Cllr Sarah Bogle & Dave Shields outside Solent Flour Mills
Cllr Sarah Bogle & Dave Shields outside Solent Flour Mills

Stop ABP demolishing Solent Flour Mills – let’s find alternatives

Built in 1934 by Joseph Rank (found of Rank Hovis McDougall), Solent Flour Mills was the first building constructed on the reclaimed land now known as the Western Docks. It ceased operating as a mill in 2018 and has since lain vacant. It provides a key link with our industrial past and continues to dominate the skyline, visible from across the city as a landmark building, that was locally listed in 2009 but not nationally listed.

Now ABP, as they look to expand their operations further, are seeking to demolish this building and have submitted a planning application to that effect (published 22/01/20).

Cllr Sarah Bogle, Heritage champion for the Council says “we need to work with ABP to find alternative solutions to demolition, bring other partners in and instead of losing a much-loved part of our heritage, find a new purpose for the building that benefits both the city and the port. There are many options that could be used by cruise passengers and visitors (hotel, heritage display, viewing platform) or local education and business including space for the tech sector or perhaps a base for the Universities. This will also impact on plans for the new and soon to be master-planned ‘Mayflower Quarter’ and overall long-term plans for the city as we start consultation on our Local Plan which will determine how the city might look and feel over the next few decades.

Southampton has ambitions, to grow sustainably and tackle the urgent issue of climate change, and we have started to make some progress in that area with the port as a key partner.
We also have ambitions for our city that are built into our decision to bid for City of Culture 2025. We want ABP to be part of that journey.
ABP and the port are part of our city, the land is private and strictly speaking ABP can do what they want in the port, but their decisions affect everyone in this city, and we need to hold them to account as well as find ways to work together for mutual benefit.”

Cllr Dave Shields, one of the local ward councillors (the building is in Freemantle ward) commented “it would be a great shame to lose this iconic building; even if we could retain at least part of it and find a new use that would be preferable than complete demolition. I would like to see the port’s plans and explore what different options to full demolition there could be.”

I will object in the first instance, and I urge people to write to ABP, Ocean Gate, Atlantic Way, Eastern Docks, Southampton SO14 3QN or comment on the Southampton Planning portal:

Enter the Application number; 20/00065/DPA

A link to the planning application is here:


Proposed Demolition by ABP of Solent Mills, Solent Road

On 22 January 2020 Southampton City Council published an application for prior notification for the proposed demolition by ABP of the Solent Flour Mills. The planning application has been submitted for determination under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The proposed demolition of these non-listed buildings outside of a designated conservation area is ‘permitted development’ under Part 11 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.

This means that the demolition works can be undertaken without the need for planning permission. The purpose of the planning application, therefore, is to gain the Council’s approval for the method of demolition works proposed. It also provides details of how the land will be left following demolition.

Valid comments will be taken into account in determining this application and these can be submitted through the City Council’s Public Access Webpage or to by 12 February 2020.

Associated British Ports (ABP) is proposing to optimise the amount of ground level storage within the Western Docks by demolishing the redundant Solent

Flour Mill buildings, located adjacent to Dock Gate 10 in the Western Docks, Port of Southampton. The site of the proposed demolition works is approximately 3.1 hectares and within the freehold ownership of Associated British Ports (ABP).

ABP proposes to commence demolition on 23 March 2020 and to have completed the works by 19 February 2021

Justification for Demolition

 Activity at the Port has increased significantly over recent years. Demand for port land is significant and ABP is increasingly finding it difficult to accommodate the demands of customers because of the constraints imposed by a finite amount of land within the port estate.

Provision for storage of trade automotive and equipment cargo within the port estate in particular is currently sub-optimal as is that for cruise parking and support activities.

This is particularly the case in the Western Docks where ABP is currently taking forward proposals for the construction and operation of a further cruise terminal on a site located immediately to the south of the Flour Mills site.

The site of the proposed cruise terminal is currently used for a large proportion of the time for the storage and handling of trade cars and equipment, as well as being used for cruise related-operations.

The Solent Flour Mills facility ceased operations in February 2019 because continued milling operations were not viable at the facility. The permits required for the operation have been revoked and some plant and machinery has now been moved from the building. Given the specialist nature of the activity that took place within the facility, re-purposing the building is not financially viable or feasible.

It is, therefore, proposed to demolish the existing structures to enable the site to be used more effectively to support existing port operations.

Description of the Current Buildings to be demolished

 A ferro-concrete storage silo stands near the middle of the site. The south elevation is faced in brick with ribbed detailing; the original north and east elevations have been re-clad. The top of the original silo has concrete detailing to the squat corner towers and there are various phases of painted lettering beneath the parapet.

The elevations are largely blind; there are small windows running up some of the corner towers although most have been painted over. Along the top of the silo are a row of round windows. The original west elevation is obscured by a 1940s extension built in a similar style and a larger late 20th Century extension with a more utilitarian design.

Attached to the south-east corner of the silo is a 1930s two-bay, six-storey former receiving house; the original circular chimney stack and the gantry which connected the house to the dock walls have been removed.

Also attached to east side of the silo is what is believed to be part of former

1930s six-storey roller mill building with pitched roof. It has lost the concrete Art Deco style towers which were similar to the silo. The brick parapet has also been partially rebuilt resulting in the loss of most of the windows at this level; the current roof also appears to be a later replacement with a shallower pitch than the original structure.

The 1950s multi-storey ranges to the north and east are multi-window concrete and brick structures. There is also a late 20th Century large pitch roof, single-storey distribution building added to the west side of the silo, and further later buildings and infill across the site. (Ref Heritage England 2019)


Proposed Demolition Methods

Heras fencing will be used to surround each site to prevent unauthorised access. The adjacent footway will be closed and pedestrians diverted onto the opposite side of Solent Road.

All works traffic will enter and depart the site via Dock Gate 10 onto Solent Road. The site is located adjacent to the Port’s private road network and operated under Highways best practice. Works traffic will not be permitted to queue along the main port arterial road and will be marshalled onto the site to avoid delays to other Port customers.

The building will be stripped internally of all fixtures, fittings and general materials. Materials will be stockpiled outside the building and then cleared for segregation with a 360o excavator fitted with a grapple attachment. To minimise manual handling drop zones will be formed and the arisings will be dropped down to ground level where the excavator will segregate waste.

Skips will be placed as close as possible to the area of works and fenced off during this process. All debris will be removed on a regular basis for disposal.

An asbestos survey will be carried out in accordance with HSG264. Works will be carried in accordance with the Control of Asbestos at Regulations 2012.

Once the building has been soft stripped, and any asbestos removed, structural demolition will commence. Appropriate machinery will remove external cladding to expose the structural frame. Once exposed a shear attachment will be engaged to cut down the steel frame. Sections will be lowered to ground floor level for stockpiling and recycling.

The demolition works will be sequenced working predominantly west-to-east and then south-to-north. As demolition reaches the northern elevation, mechanical machine work will be utilised.

Once a significant amount of ground bearing slab has been exposed, machines fitted with impact hammers and buckets will begin to remove the slab and foundations by breaking them up into moveable sections. Machines fitted with pulverisers will process arisings further to separate concrete from reinforcing bar and load away respective materials.

Throughout demolition, noise will be kept to a minimum in various ways including:

  • use of correct plant for specific tasks
  • correct and regular maintenance of plant using ‘quietest’ method
  • leaving part of external envelope of the building intact whilst removing materials to minimise noise outside the immediate area of the Works
  • this will be determined by structural stability of the building as demolition proceeds
  • ensuring works are carried out between 0800 – 1800 weekdays and 0800 – 1300 on Saturdays.

Dust will be controlled by means of dampening down using water supplies around the site. Gullies will be protected by filter rolls and/or pads that will be checked regularly for effectiveness.

In accordance with The Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, the waste hierarchy will be applied to waste streams to efficiently manage waste produced. As indicated above, there will be a mix of demolition waste created.

It is ABP’s intention to recycle as much of this material as possible.

It is intended that use will be made of an existing operational concrete crushing and demolition waste recycling facility – operated by K B Crushers – located on a site to the rear of the Container Terminal within the Port estate.

The volume of waste is anticipated to be approximately 78,815 tonnes of material comprising:

  1. masonry – approximately 20,670 tonnes
  2. steel – approximately 3,621 tonnes
  3. concrete – approximately 53,791 tonnes
  4. timber – approximately 733 tonnes

In addition, there is estimated to be approximately 5,025 tonnes of steel within the plant and equipment within the building.

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