Historic mill site is put on sale 'to gauge interest'
One of Northern Ireland's most significant development sites in has been put on the open market.
Historic Hilden Mill just outside Lisburn incorporates more than 24 acres and a number of listed historic buildings, as well as woodland and grassland.
There have been a number of proposals for the site, including a plan by Clanmil Housing Association to develop hundreds of social homes.
One of the buildings, the Barbour Threads Mill, was damaged by fire earlier this year.
The current asking price for the site has not been disclosed.
David McNelis, joint selling agent with London-based Allsop, said the firm wanted to gauge interest.
"We are taking it to the market to assess the appetite, and then we'll take it from there," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It's a fairly significant piece of property."
He said he would not be disclosing the price at this point, but added the site could become a combination of a residential and commercial development.
"It had been acquired at the peak of the market for a residential scheme. There was planning permission for 600 apartments on the site but the planning permission has since lapsed," he said.
He said the plot included its main core and then a "tail" down to the river, and an island between the Lagan and the disused Lagan Canal.
Deliveries such as coal would have been landed on the island and then transported across a bridge to the main site.
He said interest could come from Britain or the Republic, and that some interest had already been expressed. "It's a lot bigger than the usual residential site which comes onto the market - there are 25 acres to play with."
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed movement on the site, which he said had been held up for several years.
"It is a very attractive site and has a lot of potential in terms of residential, and also it could be in terms of its historical value," he said. "The council is currently restoring the old towpath on the section of the river at the site."
Mr Donaldson said he would like to see a development plan that was sympathetic to the historic value of the buildings, and would also prefer to see affordable homes for first-time buyers and social housing included in any future plans.