Cabinet agrees 'in principle' to convert disused Northampton town centre office into affordable apartments

Belgrave House is owned by Legal & General, but has been unoccupied for some time
Belgrave House is owned by Legal & General, but has been unoccupied for some time

A scheme to convert a large Northampton town centre office into affordable apartments has seen Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet agree to lend its support ‘in principle’.

Belgrave House, the large office block next to the Grosvenor Centre and opposite the former Greyfriars site, has been unoccupied for a number of years despite owner Legal & General’s ‘best efforts’ to find tenants.

Despite having already secured planning to convert the office block into student housing, Legal & General approached the borough council and Northamptonshire Partnership Homes (NPH) in 2017 to see whether they would enter into a partnership to convert the building into 120 affordably-rented apartments.

And on Wednesday, the borough council’s cabinet agreed to pursue the opportunity ‘in principle’, and is currently pressing ahead with plans to enter into a 35-year lease with Legal & General. This would see the owner receive rent and own the scheme until the end of the lease term, at which point it would transfer to a longer lease of at least 150 years for £1.

The council says the development would see ‘a significant increase in the supply of affordable rented housing for key workers who are working in the public centre and town centre retail and leisure, but are currently unable to buy or rent a home in the area in which they work’.

Current plans are for the rent to be equivalent to 80 per cent of open market rent, and would be let to ‘key workers’ on Northampton’s Housing Register.

NPH will appoint the contractor and oversee the development with its in-house team, before acting as the council’s managing agent for the homes - taking on letting, management, maintenance and rent collections on behalf of the council.

Speaking to cabinet on Wednesday, cabinet member for finance Brandon Eldred said: “We feel the financial part of this will work. Lower paid people can’t currently find anywhere to live.

“We think this is a good deal and that we should go ahead with this.”

NPH is currently looking at the design of the building given its current ‘unattractive state’, and proposals, not yet confirmed, including an additional two floors and a roof garden.