Disused former leather works building in Northampton to be 'brought back to life' after planning application is approved

The building, on Dunster Street, has been unused for many years
The building, on Dunster Street, has been unused for many years

A disused former leather works building in the Old Boot and Shoe Quarter in Northampton is set to be ‘brought back to life’ as residential flats.

The old Globe Leather Works building, a Grade II listed building on Dunster Street, has been vacant for years. But councillors have now given planning approval for it to be converted into 39 apartments.

The decision was made at a planning committee meeting of Northampton Borough Council last night (February 19) at The Guildhall.

Planning officer Nicky Scaife told the committee that a precedent had already been set by an approval for the overall site, which includes the neighbouring former Hawkins building, for 105 apartments. This was granted back in 2016.

However, Colin Clayson, of applicants Clayson Country Homes Ltd, told the committee that he had struggled to find a buyer for the overall site, and was now focussing his efforts on a smaller part of the site.

He says: "This is the easiest part of the buildings to save. I've been trying to save this overall site for years, but it's been difficult."

Mr Clayson said that if planning permission was granted, he would hope work would start later this year and be finished by the end of 2020.

The whole site has been delayed because the windows are seen as an important part of the heritage of the building, and a compromise on the appearance hasn't been reached for the Hawkins part. Mr Clayson said the Globe Leather Works building was potentially easier to do.

Historic England, having been consulted on the application, said: “We appreciate certain comprises may be necessary if former industrial buildings are to be converted to residential use, but believe loss of windows would be harmful to the significance of the heritage asset. We question whether secondary double glazing has been considered.”

The applicants however said that the use of replacement aluminium windows as proposed would provide ‘a consistency of aesthetic throughout the development’.

Councillors were told by planning officers that the harm to building in terms of the aesthetics was outweighed by the public benefits of finding a use for the building, and providing much needed homes.

Committee member Councillor Dennis Meredith said : "I'm very happy with what I've heard, and bringing a disused building back into use is always a good thing."

His colleague Councillor Jane Birch added: "I think we have to be pragmatic. Do we fight against replacement windows or bring a huge site back to life?"

The application was granted planning permission unanimously, subject to agreements on the window replacements with the borough council.