Council's £70m scheme to develop empty M&S and BHS stores in Northampton town centre could take TEN YEARS to finish

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Plans to demolish site and build 342 apartments to regenerate Abington Street

Council plans to build shops and apartments on the site of two derelict Northampton department stores could take TEN YEARS to complete.

The scheme to put 190 residential units on the old Marks & Spencer store in Abington Street have been rolled up into one massive £70 million project which also includes BHS next door with 342 town centre flats now earmarked to go above a number of small retail and leisure units.

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West Northamptonshire Council's cabinet members will be asked on Tuesday (April 7) to approve earmarking £9.7 million of government funding as its share of the costs.

Council plans for two derelict Northampton department stores include small shops and 342 apartmentsCouncil plans for two derelict Northampton department stores include small shops and 342 apartments
Council plans for two derelict Northampton department stores include small shops and 342 apartments

But a report by Kevin Langley, the council's head of major projects and regeneration, revealed building work will take seven years and is unlikely to START until January 2025.

Among the tasks to be completed before then is the purchase of two out of three properties on the site.

Northampton Borough Council bought the old M&S store — vacant since 2018 — for £1.5 million in September 2020.

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BHS, which closed nearly six years ago, and an adjacent derelict office building in Wood Street both need to be bought by the council "for a reasonable price" to take the project forward.

The report says: "Introducing quality town centre residential provision to this area will increase and diversify the existing mix of accommodation offer and will be a catalyst for creation of a town centre neighbourhood.

"By increasing the town centre’s residential population, it will bolster the town centre sustainability and competitiveness, increase footfall, and resolve the problem of what to do with unviable large format retail units that have no obvious other viable use.

"Without intervention, it is likely that the Abington Street site will remain redundant. This would have an ongoing adverse effect on the immediate surrounding area.

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"The additional residents who would live at the completed development would increase footfall along Abington Street and should therefore increase visitor spend within the surrounding retail units.

"A high-quality scheme will provide transformative regeneration benefits and could have a wider catalytic impact upon Abington Street by increasing investor and occupier confidence in the area.

"As a result, this is likely to result in an uplift in commercial and residential property values along Abington Street and the wider town centre."

Around one-third of the apartments will be earmarked for private rentals with developers investing more than £60 million to meet the total £71.5 million costs.

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West Northamptonshire has a total of £24.9 million of Towns Funds grants originally awarded to Northampton Borough Council before last year's local government shake-up.

Money is also set aside for a Marefair Heritage Gateway project linking the train station with the town centre, Four Waterside — a mix of residential, office and hotel space opposite the railway — and Emporium Way which will connect the Market Square to the Greyfriars site.

Work on an £8.45 million refurbishment of the Market Square is due to start this summer while plans to spend £4.6 million on revitalising the lower part of Abington Street and Fish Street were approved earlier this year.