SOMERSET Council has hit out at the owners of Tonedale Mill after being accused of “lacking common sense” and have said the firm which owns the site owes them hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It comes after Amar Mehli, the boss of Mancraft LTD, said he was ready to develop the site, but blamed the council for the failure of works to commence.

Speaking to the Wellington Weekly News, Somerset Council renewed their threat to issue a compulsory purchase order, saying Mancraft is £370,000 in debt for works carried out in default. In a statement, a spokesperson for Somerset Council said: “Somerset Council is currently managing £106m of ring-fenced external Government funding across six major regeneration projects, including the provisional Levelling Up funding for Wellington Tonedale. 

“This hard-won funding through the Levelling Up, Town Deal and Future High Street Funds underlines Somerset Council’s commitment to work in partnership with local communities and stakeholders to provide socio-economic outcomes, social mobility and economic inclusion opportunities for our residents.

“With specific regard to Tonedale, Mancraft Limited have owned the site since 2014 and have not made any progress with repairs during their tenure. The Grade II* listed buildings are in a worrying condition. 

“Mancraft have received significant council officer support since 2017 to progress their proposals to develop the site since, but little tangible progress has been made.

“During this time the Council has no choice but to serve several legal notices to protect these nationally important listed buildings. Whilst the most recent notice has seen some cooperation from the owner, previous notices have not been complied with. As the owners were unable or unwilling to complete the work themselves, the council was obliged to step in and complete the works in default and recharge the cost to the owner. These debts remain outstanding. 

“Mr Mehli's various companies still owe the council over £370k. The council had agreed a payment plan with Mr Mehli in 2022. However, this was not adhered to. No payments or assurance for future payments have been forthcoming and the council is now seeking to recover these debts through formal court proceedings.

“The various legal Notices that have been served do not prevent Mancraft from progressing the development of the site. While the site has a planning permission dating from 2008, Mr Mehli has been advised on several occasions that he cannot continue to develop the site until a number of planning conditions have been discharged, most importantly the submission of a flood alleviation scheme. Mr Mehli has also been advised that, because of in a change in government advice in 2020, the development must provide a phosphate solution to ensure that it is nutrient neutral.

“In order to protect the site, the council has been considering all options including voluntary change of ownership or compulsory purchase to ensure the buildings are preserved for the future. In 2020, the council served three Section 48 notices which are the precursor to compulsory purchase.”

Mancraft has been approached for comment.