One of the last remaining parts of Otley’s former Garnett’s paper mill is to be demolished.

Most of the mill properties were cleared last year to make way for the 194-home Garnett Wharfe development.

But the mill owner’s cottage and part of the main mill, both facing onto the River Wharfe, were meant to be retained as part of the conditions of the planning permission.

Now David Wilson Homes says the mill property has become unsound and wants to demolish it as part of its bid to create a visitor centre and nine flats.

That has angered some Otley residents, however, who see it as a sad end for a site so important to the town’s industrial heritage.

One, who asked not to be named, said: “This mill is in the conservation area and the site has been in use as a mill of one sort or another for more than 800 years, until the recent recession.

“When Garnett’s closed the buildings were fine – robust enough to withstand mill use.

“The historic site deserves better than what is proposed. It is an ancient building. What is left should be conserved.

“The developer must already be making a huge profit out of the site. Not content with demolishing the chimney – the disused chimney stack was knocked down due to health and safety concerns – they now want to demolish the rest of the mill.

“The developer or Leeds City Council should be required to get a conservation-accredited engineer to inspect and report fairly on the structure.

“Otley is losing far too much of its vernacular built heritage, and succumbing to urbanisation by stealth.”

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), however, is satisfied the developers are doing the right thing.

He said: “I initially had concerns about the demolition of the building and have been to look around it. Unfortunately, over the years the previous owners have knocked the building about and I agree with the developer that it would need rebuilding to make it safe.

“The proposals are for a new stone building with the tin roof removed, and the scheme has a number of benefits for the community in that it provides an exhibition space, an extension of the riverside walkway and is linked to the proposed hydro-electric scheme and fish pass on the weir.”

A spokesman for David Wilson Homes confirmed that, while the exterior of the old mill building was set to be retained to comply with the planning permission, the property was now “unsound”.