Northampton Borough Council has rubberstamped a multi-million pound deal which will see iconic shoemaker Church’s buy the old First Bus depot in St James.
The deal, which was agreed by Guildhall officials tonight, will see Church’s expand its existing factory and create up to 150 jobs.
Church’s say the agreement for the site, which sits on the edge of the Waterside Enterprise Zone, will secure the future of the firm in Northampton for a generation.
Speaking at a meeting of the borough council’s cabinet, council leader David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) said: “Clearly, to have an iconic brand based in Northampton is vitally important, not only to protect jobs, but to preserve heritage.
“What we are managing to achieve is to secure Church’s within the enterprise zone, bringing about new jobs but also recognising a heritage building it will be created within.”
First and Church’s had not been able to agree terms, so to complete the deal, the borough council will buy the land from First and sell it straight back to Church’s. The authority says this should be cost-neutral.
Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston). cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The proposal is to buy the site and do a back-to-back deal with Church’s, without getting involved in what could be a long and protracted planning process were it left on the open market.”
Church’s firm plans to be on site by the middle of next year, and complete development work in two to three years.
Speaking to the Chron last week, chief executive Stephen Etheridge said: “Most of our employees live in St James and there is no opportunity to expand within our current vicinity. We fully occupy the site.
“So, without the bus station site, any development we were going to do would have had to be somewhere other than St James. In reality, we would probably have had to go out of town. So this secures us in St James, and we can grow and develop. It’s perfect for us.
“To keep jobs in Northampton and to grow in Northampton was the primary objective.”