AN ICONIC windmill visible from miles around could be bereft of its sails for the foreseeable future.
The Grade II-listed Halnaker windmill has been closed to the public since May, 2013, after a beam fell on a man inside the building following ‘alleged vandalism’, according to the county council.
Since then, it has been fenced off at a cost of more than £2,000. In recent weeks the sails were also removed for safety reasons, despite being replaced in 2011, with no news on when replacements can be expected.
Halnaker resident David Leah started chasing up West Sussex County Council last September as to why the windmill was still blocked off and said he has grown frustrated at the lack of information about what is being planned for the windmill.
“It’s iconic and it deserves a little bit more attention,” he said.
“It’s as though it fell between so many different departments and people and it’s very difficult to understand who is responsible.”
Mr Leah is calling for better communication from the county council.
“It would be nice to see something that’s been published,” he said. “If there’s a survey that’s been done surely that should be in the public realm.”
He said there needed to be a comprehensive plan for the windmill to restore it to its former glory, rather than ‘piecemeal’ changes.
For example, he cited the recent removal of the sails as an issue. He said he was still waiting to hear who authorised the new sails to be fitted to old, rotten stubs in 2011.
“I think there’s got to be some sort of comprehensive survey and some comprehensive planning instead of it all being piecemeal. It’s right that the thing is restored to how it should be and if that takes time it takes time,” he said.
West Sussex County Council has told Mr Leah the sails are being stored in a safe and secure environment for their own protection.
It has also approached Chichester District Council for permission to put a proper door on the windmill, so the fence can be removed but people cannot enter the windmill. However, there is no news on when this could take place. It would need to get planning permission as it is a listed building.
The county council has described the cost of restoration work as ‘not negligible’, saying it needs a formal business case to seek funding for the project.
Speaking to the Observer in April, a council spokeswoman said: “We appreciate that people want to know what is happening with Halnaker Mill. It has taken us some time to get the experts we needed on site to advise of the repairs that are required but this has happened now.
“The work itself is very specialist and could take some time to complete and, unfortunately, due to the nature of the repairs needed, the area has to remain fenced off for the safety of the public.
“We do sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”
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