ANGRY Johnstone residents say more should have been done to save one of the “few reminders” of the town’s historic past.

As reported in The Gazette, the famous Paton’s Mill – built in 1872 and thought to be the oldest machine factory in the world – is to make way for a housing and retail development billed as a key gateway to Johnstone.

But with demolition now well under way at the A-listed former textile mill on the banks of the Black Cart River – which was virtually destroyed by fire in 2013 – some people have hit out at Renfrewshire Council chiefs for “allowing” the iconic structure to be razed to the ground, virtually without a trace.

Kenny Nicholson said: “It is a total disgrace.

“Why was the mill not better looked after and why did Renfrewshire Council not seek protected status, given it was the first and oldest of its kind?”

Built in 1782 by the Corse and Burns Company, production at the famous bootlace factory ended in 2004 when Paton’s moved its operation to a nearby business park.

The site was a frequent target for vandals, ultimately resulting to the devastating fire in 2013 which led to the site being delisted by Historic Scotland.

Developers Barratt Homes have now brought in bulldozers to clear the abandoned site, with the area is set to be completely clear by the end of the month.

Only the porter’s lodge and the generator house will be retained.

However, a number of Johnstone residents, including many who have strong ties to the mill, insist the historic factory deserved to be protected after production ceased, in an effort to preserve Johnstone’s heritage.

Wendy McNaught said: “There were many incidents of wilful fireraising before the fatal one.

“More should have been done to secure the site and to catch the perpetrators before the buildings were damaged beyond repair. The site could have been saved and incorporated into the new development.

“How many local youngsters know how important Johnstone was in the past in terms of engineering and the mills?

“There is very little left as a reminder of Johnstone’s historical past, which is such a shame.”

The council, however, said it invested significantly in the site’s security and restoration proposals involving the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, despite private ownership, and said it would be open to any future attempts to celebrate the site’s history.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately, a fire caused by local youths caused significant and irrecoverable damage to the majority of the building, which led to it being de-listed by Historic Environment Scotland.

“The site was subsequently purchased by a Glasgow-based property company who have brought forward a retail-led proposal which was approved in January.

“This proposal will hopefully enhance the appearance of this key gateway into Johnstone town centre and will provide opportunities to acknowledge the history of the site, as well as its connection to the adjoining community and greenspaces.

“The loss of Paton’s Mill is deeply regrettable and we remain committed to both the heritage-led regeneration of Renfrewshire and commemorating iconic landmarks but, ultimately, the guardianship and care for all buildings remains with the owners.

“However, we would be happy to consider any community-led proposals to celebrate its local history.”