Business Funding Success Stories

Anchor Mills, Paisley


The Domestic Finishing Mill at Anchor Mill, Paisley, is a landmark building which dates back to the towns rich textile heritage. The five storey, Category A listed Mill occupies a prominent position at the heart of Paisley town centre and has a deep rooted link with the social, economic and cultural development of the town and its people. The Council has recently led a £12M project to redevelop the Mill for a mix of residential and business uses, marking a significant step in the regeneration of the town.


Production at the Mill ceased over 20 years ago and became increasingly derelict until the Council laid the foundations for saving the building. Following negotiations with foodstore retailer Safeway, planning permission was granted for the development of a large foodstore on land adjacent to the Mill. The planning consent issued was subject to a legal agreement which required that a significant part of the value generated was used to repair and restore the Mill. Safeway purchased the property in 1997 and agreed to an endowment of £2.8M towards the restoration of the Mill. In 1999, the Council invited the Prince of Wales Phoenix Trust to participate in the project. The Trust undertook a feasibility study proposing a mixed use development of business and residential uses.

On completion of the feasibility study, the Council assisted the Trust in obtaining planning and listed building consent to convert the Mill into 60 luxury apartments on the top three floors of the building, with 2000 sq metres of business space on the first floor and parking facilities on the ground floor. The conversion also includes the restoration of the buildings internal atrium, creating a spacious internal courtyard with natural light from the glazed roof. Agreement was also reached to dispose of the business space to a local office developer who developed, owns and manages additional space within the adjacent Anchor Mills Business Centre and who has a proven track record of successful office development in Paisley.

Partnership and Funding

To enable the project to proceed the Council assisted the Trust in assembling a package of funding from both the public and private sectors. The package included the £2.8M contributed by Safeway, amplified by the Trust using the provisions of Gift Aid in their role as a Charitable Trust. This resulted in an overall contribution of £4m negotiated through a legal agreement under Section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. The application of planning gain, through this agreement, was critical to the viability of the project. Additional funding was contributed by Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire, Historic Scotland and Persimmon Homes, with the Council also making a contribution. A Project Group consisting of all partners was set up by the Council on commencement of the project in 1999 to oversee its progress and, chaired by the Head of Planning, met on a regular basis until completion in June 2005, when the Mill was officially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Each of the partners provided financial and professional input to ensure that the building was restored to the highest standards and specifications. The Council, as lead partner, initiated the project, used the planning process to achieve significant planning gain, invited the Phoenix Trust to participate and chaired the project group. The Phoenix Trust set up the design team led by architects James F. Stephen and sourced the additional funding necessary for the project to proceed. Historic Scotland and Scottish Enterprise Renfrewshire supported the project through funding of £¾ M each, together with their professional expertise in achieving a sympathetic and workable regeneration proposal. Persimmon Homes took over ownership of the building and drew on the project funds to implement the project, through their contractor Keir.

Strategic Priorities

The project fits closely with Renfrewshire Councils strategic priorities, as set out in the Councils Corporate Statement and Community Plan. The Corporate Statement sets out a number of broad priorities which include:

  • Regenerating the local economy
  • Extending opportunities for residents
  • Ensuring a healthy and sustainable environment

The Community Plan meanwhile sets out a wider range of objectives which the Council seeks to achieve in the period between 2000 and 2010, in partnership with the public and private sector organisations within Renfrewshire. In particular the Plan seeks to promote sustainable development within the area through:

  • The promotion of urban renewal, prioritising the reuse of existing buildings
  • Reducing the amount of vacant and derelict land
  • Involving local people and ensuring that they participate in the economic, social and cultural life of the community.

The completion of the project has involved the final part of the comprehensive regeneration of the former Anchor Mills complex, reclaiming some 7 hectares of derelict brownfield land within the urban heart of Paisley. As such, the project has promoted substantial urban renewal and in particular the reuse of existing buildings to secure a long term, sustainable future for the site, including the landmark Category A listed Mill.

In addition, the project represents significant investment into Paisley town centre, supporting the town as the natural service and business centre for the wider area. Through the business space the project has created new employment opportunities and this, as well as the iconic status of the Mill building, will be fundamental in attracting new investment to the area. In occupying a central location adjacent to the town centre, the project also promotes the use of sustainable modes of transport rather than reliance on the car.

The project also provides a symbolic, visual reminder of the regeneration of the town and contributes significantly to the promotion of a healthy and sustainable neighbourhood environment.

Links to the Community

A key element of the project was to ensure that the close links between the Mill and the towns residents were maintained and celebrated. In the first instance, a large banner informing residents of the works underway was in place on the outside of the building throughout the restoration process, providing contact details for further information to be sought. Information on the restoration was also accessible on the Councils website.

A Community Arts Programme was also run during the restoration process. Known as the Common Thread project, the programme was a partnership between Renfrewshire Arts, Renfrewshire Council's Economic Development and Social Work Departments and the private sector to explore, interpret and celebrate the heritage of the Anchor Mills complex. The project involved 187 participants from local schools, local community groups, local disability groups and former Mill workers, running from November 2004 until June 2005 at a cost of £20,000.


The restoration of the Domestic Finishing Mill is a model example of an innovative partnership between the public and private sector, renewing a significant building to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of a wider area. In transforming the Mill for a high quality mixed use development, the project has created a prominent and lasting symbol of the continuing regeneration of the town and a sign of renewed confidence felt by its residents.

The project also serves as a model example of Planning Gain, where the value of a profitable development adjacent to the Mill was recognised, quantified and utilised through the appropriate legal agreements to secure funding for an outstanding exemplar of high quality development on the ground.

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