'We will remove Bridge Street scaffolding in six weeks' say firm behind £10m Northampton hotel plan

Old Northampton Group has vowed to take down the unsightly scaffolding outside the former Fat Cats within six weeks if it gets planning approval for a hotel there.
Old Northampton Group has vowed to take down the unsightly scaffolding outside the former Fat Cats within six weeks if it gets planning approval for a hotel there.

The company hoping to bring a fire-ravaged former bar in Bridge Street back into use as a hotel say they will clear the unsightly scaffolding outside the building within six weeks.

That is providing Old Northampton Group's (ONG) £10million pound scheme for the former Fat Cats site is approved at the next borough council planning committee on March 19.

Artist's impressions for Angel hotel.

Artist's impressions for Angel hotel.

The plans for a 60-bed hotel have been held up by an objection from Historic England, which says the remnants of the grade II listed building undamaged by fire are too important to demolish.

But ONG says the scheme can only progress if all but the Bridge Street outer wall is knocked down first.

Sunny Kooner of the company has now urged the council's planning committee to find in favour of the scheme on March 19 - and has promised that, if successful, the scaffolding that has covered Bridge Street for the past seven years outside the former Fat Cats will be taken down within six weeks.

He said: "I promise that if we get approval we will get that scaffolding taken down as a priority," said Mr Kooner.

The hotel would come with a large courtyard area and a restaurant.

The hotel would come with a large courtyard area and a restaurant.

"What we want to do is clear the site and get the scaffolding inside the building in order to open up Bridge Street again - that is my commitment to the town.

"Development would start later this year."

The Bridge Street premises has been shut since January 2, 2012 when a fire, later found to have been started accidentally by roofers, ripped through the former Angel Hotel building.

Since then, the remaining shell of the building has been supported by scaffolding, which blocks the view of several businesses fronts along Bridge Street.

As a result, the hotel scheme has been largely supported by people in Northampton.

One commenter wrote into the borough council to say: "(Historic England) seem to be nit-picking and unrealistically trying to find reasons to say no.

"Surely both organisations can see that the proposed development with its many facilities will be an absolute boost for Northampton town?"

Historic England, on the other hand, says the fabric of the building is 'irreplaceable' and needs to be kept because it 'tells the story of Northampton'.

The conservation body believes the surviving walls left standing following the Fat Cats fire on the Angel Street side should be retained in any future development.

"It has not been demonstrated that the benefits of bringing the whole site back into use outweighs the total loss of the listed building or the substantial harm to its significance," Historic England wrote in a letter to the borough council.

Mr Kooner said the wall on the Angel Street side could not be adapted to include windows and would make the scheme unviable.

The planning committee will take place at the Guildhall on Tuesday, March 19 at 6pm and anyone wishing to comment on the scheme beforehand can head to the borough council's planning portal here.