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Gilford Mill goes back on the market

By Margaret Canning

Gilford Mill in Co Down is back on the market with renewed hopes that the site may finally be regenerated.

Plans to transform the historic 19th century mill into attractions ranging from a retail centre to a hotel and art gallery have repeatedly failed since flax spinning ended in the 1980s.

At its peak, it was one of the largest linen mills in Ireland and employed over 2,000 in the 1880s.

Its most recent owner was GML Estates, the firm which also developed The Outlet shopping destination in Banbridge. Gilford Mill was to have been a retail outlet before the company decided Banbridge had a better infrastructure for the development.

But loans on the site were packaged up by lender Ulster Bank - it's understood the loans formed part of a loan sale by the bank last year.

Now it is on sale through commercial property agents Colliers for £120,000.

Gilford residents - including historian Plunkett Campbell, who's written a book about the site - are hoping the present sale could bring a new era for Gilford Mill. "I would like to see it reopened, and so would the whole of the community," said Mr Campbell.

"Quite a few programmes have been done on the area in relation to the linen industry, and it is quite a substantial building."

New windows had even been installed in the build at the time when it was planned to turn it into a retail outlet, he explained.

And later plans to turn it into a hotel with a golfing academy were also abandoned.

Mr Campbell said his fascination with the mill dated back to his teaching career in the town, when he taught those whose parents and grandparents worked there.

"Putting it to use would be wonderful for the community and I would love to see it happen," he said.

Timothy Mayes, chairman of Gilford Residents' Group, added: "It's a magnificent building with a tremendous history."

No one from Colliers was available for comment on the sale.

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