Somerset Council are threatening to initiate a compulsory purchase of Tonedale Mill from a property development firm, after the company failed to fully obey legal notices to make repairs.

The 18th century mill is a grade II listed building at the heart of Wellington's heritage as a textile manufacturer. Some of the extensive complex, located off Milverton Road, now houses Fox Brothers & Co, Brazier Coffee and a number of other local businesses.

But concerns have been raised over a large part of the historic factory, which is owned by property developers Mancraft Ltd, remains vacant, and has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The firm had previously outlined plans to convert the site into 220 new homes for the town - a bid which followed failed efforts by former site owners Kenmore Hydon One Ltd and Courtleigh Securities.

However, the new homes plan shows few signs of coming to fruition, while the site, much of which is exposed to the elements, continues to deteriorate.

Somerset Council have been in a long-running dispute with Mancraft over the firm's stewardship of the site. In August this year the local authority threatened Mancraft with prosecution if they failed to implement a number of security measures.

The row followed a spate of incidents of arson, trespass and vandalism at the site, which prompted fresh fears over the heritage asset, and resulted in Wellington Police Sgt Jon O'Connor announcing emergency services would no longer enter the mill owing to the "hazards and dangers within the site."

The dispute has rumbled on since the summer, with the council accusing Mancraft of failing to abide by a legal order to carry out urgent repair works. Council workers have stepped in to carry out repairs at the mill, and billed the firm for the work carried out. A spokesperson for Somerset Council said Mancraft appealed the measures, but failed, and that the council are now pursuing the resulting debt.

But the situation could now be coming to a head, after Somerset Council were awarded £20 million by the government's levelling up fund to renovate the separate ToneWorks site. Contained within the bid was the facility for some of the cash to be spent on a compulsory purchase order of Tonedale Mill.

With urgent works outstanding on the site, and the council still chasing Mancraft for debts over their previous interventions, Somerset Council are now considering their 'last resort' option of compelling Mancraft to sell the site.

A spokesperson for Somerset Council said: "A compulsory purchase order (CPO) is always a last resort. We will continue to work with the current owner of the site to begin the most urgent works and work through the other priorities for the most at risk elements of the site.

"Should a CPO be necessary, we have laid the groundwork within the Council to proceed but would always prefer to reach a negotiated solution as this saves all parties time and money that could be invested in the buildings and infrastructure."

The council has expressed optimism about seeing short-term improvements at the site, ahead of any long-term solution which may be arrived at. They said: "At Tonedale Mill, we hope some urgent works to temporarily roof some of the key buildings on site will happen within the next three months (subject to weather), whilst a longer term strategy for the site is agreed. We have been working with the owner on the design and health and safety methodology for these works over the last few months.

"We only have until March 2026 to spend the funds, which is less time than we had envisaged when submitting the bid in 2022. We need to ensure our plans make the absolute most of the Levelling Up funds but are deliverable within the timeframe, and make the most of the excellent relationships we have with Wellington Town Council, Historic England, South West Heritage Trust and many others to find permanent solutions to these nationally significant heritage assets."

Mancraft Ltd could not be reached for comment.