AMBITIOUS plans to rescue a South Lakes arts and heritage centre from the threat of closure won overwhelming backing at an emotional extraordinary general meeting on Saturday.

The plans will see fortunes of Farfield Mill at Sedbergh transformed, raising much-needed investment through an innovative community share offer.

The mill provides open studios for 20 weavers, craftsmen and artists, an outlet for the work of designer makers from across the North of England, galleries hosting exhibitions of regional, national and international provenance, and a heritage exhibition about the local wool industry. The mill weaves textiles on heritage looms for artisan producers in the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria.

Under the plans Farfield Mill will become a charitable community benefit society, a new kind of co-operative organisation, and issue shares in a bid to raise £365,000.

The money raised will secure the mill’s long term future through investment in a new family friendly heritage experience, utilising modern technology, in repairs and improvement to the fabric of the building, in new digital infrastructure and in paying off the mortgage in the mill.

The mill has already been pledged £100,000 in matched funding by Power to Change, leaving £265,000 to raise from community investors who will become member owners of the new society.

In a bid to engage with potential supporters it is launching a campaign titled: Let’s Share Farfield Mill.

The meeting at the mill was attended by 72 members who endorsed the plans unanimously. With proxy votes taken into account, more than 80 per cent of the total 638 membership cast their votes, with the final tally 500 for and just one against.

The motion was proposed by artist Stuart Gray who said: “Farfield Mill provides a year-round selling opportunity for work created by artists and craftspeople from all across the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.”

There was no alternative plan to converting to a Community Benefit Society and preventing the Mill’s closure, he added.

Peter Rothery, the chair of the Trust which currently runs the Mill, said: “We are delighted that the members have given our rescue plan overwhelming support.

Among those hoping Farfield Mill continues to thrive are the 12 staff, 20 craftspeople, including felt-makers, spinners, potters, jewellers and painters, who rent the studios, and the 60 other suppliers who use it as their retail outlet.

Typical is resident jeweller and silversmith Dimitris Dimitropoulos who said: “Farfield Mill is an amazing place to be able to work. Despite its remoteness it has a really good society of artists. It has a tranquillity and aura which I really like.”

Dimitris, originally from Athens, trained in Jaipur, India, and had a thriving business on Rhodes where he met Louise, from Sedbergh, whose family had been holidaying on the island for years.

They fell in love, married and had a daughter, Nicola, before moving to the UK four years ago so Louise could resume her teaching career. Dimitris still travels to India once a year to source precious stones and renew his craft.

“We need to get the message out to the rest of the world about what we do here at Farfield Mill,” he added.

The shares will be available from September 29 through Ethex on