An 18th Century corn mill should be sold to a community group rather than auctioned, campaigners have said.
King’s Mill in Wrexham stopped working in 1940, was officially opened as a visitors centre in 1991 by Princess Diana but has stood empty since 2013.
Melin y Brenin Community Group claimed Wrexham council had “ignored” its attempts to acquire the building.
But the council said an auction was “the best opportunity” to bring the mill “back into productive use”.
The community group’s chairperson Phil Phillips said the group was informed of the council’s intention to sell the freehold on the mill last November and offered to pay £10,000 for the building and also cover the costs of upgrading it.
“We heard nothing until January, when we asked them what’s going on here and suddenly it went to auction – it went to auction without telling us as an interested party,” he said.
The building has a guide price of £165,000 and is due to go under the hammer on 24 March, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported.
More than 1,000 people have now signed an online petition calling for the auction to be stopped and for the mill to be put in the hands of the community.
Mr Price said the mill was “very important” in an area that “drove the industrial revolution”.
He said since about 2018 the group had been in discussions with the council about acquiring or leasing the site to transform it into a centre for locals and tourists.
“For three years we’ve virtually been ignored,” said Mr Phillips.
“We’ve got a business plan in place, which the council asked us for, we’ve got the support of the community and we’ve also got together a team of specialists and volunteers, and [the] time and money of sponsors, to make sure this is a working project.
“But sadly we’ve not had any co-operation from a council that says it wants to get rid of it.”
A covenant saying the mill must be used as a public amenity – in place since the council acquired the property from the Erddig estate – still applies.
In a statement, Wrexham Council said the group “was consulted, and a decision was taken that the best way forward was to offer this building for sale”.
It said the auction “offers the best opportunity for a group or individual to acquire the building, invest in the building and to bring it back into productive use”.
“It must be stressed that the covenant on the building is not being ignored, and the building is being sold with the covenant in place,” it added.