A ROW over the long-term future of Barnsley’s oldest in-use building - which led its owner to condemn the actions of the council for failing to ‘see its historic importance’ - has led the local authority’s leader to issue a response.

The Mill of the Black Monks, on Grange Lane, now operates as a restaurant but was built to house the Cluniac monks in roughly 1150AD, to service the adjacent Monk Bretton Priory.

Owner and architect, Malcolm Lister, has been campaigning for the mill to gain the prestigious Grade II* status due to its historic significance, and has also restarted a campaign to reunite the building with Monk Bretton Priory through a Cluniac tourism trail.

However, he has blasted the council’s alleged lack of support in his quest - claiming leaders have ‘refused’ to meet regarding his plans.

Sir Steve Houghton, leader of the council, defended the local authority’s stance - and revealed meetings have taken place between regeneration and culture department officers regarding the venue but its private ownership has been a stumbling block.

He said: “The Mill of the Black Monks is part of a wider area of significant heritage interest in Monk Bretton, which also includes Monk Bretton Priory.

“Barnsley Council fully recognises the importance of the Monk Bretton Priory site, and the surrounding area, both to the residents of the borough and visitors to Barnsley.

“As a Grade I-listed building that sits on the National Heritage List for England, it is a unique heritage asset for the borough and part of Cluniac monastic history.

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“We want to ensure that the site is appropriately preserved and provides benefits for the people of Barnsley and visitors from further afield.”

The Chronicle revealed plans to boost tourism at the historic site, believed to be one of the best-preserved examples of Cluniac architecture in Europe, which will result in a bid for UNESCO-approved status being launched.

“The Mill of the Black Monks, also in the area, is an important historic building, and has strong links with the main priory site,” Sir Steve added.

“However, it is in private commercial ownership - Historic England guidelines state clearly that it is the responsibility of the owner, rather than the council, to apply for and secure a Grade II* status for the building.

“It is English Heritage who will lead any consultation process about the listing for Mill of the Black Monks and the Priory site, but the council’s views will be sought - this is the standard process for any upgrade in listings.

“We have consistently recommended that the responsibility for an application for an upgraded listing sits with Mr Lister.

“There is no more that the council can do - he just needs to act on the good advice which has been offered to his business.

“I am happy for officers of the council to meet with Mr Lister regarding the potential for the site, but if he wants myself or Dan Jarvis MP to change the position as outlined, then unfortunately that is not possible as has been made clear previously.”