'It's your choice whether you use the new store': Northampton community's anger over new supermarket opening on site of former local

The new Co-Op store, on the site of the former Barn Owl pub.
The new Co-Op store, on the site of the former Barn Owl pub.

A mini-supermarket on the site of a former Northampton neighbourhood's local has opened despite threats of legal action by the borough council.

Despite over 550 letters of objection from residents, developers Hawthorn Leisure sold the Barn Owl pub in Olden Road, Rectory Farm, to the Co-operative Group in 2016.

The village's family-run Premier convenience store, which has served Rectory Farm for 29 years, shares its car park with the new store.

The village's family-run Premier convenience store, which has served Rectory Farm for 29 years, shares its car park with the new store.

The new store, which shares the same car park as a family-run convenience store that has served the village for 29 years, opened its doors for business yesterday (August 10).

In a statement on Twitter yesterday, Rectory Farm Residents Association said the issue has "split our community" and criticised Northampton Borough Council for not coming through on a promise to stop the development.

Keithe Holland-Delamere, chair of Rectory Farm Residents Association, said: "We're hugely disappointed for the community. Northampton Borough Council has failed miserably. We don't need a second convenience store. We can't sustain one.

"If Co-Op doesn't get the profits they are after then they could just walk away. Meanwhile, our family-run store could suffer from the loss of profits. We could just end up with two empty buildings and no shop in Rectory farm at all."

Hundreds of residents stood in opposition to the development last year.

Hundreds of residents stood in opposition to the development last year.

Councillor for the area James Hill led a campaign asking Northampton Borough Council to enact a 1980s covenant that appeared to protect the pub from developers.

It led to the council writing to Hawthorn Leisure where they "made it clear that legal enforcement will be considered if a convenience store is opened at the former pub building in Olden Road."

Speaking after the opening of the new store yesterday, Councillor Hill said: "We were led to believe the council would stop this. If the legal action has started, it could take weeks or even months before to goes before court.

"I don't want to see an empty building. Even if we close the shop now, it will seem like a hollow victory."

Legal papers issued to the Co-op in May from the council state that the covenant will only become active when "any convenience store on the premises commences trading."

One of the partners of the Premier shop, which shares its car park with the new Co-Op, said: "We want to thank the community for supporting us, and especially councillor Hill for everything he has done."

A spokesperson for Northampton Borough Council said: “Northampton Borough Council continues to work toward enforcement of the covenant as has been its intention all along.”

The new store has been signed for a 15-year lease.