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Approval looms for £6m garden centre, restaurant and apartments at historic Gilford Mill

The proposals, to be recommended for approval next week, could create 150 jobs during the building work alone, with a further 70 positions expected when up and running

A £6 million plan to redevelop the derelict Gilford Mill as a garden centre – as well as apartments, children’s activity centre and restaurant – are to be recommended for approval.

The proposals, in the name of mill owner, Karl Asset Management, could create 150 jobs during the building work alone, with a further 70 positions expected when up and running.

A pre-application notice emerged at the start of 2021.

And, after feedback received during that exercise, a full application was presented to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in the summer.

Now, planning officials have considered the proposals in great depth and are satisfied the scheme should be allowed to proceed.

That is the recommendation which will be presented to council’s planning committee when it sits on Wednesday.

The historic Gilford Mill historic stretches to six storeys in height and has previously been subject to proposals to restore and re-open for a variety of uses since its closure in 1986.

Gilford Mill as it looks today

The proposals are for the “conversion of and extension to vacant mill building to provide mixed use development”.

This would comprise a garden centre, restaurant, residential apartments, a rooftop garden and children’s activity area.

The proposals also include servicing, storage, parking, access and landscaping along with associated ancillary general site works.

Inside Gilford Mill as it is today

The proposed layout plan shows a 60,000 sq ft garden centre occupying the building, which includes an external covered area for selling plants and an ancillary restaurant/café on the first floor.

There would be a total of 28 apartments on the upper floors.

The submitted plans also include 34 parking spaces for residents and 269 spaces for customers.

Access remains from Dunbarton Street, where a right turn lane is proposed, as per previous approval.

According to the pre-application consultation, while the plans include only a garden centre in commercial terms at this stage, there is the “opportunity for further retail uses on the site in future phases”.

And it adds: “This the first phase of the development and the applicant is currently working on a full masterplan for the entire site including the mill pond.

“We will hold a further pre-application community consultation process for the masterplan proposals and suggestions will be taken on board during that process.”

According to the submission to council the owners feel there is a real need for the development.

It states: “The site was acquired by Karl Asset Management in March 2016 who have surveyed all buildings and carried out  urgent repairs.

“Karl Groups is a multidisciplinary property company with over 50 years’ experience in property development,  construction, electrical and mechanical contracting, and facility management.

“The group is keen to be involved in regeneration projects with some notable developments including The Weaving Works and Obel Belfast.

Plans for Gilford Mill

Plans for Gilford Mill

“The proposed planning application involves the conversion and extension of the vacant mill building to provide a mixeduse development.”

Two applications are up for approval at Wednesday’s planning meeting. One is a full application for development and the other is for listed building consent.

The recommendations will be considered by councillors who will be tasked with deciding whether or not to approve.

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