Friends of Northampton Castle continue to lobby council for Northampton heritage gateway project
A stalled housing project by Northampton's train station could boost tourism by bringing together some of Northampton's most historical sites in a heritage gateway scheme, a history group says.
The Friends of Northampton Castle had plans drawn up back in 2011 to regenerate the grassy area behind the purple hoardings on Marefair, into a park as part of their vision for a Heritage Gateway project.
The idea for the historical quarter would link together the Old Black Lion pub, medieval St Peter's Church, Elizabethan Hazelrigg House, a new green space on the former Castle House office block site, Protestant Dr Doddridge’s first Castle Hill church and the Northampton Castle Mound site.
Back in 2013, the county council agreed a motion to create "a new public space and urban parkland" at the Castle House office block site, which would have celebrated the ancient history of the site.
In July 2015 the council reneged on the promise and announced that it was inviting architects to submit designs for a development of up to 30 homes on the site of Castle House in Marefair, but today the land still stands empty.
Now, even though it looks as if that development has stalled, the council is duty bound to sell the land on for the best price.
However, Dr Marie Dickie OBE, chair of the Friends of Northampton Castle group, said she is thrilled part of the proposed Heritage Gateway project (Castle Mounds) will now become a tourist trail but urges the council not to sell the former office block land on for houses - which sits in the middle of Heritage Gateway plans - as it could be a missed opportunity to shout about our history.
She said the town is desperate for a new destination spot for tourists to visit with the closure of Marks and Spencer looming.
"What most intelligent commentators are saying about Northampton is 'you need to have another focus' and part of that focus is our heritage," she said.
"Northampton needs another identity and yet we have this significant history. We can make that happen with something like this.
"We do lots of children's workshops and we have barely anything to show them about how Northampton began. We can show them a plaque...that's all.
"We need to have more of a vision of what we want to see at the entrance near the railway station."
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “A masterplan was created for the Marefair site and surrounding area, which considered various housing types, density and massing, along with other potential development options.
“With a changing economic climate it has become increasingly difficult to find a business case to support the development. And now the financial situation in which the council finds itself means it does not have the money to invest in helping develop the site.
“The council is now considering options for the 54-76 Marefair site. The authority is open to discussion about future use but is duty bound to gain best value for the asset.”