Council staff could move to new HQ in Northampton

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AMBITIOUS plans to transfer thousands of county council workers to a new headquarters in the middle of Northampton have moved a step closer.

County Hall this week confirmed it had received almost £1 million from the Growing Places Fund for a highways project that would boost the town centre’s regeneration programme, which includes “Project Angel” a massive new office complex – understood to include an underground car park – on a site in Angel Street at the back of the council’s current HQ.

The money would be spent on widening Swan Street, allowing traffic to flow in both directions and improve access to the target regeneration area.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We are currently developing a business case looking into the feasibility of investing in the development of new 21st century office accommodation in the town centre to help kick start regeneration. Known as Project Angel, this could help bring to life a currently under-used and unattractive area transforming into a new local carbon, energy-efficient office space for 2,500 people, helping to increase town centre footfall.

“This could provide space for private and public sector organisations, bringing council workers back into the town centre and offering 21st century office accommodation for businesses setting up in the town. The business case is currently exploring if such an option would also boost public finances by allowing the council to centralise all staff and pull out of existing expensive buildings and contracts.”

The county council has gradually been scaling down its property portfolio in the past few years with increasing numbers moving to its main headquarters in John Dryden House in The Lakes. While the Angel Street office project has been favoured by the Conservative administration for some time it is only very recently that County Hall, the Guildhall and the WNDC have begun talking openly about the so-called “Project Angel” idea.

THE cash injection is seen as the key to creating the necessary infrastructure to “unlock” two other schemes besides Project Angel: The St John’s hotel development and new student accommodation for The University of Northampton.

Swan Street would be widened to allow traffic flow in both directions, making access to the area easier while some work will also be carried out to the Plough Hotel gyratory. Work is due to start in early October.

Council leader Jim Harker said the improved infrastructure would bring forward private sector investment earlier than expected and make other important developments such as Northamptonshire Waterside Enterprise Zone more accessible.

He said: “This is exactly the sort of scheme for which the Growing Places fund was developed and I’m delighted that we are now in a position to move forward with this. This bottleneck would have been a real obstruction to development in this part of the town and would have made bringing these key capital projects to fruition very difficult.

Paul Southworth, chairman of Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, which helped secure the bid, said: “This is great news that will continue to support ongoing economic development within the town and beyond.”