FEATURE: ‘Don’t spoil our heaven on earth for new homes’... Northampton campaign groups' bid to save their beloved council garages

The group is calling on NPH to rethink building two new homes on their garages.
The group is calling on NPH to rethink building two new homes on their garages.

The chair of a campaign group in Lakeview is calling on NPH to have a change of heart.

Ann Brooks is fighting, among 30 other members of Save Our Garages (SOG), to prevent 14 garages in Keswick Drive, Lakeview, from demolition.

The campaign group says this row of garages has just been "refurbished" by NPH They claim the revamp is a waste of tax payers money if they are going to be knocked down.

The campaign group says this row of garages has just been "refurbished" by NPH They claim the revamp is a waste of tax payers money if they are going to be knocked down.

Back in March, plans were approved by Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet to build 1,000 new council houses over the next ten years.

And now, Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH), the borough council’s housing management organisation, is putting their money where their mouth is.

But where is the land coming from? A new ‘Garage Strategy’ was approved at the Guildhall back in 2017 to regenerate 191 council garage sites to make way for up to 200 new council houses across the whole town.

Since this was given the green light – 16 shiny new homes have been built in Spring Boroughs for families in need. But the ambitious building works won’t stop there.

Letters were sent to residents in Lings, Lumbertubs and Lakeview last week to inform them of regeneration plans to potentially re-develop 14 garage blocks into 38 homes.

Bosses at NPH say they will review sites one neighbourhood at a time taking into account the condition of the garages, the occupancy levels and the number of homes owned by Northampton Borough Council in each neighbourhood.

This, along with a range of other factors, will determine whether or not garages are retained and repaired, demolished for additional parking or demolished for much needed housing.

Ann Brooks, who has had her garage for about 25 years, said: “The garages are needed, they are wanted, they’re loved.

“Why take away something at the moment that works?

“Why spoil our little bit of heaven on earth for two properties? We’ve had them for so long.”

If plans are approved by the Guildhall, residents are fearful they will not be given a replacement garage nearby and could have to walk a long way home.

Mike Kay, pictured, said NPH’s priority is to offer council tenants a replacement garage but this might not be in the same place.

He said: "First and foremost our priority, and our commitment, is to the councils tenants. That’s who the garages were originally built for.

"The second thing where somebody has a garage, so they have a license for a garage, whether they are a tenant or not, we engage with them, so we do a consultation with them.

"Where we can we aim to offer them a replacement garage, obviously not necessarily in the same place, but we will look to offer them a replacement garage so they have that option. It’s then their decision whether they wish to take that or not.”

Ann’s group believes building two homes on Keswick Drive is pointless as it will dampen community spirit, cause an influx of traffic and she questions why a row of garages has just had a face-lift.

Mike added: "We do listen to all the stakeholders.

“They haven’t been revamped, they’ve had maintenance works done to them.

“Basically they’ve had some repairs and a lick of paint. That’s not what I would call investment.”

Some sites have now become places for anti-social behaviour he said.

"We’ve got a large number of garage sites in poor condition, many of them boarded up, don’t have cars in, and it’s a great magnet for anti-social behaviour,” he added.

"So you get the youths there, gangs, drug takers, we’ve had cases where we’ve had prostitution run from some of the garages."