Campaign to save Ripley's historic Butterley Ironworks site from redevelopment
A battle is on to save a decaying historical Derbyshire site on the cusp of a major redevelopment after years of disuse.
The derelict former Butterley Ironworks site in Ripley has been battered by anti-social behaviour, vandalism and arson in the decade it has been abandoned.
The land is littered with rubble, graffiti, broken glass and is overgrown with shrubs and weeds.
Protected buildings on site have their windows boarded up while some have been shattered, despite tall fencing, CCTV cameras and guard dog patrols.
It is a sad story for a site that was for years home to one of the UK’s most advanced engineering operations, employing thousands at its peak next to Butterley Reservoir before it closed in 2009.
Workers there were responsible for building vital iron parts for St Pancras Station and Vauxhall Bridge in London, the Falkirk Wheel canal lift, pontoons for D-Day, weapons and military equipment during WWI and WWII, and the Jubilee Bridge in Matlock Bath, along with many other bridges and parts for steam trains and ships.
There are efforts underway to save what’s left of the site’s historic heritage.
Local charity the Butterley Ironworks Trust says urgent work is needed to protect and repair the historic former blast wall and Butterley Tunnel – built for the Cromford Canal.
It has started a fundraising campaign to raise £15,000 to draw up plans on how to protect and restore these assets and to launch a ‘living museum’ on the site, showcasing its historical value.
This would make use of virtual reality technology to show the site in all its former glory.
Steve Freeborn, chairman of the trust and also a Ripley town councillor, said: “Our vision is to utilise the latest ‘virtual reality’ technologies to demonstrate the historic engineering and socio-economic importance of the site with a series of ‘experiences’ designed for all ages and interests.
"These would explore the industrial processes, the range of jobs created and the wider socio-economic impact of the birth of the industrial revolution.”
In September, Amber Valley Borough Council approved plans from local entrepreneur Tim Godkin and London firm Aquarius Estates Ltd to build 80 homes and a range of ‘offices, eateries and facilities’ on the site.
The plans include conversions of historic buildings to form wine bars, restaurants, a care home, shops, a swimming pool, soft play area, dance studio and gym.
The developers say they have no intention of altering the historic blast wall, furnace or immediate area around it – or to impact on the canal tunnel which runs underneath the site.
They intend to fund maintenance works to the heritage assets.
In total, 11 historic buildings on the site, which have remained derelict or more than a decade, would be brought back into use.
Ripley Town Council had said the site’s owners had neglected the former works to the point that £500,000 was now needed to bring the protected former blast wall back to a good condition.
Borough council planners had said: “There are significant public benefits associated with the proposed development.
"The listed buildings and structures are on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register and the public benefit of restoring them and utilising them in their most viable uses would secure the future of the significant place.”
To support the fundraiser, click here.