Bid to develop William Clark linen mill site approved by infrastructure minister

Some of the buildings on the William Clark site in Upperlands, Co Derry. Picture: William Clark

A BID to regenerate the site of Ireland’s oldest linen mill in Co Derry has been approved by Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon almost 13 years after the application was first made.

The heritage-led proposals include a mix of residential development, leisure and recreational uses. The plans also provide for community facilities, including a museum/exhibition space and works to listed buildings.

Turkington & Sons originally sought permission to develop the William Clark & Sons mill site in Upperlands in 2009, two years after the Portadown-based construction group acquired 86 acres from the linen company.

Founded in 1736 William Clark & Sons claims be one of the world’s oldest companies. Now owned by the Manchester-based Evans group, it still operates from Upperlands by lease agreement.

Through a subsidiary company, JHT (Upperlands) Ltd, Turkington & Sons look to have finally cleared the final planning hurdle on the Infrastructure Minister’s final day in office.

It followed a hearing at the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) in November 2021, which marked the latest chapter in the long-running planning saga.

The PAC published its independent assessment on January 27 2022, recommending that planning permission be granted for all three applications, subject to conditions.

The residential end of the scheme will see 144 new build dwellings, along with 66 new residential units, which will be created by subdividing and refurbishing some of listed buildings.

It’s understood the William Clark business will remain on site and relocate to a refurbished an extended listed building.

Nichola Mallon said the scheme represents “an economic and social boost” for the Upperlands area.

“This development secures the preservation and future of the listed buildings and the traditional industrial heritage which is in the public interest.

“The proposal as a whole will also bring significant environmental benefits including decontamination of the site, the management of the surrounding dams, river banks, woodland areas and areas of open space which will protect and enhance the ecological interests on site.

“The works to the dams are essential and of the utmost importance to enable the development to proceed and therefore the final decision will issue only when a Section 76 Planning Agreement with the applicant has been concluded.”

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