Fears new DelaprÃ© Abbey gates will 'close off' visitor attraction to some in the evenings
Northampton Borough Council plans to set to repair a gatehouse lodge and install new drive gates at Delapre Abbey have been criticised by users of the site.
Delapré Abbey is set to open early next year and the small lodge building at the entrance to its drive, on London Road, is falling into disrepair.
The council is in the process of cutting back trees that are encroaching on the building and contractors will then scaffold the building ready for work to take place.
This will include repairs to walls and reinstatement of the lodge’s roof which have gradually degraded over time.
In addition, the borough plans to install gates at the western end of the driveway into the site.
These will be open to vehicles throughout the day while the abbey is open for business, then closed to "prevent inappropriate access at night" although the council has so far not explained who may be trying access to site inappropriately at the moment.
Pedestrians including dog walkers will continue to be able to access the site at all times, the council, says but some believe it will make areas inaccessible to those in wheelchairs and mums with buggies, who would usually park in the abbey car park.
Nicola McKenna, formerly the chairman of the Friends of Delapre Abbey, said: "It’s our park, you can’t just go and put gates up on it without telling people.”
Mrs McKenna said there is even the possibility of a "protest" on the issue.
The abbey is currently in the final stages of a restoration set to cost Â£8 million.
But Councillor Julie Davenport (Lab, Delapre & Briar Hill) said dog walkers, who would normally drive near to the abbey front to walk their pets in the evening, are angry.
She said; “I haven’t heard one good comment about this.”
Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston), the borough's cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This work will help improve the approach to Delapré Abbey while making the site more secure.
“A use has not yet been agreed for the lodge but it is vital that we protect the fabric of that building while those discussions continue.
“We’ve restored significant parts of this building and we need to make sure that investment is protected so the whole community can enjoy their new heritage asset.
“The need for security is clear following previous incidences of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and we’ve done our best to ensure access remains available for as many people as possible.
“Of course, we’ve made sure that those who enjoy a walk around the grounds can continue to do so at all times, though they will need to consider alternative parking arrangements should they arrive by car outside the abbey’s opening hours.”
The Delapré Park Management Committee, Far Cotton Residents’ Association and residents in the area have been consulted over the gate plans.
Visitors needing to leave the site after hours will still be able to do so and emergency vehicles will retain access at all times.
Delapré Abbey has been restored with the help of a Â£3.65 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant and has some glorious interiors awaiting the public when it opens next year.
In the meantime, it is already hosting weddings, meetings and conferences and has an atmospheric Conservatory Café and Billiard Room serving food and drink.
Work is ongoing on the installation of a new car park. This work will be followed by the renovation of the existing car park which requires better organisation and a new surface.