Guernsey Press

New-look Vale Mill due to be revealed in next few months

THE new-look Vale Mill should be unveiled in the next couple of months.

Lee Jonkmans of Leadwork Elite doing the leadwork at the Vale Mill. (Pictures by Peter Frankland, 32972605/591)

By then, the 21m-tower will have been wrapped in scaffolding and hidden from public view for nearly a year.

‘We hope the scaffolding will come down early in April,’ said James Ridout, director of Wheeler Developments.

‘We had originally hoped it would be down by the end of last year, but re-pointing took a lot longer than expected because it was in such a state.

‘When the scaffolding does come down, the mill will look quite different.’

In the next few weeks, timber windows will be fitted in the lower, original section and frameless windows will go into the upper section, which was added during the Occupation.

Stainless steel to support the frameless windows was craned to the top of the mill this week – one of about two dozen crane lifts.

Concrete bands which the occupying German forces wrapped around the mill have been covered in lead, an earlier plan to seal the original bands having been scrapped because they were too degraded.

‘In this phase, which is nearing an end, we are trying to make the building habitable,’ said Mr Ridout.

‘Once the scaffolding comes down, it will basically be habitable – wind and watertight and services will be in.

‘Externally, it looks quite different now. It was a bit grey and dull, as well as damaged.

‘The re-pointed granite, lead strips, timber and frameless windows and stainless steel will make it much more crisp and quite striking.’

In 2020, planning permission was secured for an underground link from the mill to a subterranean extension at the face of the quarry next door.

However, Mr Ridout said that phase of the project would not proceed yet.

‘Once this phase is done, and the mill is habitable, we will take a pause. We need to reflect on what we’ve done and see what comes next.’

Inevitably, the multi-year project has uncovered numerous surprises. including the discovery of an unusual Nazi-era bunker under the mill with 3m-thick concrete walls and one problem after another with window designs for the top section.

‘We have been through four different designs – wood, plastic, aluminium and now frameless.

‘But this is why we wanted to do the whole project ourselves and why we wanted to do the mill itself first. That was always the unknown part of the project.

‘I have to say the planning department has been very helpful. Each time we have needed to change our approach, they have listened, advised and really worked with us.’

Mr Ridout hopes to create a book recording the development, once the canopy comes down.

‘Festung Guernsey have been very helpful about the mill’s history. Various people have come forward with information. And we have taken hundreds of photographs as we’ve gone on.’

Mr Ridout, who has continued working on other developments while overseeing the work at the mill, said he had tried to work with local contractors wherever possible. They include Paul’s Joinery, who will fit timber windows soon, Leadwork Plus, Channel Welders, Granite Le Pelley and Access Scaffolding.