French bar firm could be opening first branch outside France in old Northampton Ask Italian restaurant

Plan to change use of vacant, grade II-listed building for new V&B recommended for approval by council officer

By Jack Duggan
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 2:42 pm

A plan to convert the former Ask Italian restaurant in Northampton town centre into a bar has been recommended for approval by a council officer.

French firm V&B wants to use the vacant St Giles Street building and the adjacent plot for what would appear to be its first branch outside of the country.

A West Northamptonshire Council officer has advised the Northampton area planning committee to approve the application ahead of its meeting on Tuesday (October 5).

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Mr Grants House on St Giles Street, Northampton, has been vacant since Ask Italian did not reopen in June 2020 after the first coronavirus lockdown

"The proposed change of use and associated positioning of a small amount of external seating would have no adverse impact on the character of the area, the setting of any listed building, or the amenities of neighbouring and nearby residents and businesses," the report says.

"The associated application for listed building consent would not affect the character or historic interest of the listed building."

V&B, which stands for Vins and Bieres, or Wines and Beers in English, has dozens of branches across France but none outside the country.

The firm wants to take over the old Ask Italian site, which never reopened after the first coronavirus lockdown, and expand the seating area at the front of the building.

V&B has applied to the council to change the use of the grade II-listed building, known as Mr Grants House, from a restaurant to a mixed use of drinking establishment and retail sales, principally of wine and beer.

The application also asks to place 34 chairs, 11 tables, three parasols and 10 planters on the area to the front of the buildings - Ask had 16 chairs and eight tables.

The council's conservation officer and the Town Centre Conservation Area Advisory Committee had no objections to the proposal as it meant securing a use for 'an important listed building within the town centre'.

However, Castle Labour councillor Danielle Stone and a neighbour complained the potential noise, anti-social behaviour and highway safety.

"The proposal will make that corner very busy and very unattractive with the proposed mix of furniture and styles," the councillor wrote.

"Because it is a street facing area and a busy thorough fare it is inappropriate for on-street drinking and smoking.

"This is an area where we expect to see lots of school parties going to the museum and the theatre.

"Adults drinking all day and all evening is not a pretty sight and not roles models we would want to put in front of children."