Extra funds for project to restore historic Northampton pub and church expected to be agreed by council

Cash from £24.9m government grant and developer tax set to be used to back restoration scheme

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 7:38 am

A plan to bring a derelict Northampton pub back to life to help fund a neighbouring church's restoration is set to receive £465,000 from the council.

West Northamptonshire Council's cabinet has been recommended to approve giving the money to the Churches Conservation Trust for the Old Black Lion and St Peter’s Church project ahead of its meeting next week.

Most of the cash, £315,000, is from a £24.9-million grant given to Northampton by the government to rejuvenate the town centre and the rest is from developers.

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West Northamptonshire Council wants to give £315,000 to the Churches Conservation Trust to support a project to restore the Old Black Lion pub in Black Lion Hill, Northampton

It will go towards repairing the Black Lion Hill public house and building an extension ahead of its reopening with profits being used to restore St Peter's Church.

An officer's report for the meeting on Tuesday (October 12) reads: "The Old Black Lion and St Peter’s Church project will allow for the regeneration of the currently derelict site into a 'proper pub', a building rooted in its community, and a place for everyone to eat, drink, meet and enjoy the character of a historic coaching inn.

"The pub enterprise will generate funds for the repair and conservation of St Peter’s Church and support the work of the Churches Conservation Trust."

The Old Black Lion and St Peter’s Church project was one of 10 schemes included in Northampton's bid for £24.9 million from the government's Towns Fund, which was agreed in March.

For the £315,000 to be released, a business case for each project has been approved, which the council's cabinet is recommended to do for the pub and church scheme on Tuesday.

The majority of the funding for the £2.66-million scheme is being provided by a £1.84-million National Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with other contributions from the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation and the Churches Conservation Trust.

The project is also seeking £150,000 of section 106 monies from the council - a tax paid by large-scale developers in the area.

The pub has been closed since 2018 and its historic fabric, dating from the 16th century, is deteriorating, according to the council officer's report.

It has been subject to break-ins and criminal activity plus its poor condition has a negative effect on the setting of St Peter’s Church, Marefair, and on people’s first impressions of Northampton when arriving from the railway station, it adds.

So the Churches Conservation Trust wants to take over the lease for 30 years, at a peppercorn rate for the first 12 years, which would then sub-lease it to 'a specialist pub operator'.

At year 12, the rent would be reviewed to 10 percent of the net turnover for the preceding three years with further reviews based on turnover.

There would be a tenant break at year 12 and year 20 with the tenant having the option to purchase the Old Black Lion Pub at year 20 at open market value.

"The listed pub will be repaired to the best conservation standards and the historic carriage passage from Marefair into the inn’s courtyard will be reinstated," the report reads.

"A new path and gate will connect the pub’s courtyard entrance on St Peter’s Street to St Peter’s churchyard next door.

"There will be a new dining room extension at the rear, reinstating the horseshoe plan of the original building, and overlooking the courtyard, which will be a beer garden."

The main pub bar and lounge will be for drinks and bar food while upstairs will be five guest bedrooms providing bed and breakfast and a function room available for private hire.

The Churches Conservation Trust is also exploring the possibility of opening a new national training centre for church bellringing based at the Old Black Lion and St Peter’s.

"The revitalised pub will also provide hospitality facilities for visitors to and users of St Peter’s Church, supporting community activities and other beneficial uses of the building," the report adds.

"The pub enterprise will generate funds for the repair and conservation of St Peter’s Church and support the work of the Churches Conservation Trust.

"The St Peter’s Church and Old Black Lion project will not only solve many of the challenges faced by several important heritage assets in Northampton, but it also forms the basis of a wider regenerative vision for the local area and will provide a focal point for much-needed community activity.

"It will provide an anchor point for the new “Heritage Gateway” area of the town which will link through to, and support, the Northampton Cultural Quarter.

"It will also generate a sustainable source of income to support the wider charitable aims of the Churches Conservation Trust, as well as a testbed for future multi-faceted sustainable heritage regeneration projects."

If approved, The Old Black Lion and St Peter's Church project would be the second scheme to receive money from the Towns Fund grant after 78 Derngate was given £400,000 last month.