Council agrees to ‘speed up’ St Edmund’s Hospital renovation plans but rules out compulsory purchase

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Plans to accelerate the renovation of the former St Edmund’s Hospital site in Northampton were agreed by the borough council, amid claims by neighbours the 176-year-old building was overrun by rats, drug users and squatters.

The authority is now set to work with English Heritage to bring the site back into an ‘appropriate use’ with the aim of submitting a planning application by the end of the year.

Leader of the Northampton Borough Council, David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm) said: “The site has been neglected for far too long and local residents have had to put up with this for longer than they should have until now. We are finally making some progress.”

But Conservative and Liberal Democrats councillors voted against a Labour motion to consider using compulsory purchase powers to buy the Wellingborough Road buildings and land - once used as a workhouse in the 19th Century - outright without the need for permission from its owners, Kayalef Holdings, of Cyprus.

Speaking against the motion, the leader of the Lib Dems, Councillor Brendan Glynane (Delapre and Briar Hill), said: “I don’t see how this council can possibly afford to do this.

“It would fall on the hard-working taxpayers of Northampton. We already know from the budget that we are already borrowing £9 million.”

However, the residents of the PEMBA estate, which surrounds the former hospital, which closed in 1999, said any renovation could not come soon enough.

In the public speaking section of the meeting, Heather Murtagh, of Exeter Place, said: “We have a problem with rats, pigeons and feral cats breeding.

“A number of squatters are living there, who subsequently attract drug dealers, drinkers and prostitution, which spills over onto the estate, where these people defecate and urinate on nearby properties.”

Chair of the St Edmunds Residents’ Association, Anne Wishart, said neighbours’ quality of life had suffered so much during 13 years ‘of hell’, they should be recompensed part of their council tax to the tune of £100 each.

Dee O’Neill, who has lived in Exeter Place for 28 years, said residents had tried desperately to get in touch with the site owners but to no avail.

She said: “The previous owners, Rochmills, involved all the residents at all times. Since this new firm bought it four years ago, we’ve heard nothing from them whatsoever. We just want to know how we would get in touch.”

Members of the PEMBA Residents Association have issued an invitation to representatives of the borough council to their next meeting on Monday, April 7, at Market Street Community Room, between 7pm and 8pm.