Developer resubmits plans to turn Northampton shopping centre into 352 student flats

The developer had initial plans refused by the council last year and said it would take the £23 million set aside for the scheme 'elsewhere'

By Logan MacLeod
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 10:38 am

Major plans to turn a Northampton shopping centre into a 352 student flat complex have been resubmitted.

Developers Urban Village Group Ltd submitted revised proposals this month (September) to West Northamptonshire Council to convert Market Walk shopping centre.

The resubmission comes after the developer's initial plan for a 355 student flat complex was refused in July last year by the council.

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Fresh plans have been resubmitted to turn Market Walk into a 352 student flat complex

The council listed two reasons for the refusal.

One: the extension of the building would be "a stark, dominating, overpowering, obtrusive and incongruous appearance through the scale, massing, proportions and design used," the council said.

Two: there would be "unacceptable living conditions" inside the flats because of "poor natural light levels, poor outlook and poor privacy levels", according to planning papers.

This refusal riled Urban Village Group, which saw its operations manager Liz Foley tell Chronicle & Echo that her company was ready to take the £23m they set aside for the scheme 'elsewhere'.

An artist's impression of what the complex could look like

However, following the refusal, Urban Village Group approached the council again in August 2020 for pre-planning advice ahead of this resubmission.

Seven months later, a Northampton Borough Council planning officer responded with her advice, prior to the change in authorities.

The letter, dated March 31 of this year, reads: "The amended proposal has overcome reason for refusal one, with the design now being considered acceptable.

"It is the case, however, that reason for refusal two would remain. This is due to the poor living conditions provided to those flats on the northern elevation at second floor, and the poor living conditions for those within the internal voids where no changes have been made.

"As such it remains considered the proposal would provide a poor living environment, overlooking concerns and loss of privacy, and poor outlook for future occupiers.

"I trust that the above comments are of assistance. Please note, however, that they represent the views of an officer only and cannot prejudice any decision of the council as local planning authority."

Urban Village has since gone back to the drawing board and now believe that it has overcome the second refusal of "unacceptable living conditions".

In its latest plans the company said: "Approximately 95 percent of all rooms achieve or surpass the minimum recommendation [for sunlight]. This is a very high level of compliance in the context of an urban development site.

"The proposed new accommodation is considered to be of benefit to the vitality of the town centre, contributing to the town’s night-time economy, helping to add to public footfall after the shops have closed and to create safer streets.

"The scheme will be an excellent neighbour for a 're-imagined' Market Square, re-designed as an active public amenity and 'destination'."

Cllr Rebecca Breese, in charge of planning at WNC, said: “While it is a good sign of continued investor confidence, the fundamental problems with the previous scheme do not appear to have been overcome.”

It is now up to WNC to make a decision.

To view the application, click here.