£250,000 32-year labour of love for builder who bought 'wreck'
THE owner of a windmill has told for the first time of the 32-year battle to try to keep the local landmark standing.
Mel Richardson, bought the Cat and Fiddle Windmill, a grade one listed building, in 1980 and has faced huge costs keeping the building in working order.
Mr Richardson, who runs building and engineering firm Ilkeston Contractors Ltd, said: "When I took it over, it was a wreck. When I show people pictures of what it was like they can't believe it.
"I have totally refurbished it and, over the years, I have spent about £250,000 in maintaining it. It has had 64 coats of creosote and I have replaced the sails three times."
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Two years ago, the windmill, between Spondon and Ilkeston, became the source of speculation after all four of its sails were taken down.
Mr Richardson said: "One of the sails fell off because it had become rotten and it damaged another on the way down. I was forced to take them all down for health and safety reasons."
But, after calls to Erewash Borough Council by concerned locals, the authority issued an enforcement notice, ordering the "reinstatement of the sails" because the mill is on a national list of important buildings.
Mr Richardson said: "I couldn't believe it. I spoke to them saying that I would be able to put them back up in two years' time but seemingly that wasn't enough.
"After six months, they issued the enforcement notice.
"Two years was a reasonable time for me to put the sails back on as each one has to be handmade and costs £10,000 each."
Mr Richardson started preparing a case to fight the notice. But, before it could go to court, the council dropped the notice and paid Mr Richardson's legal fees in full, a total of £4,000.
The Eastwood-born builder said: "I love this building and want people to realise that. They come flying past here at 50mph, see the sails off and don't know what's going on."
And there are plans to hold regular open days at the mill, which closed in 1952, so members of the public can learn more about it.
The 73-year-old said: "We had a Macmillan coffee morning recently so people could see the mill and we are hoping to do more of these.
"I want to retire soon but I am sure that my two sons, Guy and Tony, who have helped a huge amount with the building, will take it on.
"And I have to thank our friend, David Dennis, who has given his time for no payment at all."