Heritage guardians want to hear from people about what should happen to historic buildings, like Low Mills in Keighley.
It will lead to a document, to be published in October, which will reveal how much of the area’s industrial heritage is at risk and under threat.
The English Heritage investigation is aimed at proposing possible ways forward to protect the buildings.
Low Mills, off Low Mill Lane, Keighley, is the oldest cotton mill in Yorkshire – it was set up in 1779 – and is the only cotton mill left in the county.
Neil Redfern, planning team leader with English Heritage, said it wanted to get owners, developers, local people, voluntary bodies, academics, professionals and politicians involved in debating the future of industrial heritage before it was too late.
He said: “The period from 1750 to the First World War shaped the region’s place in the world and laid the foundations of the modern age in which new forms of industry have emerged.
“But much of this industrial heritage is now at risk and the current economic climate isn’t helping. Owners are finding it hard to look after the needs of their buildings as well as their businesses.
“Developers are cautious about taking on vacant industrial buildings and public bodies and regeneration agencies are less able to support schemes for re-use.
“There are no easy answers but we’re determined to see what can be done to help. Our industrial past is too important to ignore.”
The public is being urged to visit english-heritage.org.uk/industrial-heritage-at-risk for more information and to post photographs and comment on favourite industrial buildings.
Cotton spinning began at Low Mills in 1780 and the machinery was made under the direction of Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the spinning frame and a leading entrepreneur of the Industrial Revolution.
A number of people were sent to Arkwright’s works, at Cromford, Derbyshire, to master the techniques involved.