The future of a historic building in Rickmansworth is in the balance after community groups were prevented from using it.

Batchworth Mill was shut due to health and safety concerns and the owners Affinity Water are reviewing the building’s future.

The Rickmansworth Waterways Trust was one of the groups that was told it cannot use the building for its education programme, which gives young children the chance to learn about what life used to be like using the canal.

The water company was forced to close it after problems were found with the structure of the building.

In an email, supporters of the trust were told “the health and safety concerns and the possible cost of remedial work, plus the possibility of Affinity Water disposing of some of their building assets meant the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust were no longer able to use the mill.”

Batchworth Mill, along with mills in Apsley, were widely considered to be some of the first paper mills to make paper using machinery.

The mill in Rickmansworth was originally a cotton mill before John Dickinson and Co. bought it in 1818.

Michael Stimpson, chairman of Rickmansworth and District Residents Association, fears it could be demolished and flats built in its place.

He said: “It would be a tragic shame if we lost such an iconic part of Rickmansworth’s history.

“I am quite happy if were to be turned into flats while retaining the existing building, in a similar way to the former Ovaltine factory in Kings Langley.

“But I would be completely against the existing building being demolished and then flats built in its place.”

Mark Saxon, from the Rickmansworth Waterways Trust, said: “We are sorry to lose the mill.

“It was a fantastic facility provided free of charge by Affinity Water for more than 20 years and we are trying to find suitable accommodation, near Batchworth Lock, which can accommodate 30 children and there is access to toilets and some area for storage.”

An Affinity Water spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have now closed the Batchworth Old Mill building to all users at our site in Rickmansworth.

“After thorough investigations of the Batchworth Old Mill, we decided to stop using this building to host events as it is no longer suitable for public use.

"It dates back to the Victorian era. Unfortunately, the building is now starting to show its age and is no longer safe to use.

"This decision was taken after investigations found defects in the structure of the building.

“The future of the building is currently under review.”