‘We’ve waited long enough’: group to unveil its own plans for a park on Northampton Castle site

Castle House, the former home of Barclaycard, stood in Marefair until it was demolished. Now there is debate over what should happen to the site.
Castle House, the former home of Barclaycard, stood in Marefair until it was demolished. Now there is debate over what should happen to the site.

A neighbourhood group is set to unveil its vision to turn a Northampton town centre site into a heritage park - despite the county council’s plans to turn the former office block into houses.

Back in 2013, the county council announced plans to buy the 1980s-built Marefair office block once used by Barclaycard, so the site could be made a new “public space and urban parkland” which would celebrate the rich heritage of the former castle site.

A Northampton Castle sign information board at the site of the old Northampton Castle near Black Lion Hill.

A Northampton Castle sign information board at the site of the old Northampton Castle near Black Lion Hill.

But in 2015, the authority appointed an architect to look at building 30 homes there, which prompted outrage from the Friends of Northampton Castle group.

Now Springs Voice, the committee overseeing the neighbourhood plan for the Spring Boroughs estate, says it wants the county council to revert back to its original intentions.

On Thursday, the group will hold a press conference unveiling its own plans for the site - featuring a park and just five houses - in a bid to make the council change its mind.

Chairman of Springs Voice, Clive Ireson, said: “What we have for Thursday isn’t ready to go to planning - but it is a clear idea of what can be achieved on the site and how it could create a much-needed park space.”

In a sense, many are trapped - they haven’t got the play space required for children

Clive Ireson

Mr Ireson said parks are desperately needed in Spring Boroughs due to the nature of the housing there.

“So many people are living in high-rise flats in the area,” he said.

“In a sense, many are trapped - they haven’t got the play space required for children.

“Our ideas would create such a space, but a space that isn’t in isolation.”

The Springs Voice plan would maintain a view from St Peter’s Church through to Castle Hill and would only feature social housing.

Northamptonshire County Council has yet to adopt a full scheme for the former Castle House site.

However a council spokesman said parkland would not be the best plan.

He said: “We set up a working group to look at options for the heritage gateway and one of the options discussed was parkland.

“However, the group - which includes the Friends of Northampton Castle - felt that open space was not the best use of the land in terms of reflecting the heritage of the site.

“We are continuing to consider possible uses for the land and will be presenting a business case in due course.”