A VOLUNTARY trust that operates the award-winning Yorkshire Dales attraction Gayle Mill has been left shocked and saddened after being told to vacate the premises.

The 18th-century mill is owned by the North of England Civic Trust but has been operated by Gayle Mill Trust for more than a decade.

It has now emerged that the Civic Trust has ordered the Gayle Mill Trust out of the premises, leaving uncertainty over the mill’s future and much despair among the 40-plus volunteers that have dedicated themselves to keep it running.

William Lambert, chair of the Gayle Mill Trust, said members first became aware of the Civic Trust’s plans to terminate their occupation lease before Christmas and it had been “hanging over” those involved with the attraction.

It is understood that tension has been brewing between both trusts after Gayle Mill Trust members asserted the need for serious reparation work at the mill, despite it undergoing a £1.2m restoration in 2004 which saw it become a finalist in the BBC TV “Restoration” programme.

More recently it featured on Channel 4’s “How Britain Worked” featuring Guy Martin, but the television appearances appear to bely the reality that the building needs some serious work doing to it to ensure it is fit for the future.

The Gayle Mill Trust is not responsible for carrying out the repairs - that falls to the Civic Trust as the building’s owners - but Mr Lambert said that after the 2004 restoration it became “painfully obvious” that more work needed to be done.

He said the North of England Civic Trust said it would seek funding for the work in September, but the Gayle Mill Trust received no further information until it was issued a letter in December telling them they must vacate all their possessions from the building if they wanted to avoid court action.

Mr Lambert said: “It is a really sad story. We have given our all, we are really passionate about Gayle Mill and have done our absolute best to keep it going as best we can.”

He said the North of England Civic Trust would not meet with the group and as a result they have no idea what the future holds for the mill.

He added: "It is very bizarre and we don't understand.

"We are just bewildered."

The relevant official for the Civic Trust was unavailable for comment.