Borough council looks to spend extra £900k on Northampton abbey restoration to attract tourists

The total cost of the Delapre Abbey restoration could be close to �7.2 million after the council decided to upgrade the plans.
The total cost of the Delapre Abbey restoration could be close to �7.2 million after the council decided to upgrade the plans.

A major restoration project at Delapre Abbey could cost Northampton Borough Council £920,000 more than expected after it decided to upgrade the current plans.

Work began in the grounds of the ancient abbey just over a year ago as part of a bid to make the site into a “first-class heritage attraction.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) pledged £3.65 million to the project, which was rounded up to £6.3 million by Northampton Borough Council and other sources.

However the council now says the original proposals for the “south range” of the ruins - which would have cost £50,000 - will not make the most of its “architectural features.”

The borough’s cabinet will decide on Wednesday whether to now spend £624,000 on the south range, which will eventually become meeting rooms.

The refurbishment of the 18th Century stable block and coach house, recently home to the tea rooms, will also cost £113,000 more than expected.

All-in-all the cabinet is being asked to approve £934,000 of additional monies to the project, which it could claw back in part from the Heritage Lottery Fund at a later date.

Cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Tim Hadland said: “We hope to increase the specification of the south range restoration in order to make the most of its architectural and decorative features.

“This will help make Delapre a sustainable, long-term asset, which will be attractive to tourists as well as those organising conferences and weddings.

“The original specification would have been sufficient to bring the building back into use, but would not have enabled us to showcase everything it has to offer.

“This includes a fully-refurbished billiard room interior – which will become a café – a beautiful library, a drawing room with a stunning painted ceiling and gilded covings, and the dining room with its ornate wall frames and ceiling.”

He said the council remains in discussion with the heritage Lottery Fund regarding additional funding, but is asking cabinet to approve the funding, to avoid “holding the project up in the interim.”

A paper to the cabinet meeting at the Guildhall on Wednesday drawn up by consultant project manager Darowen Jones, states: “Cabinet should be comforted that the restoration works are uncovering the rich heritage of Delapre Abbey and that this will be celebrated via interpretation once open to visitors.”