A planning application has been submitted to ask for permission to reopen a historic Northampton pub.
Old Black Lion in Marefair, which backs onto St Peter’s Church closed in 2018 and has stood empty ever since.
Now the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which owns St Peter's Church, has submitted plans to West Northamptonshire Council outlining how the pub could be redeveloped into a community-based venue, as part of a wider project.
CCT was awarded £1.8m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to complete the revamp and the rest of the project, which includes work to the churchyard.
Proposals for the pub include reopening the Grade II-listed building as a community-based pub with spaces for drinking, bar food, and a new dining room overlooking the courtyard beer garden.
The historic carriage passage from Marefair into the Old Black Lion’s courtyard will be reinstated and the pub – which dates to at least the 16th century – repaired to high conservation standards.
Upstairs there will be five guest rooms offering bed and breakfast, and a meeting room and function room for private hire.
A new path and gate will also be installed to connect the pub’s courtyard entrance on St Peter’s Street to St Peter’s churchyard next door.
Peter Aiers, chief executive of CCT said: “We are really excited to be working on this innovative venture.
“Our team brings considerable experience of community-led regeneration of church buildings and the skills we have developed are directly applicable to help tackle the problem of struggling high streets.
“After years of work by many people I am overjoyed that the project is moving into this new and exciting phase.
“We are extremely grateful to all of our partners and funders for their continued support and belief in this bold and complex scheme.”
The pub is currently owned by West Northamptonshire Council, after Northampton Borough Council purchased the site for £400,000 in 2019.
If planning permission is granted, CCT will select a hospitality operator to run the pub, with a portion of the profits going to repairing and conserving the neighbouring 12th-century St Peter’s Church, which the Trust has cared for since 1998.
The wider regeneration goals of the project – which include new landscaping in the churchyard, biodiversity initiatives, community activities, and creating new jobs in the pub – have attracted funding from West Northamptonshire Council, via the HM Treasury’s Towns Fund, and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
Councillor Jonathan Nunn, Chair of Northampton Forward and Leader of West Northamptonshire Council, said: “The submission of this planning application represents the first big step towards a new lease of life for the Old Black Lion - we’re thrilled to be partnering with the Churches Conservation Trust on this venture and happy to support the project to reach this stage.
“A principle of the Northampton Town Investment Plan is to build on our outstanding cultural and heritage assets, and breathe new life into redundant buildings.
“The Old Black Lion is a significant part of the town centre’s fascinating past, so repurposing it for community use, while retaining its status as a public house and hotel feels absolutely fitting, and will ensure the sustainability of the site and the neighbouring St Peter’s Church.
“The work will also compliment Northampton Forward’s vision to develop the Heritage Gateway, which will hugely enhance the route from the train station into the town centre with the creation of a heritage park, co-working and leisure spaces and new homes.”