An architect has been appointed to design a development of up to 30 homes on the site of derelict land in Northampton town centre.
Northamptonshire County Council is planning to regenerate the former Castle House site in Marefair as part of a new ‘Heritage Gateway’, in a move heavily criticised by the Friends of Northampton Castle.
The local authority announced in July that it was inviting architects to submit designs that needed to “reflect the historic setting and incorporate high-quality materials typical of the county”.
It has now been announced that the housing development will be designed by Francis Terry of Quinlan and Francis Terry.
The design brief also stated that an open visual link should be maintained between Northampton Castle and St Peter’s Church. The homes will also have to be energy efficient and be environmentally sustainable.
Francis Terry said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to be working on the Castle House site. Northampton is a fine historic town which still has its traditional urban structure in place.
“I see my role as piecing together the street pattern in a way that is sympathetic to the unique character of the town as well as satisfying contemporary requirements of function and sustainability.”
Councillor Jim Harker, leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “The Heritage Gateway has reached a very exciting stage and I’m looking forward to seeing the proposals drawn up for the former Castle House site.
“Of course, this next stage of the programme comes at a time when we’re expanding the Heritage Gateway across the county, which is a natural progression of the very good work that has happened so far.”
But, Dr Marie Dickie OBE, chair of Friends of Northampton Castle (FoNc), said the local authority was reneging on a plan, agreed at a cabinet meeting in June 2013, to “create in its place a new public space and urban parkland.”
She said: “We understand and strongly support the view of the Neighbourhood Planning Forum, which argues that the area needs an open space for the benefit of local families and children.
“We also support the effort of local churches, such as Castle Hill, to present their own remarkable history more effectively.
“We believe that local people, those who live in Spring Boroughs and in the wider Northampton community should make their views known.
“There is a process of consultation which will have to be observed before any alternative plans for the site can be given planning permission. “We hope that through consultation there will emerge a genuine effort to re-establish the overall plan for the Heritage Gateway which promised so much.
“Meanwhile, any development proposal that ignores the potential of the site to make the most of Northampton’s great history would not be acceptable to Friends of Northampton Castle.”