Plans to revive Mill of Benholm given the green light
Trustees of the Mill of Benholm Enterprise had applied to Aberdeenshire Council to take over the A-listed former water-powered meal mill.
The group aim to restore the historic building and re-open it as a community hub as well as a heritage and visitor attraction.
It is believed that there has been a mill on the site going as far back as the 12th Century, however this particular structure dates back to 1817.
Oatmeal was produced on the site for hundreds of years until it eventually stopped in 1982.
The enterprise’s vision would see the site used for weddings, art exhibitions and other events held in partnership with the Johnshaven Heritage Hub and Benholm Kirk.
Meanwhile, glamping pods could be set up on the grounds to allow visitors to stay overnight.
Looking to the future, workshops and skills training would be offered by partner organisations, while new facilities would be created to enhance the offering for tourists.
The group is also working to link the site to the existing path network at the nearby Mill Brae Woods.
They say their plan to gradually restore the site will provide a sustainable long-term solution for both themselves and the Mill.
And it is hoped the proposal will safeguard the historic site for “generations to come”.
Councillors of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee granted the group’s application to purchase the site for £1 last week.
Trustee Henning Wagner said it had been a “long journey” but hailed the outcome as a “great day” for the group.
He added: “Everyone agrees that it’s a fantastic site and it’s about time that something is getting done with it and it’s brought back to its old glory. The councillors were very supportive and gave us a few encouraging words.
“It was clear that both councillors and Aberdeenshire Council officers are keen to work together with us. If we all work together it can become a success.”
The Mill of Benholm was previously purchased by Kincardine and Deeside Council back in 1986.
It received an extensive restoration during the 1990s and previously operated as a community facility and visitor attraction, however it was closed in 2014.
A number of options have been looked at to re-open the site to visitors once again but all of them have never come to fruition.
The Mill of Benholm Enterprise has already been working hard to ensure the site doesn’t fall into further deterioration.
The group managed to hire a specialist firm to clear overgrowth in the pond.
Thanks to discussions with Aberdeenshire Council, the enterprise also managed to reopen the toilets purely for use by trustees, volunteers and contractors while on site.
Now that the asset transfer has been approved, the trustees plan to carry out work on the Mill site in two phases.
The first steps would see immediate repairs to the buildings carried out to ensure the site is safe to open up to the public.
Work would also be undertaken on the water structures, including the historic mill wheel, to prevent any risk of it being lost.
Once this is done, trustees hope to get the wheel moving again so the site can be used for demonstrations and educational purposes.
Meanwhile, the former grain store would have a new lease of life as a space for learning, meetings, training and workshops.
It is estimated that the first phase of work could cost around £189,000.
The enterprise will generate money for the site by hosting events such as car boot sales and charging camper vans for overnight stays in the car park.
Cash could also be collected through a mobile catering van and hosting events in the courtyard.
The group have already applied for money through various funding schemes including the Levelling Up Community Ownership Fund and UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Subject to funding, the first phase of works could take up to three years to complete.
Under phase two, restoration work on the buildings would continue along with various enhancements on the site.
This would include installing electrical charging points for cars, facilities for overnight camper vans, and renewable energy sources such as solar panels.
A cafe would be created along with indoor and outdoor spaces that would be let out for events.
The Mill of Benholm Enterprise has held talks with local schools as well as the Scouts and Guides on potential use of the site and buildings.
Also aim to reach out to VisitAberdeenshire and the Scottish Community Tourism Organisation to promote the historic site as a visitor destination.
Council officers had backed the proposal as they believed the group had “the drive and determination to succeed”.