Updates on major developments in Northampton – from the Sekhemka-funded museum building to a much delayed 1,550-space car park and a 60,000 square foot office development – will form the main part of the yearly Northampton Alive exhibition today.
More than 100 business representatives will attend the yearly progress report on town developments at Franklin’s Gardens today.
In previous years the conference has been used by the borough council to make major new announcements, including plans for the North Gate Bus Station and the £10 million railway station.
But this year some might argue new revelations will be thin on the ground in favour of progress reports on schemes announced when David Mackintosh was leader of the council.
Among them the exhibition will learn planning applications for the 60,000 square foot Four Waterside office development on St Peter’s Way, will be submitted this summer along with the much delayed scheme for 100 new social homes at Dallington Grange. Both schemes were first announced in 2014.
Kier WSP has been chosen to develop the Four Waterside development, which will accommodate around 500 staff when finished. So far 40 businesses have expressed an interest in taking up an office there.
However the 1,550 space car park at Northampton Railway Station, originally planned to be finished by late 2015, will not begin until late 2017 at the earliest as talks continue with Network Rail and the potential new line operators.
Speaking earlier this week, leader of the council, Councillor Mary Markham said she was working hard to bring existing schemes “to the fore”.
She said: “For example the Four Waterside development, we hadn’t got a partner, we did not have funding from the Government. What we are doing is making sure that these schemes come through, making sure they work and securing funding from the Government.”
Other updates will focus on Northampton Museum and Art Galley. In 2014 it was announced The Guildhall Road-based tourist attraction would receive a £14 million expansion, partly using money from the sold Sekhemka statue once on display there.
Today Councillor Markham will confirm contractor Wates has now been enlisted to carry out the revamp, which will see new galleries, an education suite, a cafe and a retail area built. However it is understood the facility could be shut for a whole year during 2017 and 2018 while work goes on.
The St James Mill Link Road – the plan to join up both disjointed ends of St James Mill Road over a disused railway track can now finally move forward.
After around four years of debate, Network Rail has agreed to decommission the line, paving the way for the traffic easing scheme.
And while little detail is available on the scheme, Councillor Markham said a “major bank” is seeking to open a high street branch in Northampton town centre.
In other news, Councillor Markham is due to say that “remediation work” on the contaminated land around Sixfields Stadium is now close to completion.
Councillor Markham will also give an update on the success of the Waterside Enterprise Zone in Northampton.
She said 32 businesses have moved into the area since its inception in 2011, creating 1,740 jobs.
Leader: St John’s car park build and Vulcan Works not shelved
Plans for extending St John’s car park and a bid to create a creative business hub in the centre of town are still on the cards, according to the council leader, though they are unlikely to receive a mention during today’s Alive update.
Back in 2014 Northampton Borough Council bought privately-owned Albion House in Victoria Promenade for around £500,000.
The authority said the site could be used to extend the St John’s car park by an extra 350 spaces and provide parking to the town centre, the Cultural Quarter, the planned new University of Northampton Waterside Campus and the Enterprise Zone.
But since then the plan to demolish the tenanted building appears to have gone quiet.
Speaking this week, council leader Mary Markham confirmed the purchase of Albion House did go through in 2014, but claims the council is now considering different options for extending St John’s that might not involve knocking it down.
She said: “We are looking at the moment at the costings for the St John’s car park.
“We are looking at the feasibility for adding decking (another level).”
And as for the future of Albion House, she said: “The building can be demolished, it is a case now of what is going to be the best economic plan, or the better project.
“We are currently working through the design and the plans at the moment.
“The building still brings us in a rental income as it stands.”
A much trumpeted plan from David Mackintosh’s reign, the Vulcan Works, also appears to have gone quiet in recent months.
The £10.8 million scheme between Angel and Fetter Street, was to create a managed workspace for up to 100 businesses, sustaining 400 jobs over 10 years.
Work was due to start in spring last year.
A total of £3.3 million worth of land, buildings and other assets are already owned by the council, but the rest of the scheme funding was due to come through the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Deal Fund.
But speaking earlier this week Councillor Markham said it would not feature at today’s Alive update.
“It is being planned up,” she said. “But it is not at the level where we felt we could bring it to Alive.
“We have some ideas and people we are working with.”
She predicted the project would now start in late 2017.