Northampton lift tower set for new lease of life

The future of the historic Express Lifts Tower in Northampton could finally be secured, if plans to re-open it go ahead.

Proposals to install toilets and mini kitchens within the 127m structure – which has dominated the town's skyline since it was built in 1982 – have been granted listed building consent by Northampton Borough Council, and could mark the start of a lengthy process of restoring the tower to its former glory.

Developer Peter Sullivan, who submitted the application, confirmed the eventual aim was to re-open the tower and return it to full use.

A statement issued on his behalf said: "Ownership of the former Express Lift Tower has been transferred from Taylor Wimpey to local businessman, Mr Pete Sullivan.

"This unique facility will be used primarily for research and testing purposes in conjunction with The University of Northampton and lift-industry partners.

"It is intended that the tower will also re-establish its role as a hub for telecommunications."

In a report into the application, planning officer Jenny Ballinger said there were no objections to the work going ahead "in principle".

She said: "The proposal to bring the building back into use for its original, intended purpose is welcomed.

"The proposed works to provide kitchen and toilet facilities on four floors are considered to facilitate the re-use of the building.

"The proposed facilities clearly have an impact on the internal layout and plan form of the building, but are not considered to be inappropriate.

"There are no objections in principle to the works, but there are concerns about the lack of details included within the application.

"A site visit was carried out at the pre-application stage and it is understood that the proposed works will have a limited impact on the fabric and integrity of the site."

The tower, in Abbey Works, off Weedon Road, in St James, was opened by the Queen in 1982 and was used as a site for Express Lifts to test its products.

It closed for business in 1997 when Express Lifts was taken over by an American firm, and in the same year it was granted grade two listed status.

In the first stage of the process, planners at the borough council approved an application last week to put in toilets and kitchens on levels one to three of the building, as well as a disabled toilet on the ground floor.

It was approved on condition any work complied with listed building restrictions.