Mill Forge owner slams ‘Bentwood’

Bestwood Village meeting.
Bestwood Village meeting.

A bid to convert an historic mill in Bestwood Village into a hostel for ex-offenders has been withdrawn following an outcry from local people.

Residents say the owner of Forge Mill flouted regulations and started work to rennovate the Grade II listed Forge Mill on Mill Lane.

But on Monday, Oxfordshire-based Mike Pepper, of Ltd, who bought the mill in 2012, withdrew two applications for residential accommodation.

Ken Carr, of Millbank Place Residents’ Group, said: “I think we would consider its just one battle won. We are expecting more battles, I wonder what his next application and use of the Mill will be for. Our biggest fear is not knowing what is coming as Mr Pepper has not been upfront about his plans for the site or consulted residents.”

Mr Pepper bought the mill in 2012, and submitted the application to ‘create a residential training facility incorporating first floor workshop and overnight residential accommodation, with a cafe and worship area, as well as a manager’s apartment and offices’.

He said the office space would be used by two to four staff in his oil exploration business. A ground-floor café would be open to the public, while a second floor apartment and attic bedrooms would be used by ‘work colleagues, Christians and visitors as and when it is required’.

His charity OPTIM, which works with ex-offenders, would also be based at the mill.

In a statement sent before he withdrew the application he said: “The concern of Bentwood Village (sic) seems focused on my work with OPTIM, which stands for Onesimus Philemon Trust.”

He said that tools and materials worth £2,000 had been stolen from the mill, and added: “By contrast an ex-offender, who has found Christ, helps me with the refurbishment of Forge Mill. He has proved to be very reliable. Interestingly when he makes mistakes he has been quick to let me know and apologise for the situation. I forgive him because I also make mistakes and need to be forgiven, and Christ forgives us too.

“Most ex-offenders return to their hometown, OPTIM aims to help this reintegration process, however they can also benefit from coaching and life skills training.”

He added: “As to the timing of the completion of the works, all I can say is that so far we have been working on this project for over two years, the only complaints I have heard about have been in the last two months.”