Villagers fear Northamptonshire homes plan will leave stately home as an unfinished 'white elephant'

Overstone Hall was gutted by fire in 2001. Now, a plan to build 60 houses near to the site is the subject of a campaign by Overstone residents.
Overstone Hall was gutted by fire in 2001. Now, a plan to build 60 houses near to the site is the subject of a campaign by Overstone residents.

Plans to build 60 houses next to a fire-ravaged former stately home on the outskirts of Northampton have been criticised as a ‘Trojan horse’ to enable an unwanted flats scheme.

Barry Howard Homes has applied to build the estate on the Church Farm Fields site, which forms part of Overstone Hall’s historic parkland.

The homes will act as an 'enabling development' to effectively fund a restoration of the derelict hall and convert it into flats.

But the Overstone RUINED action group says villagers do not want the homes and do not want the stately home to sit for years with scaffolding around it during a lengthy renovation.

Developer Mr Howard, on the other hand, says the restoration project of a grade II listed building is of 'national importance' that he says will not become a white elephant.

“The current application is about a third of the area they originally wanted to develop,” said chairman of Overstone RUINED Steve Betts, who has gathered 600 names on a petition now.

“If this 60 home scheme is approved it will open the door for Barry Howard to build more homes in Overstone.

“This application is a Trojan horse - it’s the thin end of the wedge.”

The Victorian-era stately home was gutted by fire in 2001 and has stood as an empty shell since.

The developers - who bought the hall in 2016 - are offering to put forward £4 million of profits from the development towards renovating the hall itself.

However, another £16 million must be found to complete the job, according to planning papers submitted to Daventry District Council - which would only be achieved by building a further 250 homes, Mr Howard says.

Mr Howard says the extra homes will not be built in the land surrounding Overstone Hall.

But several residents in Ovestone have recently been sent letters by the developers asking whether they would be willing to sell any land that could built upon.

Mr Betts says there is a real fear the hall will remain part-renovated for years to come as the developers try to drum up enough capital to finish the job.

“Essentially Overstone could be left with a hall covered in tarpaulin and scaffolding, with absolutely no guarantees the renovation would ever be completed,” he said.

“A white elephant in all but name.”

Mr Betts also says that residents do not want the old hall to be renovated.

The building was despised by its commissioner Lord Overstone, who labelled the building an “unmitigated disappointment” back in 1864.

Mr Betts added: “I have yet to meet any Overstone resident who places any scenic, historic, or functional value in Overstone Hall.”

Homes developer Mr Howard said his company were working closely with officers at Daventry District Council to "achieve full restoration of Overstone Hall, which is now extensively dilapidated following the major fire in 2001."

He added: "Overstone Hall is a Grade II listed building and is a heritage asset for the nation for which there is a statutory duty to have special regard to preservation.

"National planning policy urges local planning authorities to assess whether the benefits of new development to provide financial resources towards the future conservation of the asset outweigh the disbenefits - including conflicts with the development plan.

"This proposal is the first phase of enabling development which will enable the long-awaited restoration of the Hall to commence.

"The 60 dwellings will, in essence, be associated with Phase 1 of the restoration. Preserving, protecting and stabilising the hall. Thus preventing any more opportunity for Overstone Hall to deteriorate unnecessarily and complying with National Policy.

"We are working proactively with DDC (daventry District Council) to identify further land to complete the full restoration of the hall as laid out in the planning applications.

"No further housing development to contribute to the restoration of the Hall will take place around Overstone Hall. That will be protected by a legal agreement."