A HUDDERSFIELD mill owner has defended his right to carry out work on the mill race at Armitage Bridge.
Mark Brooke, director of Brooke’s Mill, says all of the dredging and other work on the site is normal maintenance which has taken place approximately every 30 years over the last century and was last done in the 1980s.
Mr Brooke said: “We have to restore the banks, de-silt the mill race and repair the sluice gates. We have not done any new work at all here, it is all general maintenance.
“If the mill race was closed down and all the water went down the river, I think there would be a greater risk of residents’ houses flooding.”
Local home owners complained to Kirklees Council about the work, which began this autumn, and the council insisted the work was stopped.
The residents said they were concerned the work would lead to much more water being diverted into the mill race from the River Holme, which could threaten to flood their homes.
They also claimed hundreds of tons of mud and silt had been dumped on fields.
But Mr Brooke says his family has extracted water from the River Holme since 1830 and had no plans to increase the amount of water being diverted to the mill race, which is a channel of a stream.
He also said that in the New Year, the silted fields would be ploughed and re-seeded, leaving them looking better than before.
Work has temporarily ground to a halt, following the issue of a Planning Contravention Notice by Kirklees Council.
Mr Brooke has written to the council, stating: “As part of our continuing mill restoration, we have the right to carry out maintenance work on our facilities without planning permission.
“It is nonsense to say that “significant engineering operations” have been carried out. You are seeking to imply that new works have been carried out and this is patently not true. All the works are repair and maintenance work to existing old facilities.”
Mr Brooke told the Examiner: “We are not diverting any more water from the River Holme than we have done over the last century.
“There is a set width and height to the mill race and we are not able to take any more water, it is a finite volume.
“The sluice gates are being repaired and improved and are exactly the same size and will fit in the same grooves as before.”
Mr Brooke said that a few saplings had been taken down for access, but added: “We have thousands of trees in our ownership and they are very important to us. We have left the specimen and standard trees.
“We value our trees tremendously, they are improving our environment and are a resource for us and everybody else. The reason we carried out works in November was that we did not want to disturb nesting birds.”
Water from the mill race currently powers turbines which generate 20% of the electricity at Brooke’s Mill. Mr Brooke, who owns some 18 acres of fields and 40 acres of woodland at the Armitage Bridge site, is considering whether to replace them with more efficient turbines, but this would not affect the size of the mill race.
He is currently awaiting a response from Kirklees Council.