part of the negotiations also include a development by Melrose Investments of 21 affordable houses on ‘surplus’ land next to the site.
Norcross councillor Ron Greenhough said although the surrender of the lease may concern mill enthusiasts he would be “keeping an eye” on developments.
He told The Gazette: “I know people are very sensitive about this but the people of Thornton can be assured I will be monitoring this situation closely.
“We have got to accept there are more than 10 years left on the council’s lease and in times of cuts sacrifices have to be made.
“If you think as a council we are responsible to the ratepayer – running a mill such as this one is a substantial cost.”
Coun Greenhough said the 18th Century mill is a listed building and therefore the fabric of it is protected.
He said: “Although visitor numbers have been modest there is visible interest by the public and the council will endeavour to assure some level of public access is maintained.
“The public are worried this mill will eventually close and that is my concern as well – but we can make a difference ourselves.
“I would like to see more volunteers giving guided tours and more school groups visiting as part of their curriculum.”
Melrose Investments portfolio manager John Ingham said negotiations with Wyre Council were in the very early stages.
He added: “There isn’t much I can say really, there are a number of aspects we need to consider before we agree to taking the repair lease back.
“The maintenance issue is something we have to discuss, anyone who takes a lease back, particularly on a building which is Grade II listed have to be fully up to speed with the condition of it and the proposals for bringing repairs up to scratch.”
Marsh Mill was built in 1794 by Ralph Slater, a Fylde millwright.
In 1957 it was sold to Thornton-Cleveleys, later Wyre Council.
Following a two-year renovation the mill’s sails turned for the first time in sixty years in 1990.
The land at Marsh Mill was sold to Melrose Investments in 2004 but the maintenance lease was leased back to the council for a period of twenty years.