'Brilliant' plan to transform office block in Northampton town centre into apartments gets the go-ahead
"This is long overdue,it’s very necessary - they are ahead of the game"
A plan to transform an empty office block in Northampton town centre into 122 affordable apartments has been approved with the chairman of the borough planning committee calling it “brilliant” and “long overdue”.
Belgrave House in Greyfriars has been empty for more than seven years and Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH) applied to convert the building and add two upper floors.
The application was unanimously approved subject to conditions at a meeting of the borough council’s planning committee where chairman councillor Brian Oldham said: “I think this is brilliant. This is long overdue. It’s very necessary . I applaud what NPH is doing. Quite frankly they are ahead of the game.”
A report to the committee stated the development would ‘represent a regeneration opportunity in the town centre and contribute to the council’s five year housing land supply.’
The plan will create 70, one bedroom units and 52, two bedroom units over 11 storeys in total.
The external alterations will see the removal of the existing precast concrete panels and glazing that spans the building. There will be floor to ceiling glazing incorporating Juliette balconies, stained glass feature panels running the full height of the nine residential floors with vertical lettering and clock features also added to the extended building.
There will also be a roof top garden for residents and photovoltaic panels to generate energy from sunlight.
The apartments will use the existing pedestrian access ways to Belgrave House comprising an external entrance off Greyfriars and in internal entrance from Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
There will also be new pedestrian access created from the top floor of the Grosvenor Centre multi-storey car park.
The proposal also included alterations to the existing layby on Greyfriars and new crossing points and footways to the Greyfriars site to connect in the footway in Lady’s Lane. NPH indicated the top floors of the car park could be used residents however it was not within the markation of application site.
The report stated application proposals were approved in principle by the planning committee on July 28 last year subject to conditions and a Section 106 Legal Agreement to secure 100 per cent on-site affordable housing.
The plans had not changed but the application brought back to committee as the S106 agreement has not been completed as the council has acquired ownership of the property and is not legally able to enter into an agreement with itself.
Under the questions section, councillor Arthur McCutcheon asked about the conversion and addition of the two upper floors. He said: “I’m hoping that there will be no changes in any cladding on that, because that is something that has changed since we gave original permission for this. And Grenfell has happened and we need to have assurance on this.”
Helen Town, on behalf of NPH, said: “The design hasn’t changed since the consent was given last summer. What we’ve been doing now is progressing design development.
“There is the artwork that you can see and the plinths around the windows. They are classed as cladding but I can’t assure you enough how aware that we are in terms of fire risk.
“Because it’s conversion of an existing building we do need to cover some bits up around dividers and that kind of side of things. But we have a fire consultant that’s deeply involved in that and we have a specialist company involved in it as well and building control.
“So, we’re very mindful of the recommendations through the Hackitt Review post Grenfell. That’s something that’s very close to our hearts and an absolute priority to us.
“So the scheme will be fitted with fire sprinkler systems, fire stopping, alarm systems. It’s got a very, very high spec around fire safety and that includes all elements of this scheme.”