A multi-million-pound project to restore the Leigh Spinners Mill has taken a crucial step forward this week after the latest plans for the site were approved.

The Grade-II listed mill, which is the largest building in Leigh, has been granted planning permission for a new fire escape, staircase and lift by Wigan council.

The building, described as the most important late era mill in the UK, is on the Historic England Buildings at Risk Register due to problems with the fabric.

As part of the redevelopment efforts, the mill has attracted 31 tenants offering a range of services and community spaces on site including sporting activities.

But authorities found that the fire escape at the back of the building could not be used which limited the number of tenants able to occupy the mill safely.

In a written statement submitted to the planning committee, Peter Rowlinson, chair of Leigh Building Preservation Trust, said the the majority of tenants have "remained loyal", but the unusable fire escapes have to be addressed.

He said: “The works are essential to bring the building back into full productive use, creating jobs, new heritage and community facilities.”

The new fire escape will be located on the opposite side to the main entrance.

The internal staircase will be of a metal "industrial" type construction.

The escape route to main the car park will be lit by "low level" and "discrete" lighting to assist safe evacuation from the building should it be required.

A new lift to be installed would be operated in emergencies by battery which means it can be used by firefighters to evacuate people with disabilities.

The council received 11 letters of objection to the planning application.

But principal planning officer Dave Rawsthorne said many of the objections were related to the wider aspirations for the future use of the building.

He said: “The proposal is very much being driven by the fire authority rather than the preservation trust.

“They’re having to spend a considerable amount of money at a time when funding is low and they’re trying to get funding from various sources.”

The trust, which does not own the mill, has already secured £2m towards the restoration – but it has spent around half of this money on repairing the roof.

The small local charity held six public meetings attended by 699 people and claims that there have been only four objections to its ideas at the meetings.

Golborne and Lowton West councillor Gena Merrett said the decision to approve the listed building consent application was a "no-brainer".

She said: “They have to have a lift and proper fire exit staircase internally if they are going to be able to move forward and operate as a business and use this building in the future.

“We are well aware that if there are any proposals for different businesses coming into this, it would have to come back to us.

“I can’t see why there would be any objections to this whatsoever if we want to continue to use this building.”

The application was unanimously approved the planning committee on Tuesday.