Friday brief: Could Overstone Hall be bulldozed?
Plus more news in our regular Friday brief
The owner of a Northampton stately home has applied to demolish it after concluding a “miraculous restoration” will never happen. Overstone Hall was mostly destroyed following a fire in 2001 and the Grade II-listed landmark has also been damaged by vandalism and bad weather.
Barry Howard Homes bought the hall, along with 35 acres of land around it, in 2015. The site was purchased with the “absolute intentions” of restoring it, however, following extensive work, the company has concluded no plan was viable.
Firefighters were called to the hall last month to a suspected arson attack and said there were signs of forced entry.
The building was built for Lord and Lady Overstone in the 1860s. But Lord Overstone wrote of his “unmitigated disappointment” about it and said it was “very large and full of pretension”.
It was used as a girls’ boarding school from the 1920s until 1979. It was bought by the New Testament Church of God in 1980. Part of the building unaffected by the fire was used for retirement flats from 2008 to 2014.
In an often florid planning document prepared for Barry Howard Homes, agents said the hope of the hall being restored is like “waiting for Godot” and irrationally optimistic.
“Time is not on the side of Overstone Hall, it will not restore itself. The reality is that no one has identified a strategy to secure the full restoration of Overstone Hall during the past 20 years.
The proposition that a suitable strategy might be identified in the future is [in] ‘Alice in Wonderland’ terms, ‘chasing a white rabbit’. No public interest is served by such a fantasy,” the statement said.
The developer said it had previously tried to work with authorities on viable restoration plans. They have included potentially using Overstone Hall as a care home, a restaurant, a training facility, a hotel, offices and homes. They would each have cost at least £24m, papers state.
In 2019, Barry Howard Homes was given permission to restore the hall by the former Daventry District Council. But a plan to use it for apartments and another 52 homes on the land around it was rejected. The developer said that made the project unviable.
In the planning application for demolition submitted to West Northamptonshire Council, the developer is said to have “taken all reasonable action to arrest the decline of the remaining parts” of the hall. It said a tarpaulin covering a wing has “deteriorated” because of wind.
Report by Nathan Briant, Local Democracy Reporter
News in brief
The officer at North Northamptonshire Council who has been in charge of coordinating the controversial green waste issue is leaving.
NN Journal understands that assistant director of Highways and waste Graham Kane is taking on a job at a council in Cambridgeshire. News of his departure comes just weeks after it was announced that the chief executive of the authority Rob Bridge is leaving - also to work in Cambridgeshire.
Since the start of this month all residents in the north of the county have had to pay an annual £40 charge for their green waste to be removed, a decision which was fiercely opposed by opposition councillors and several thousands residents but which was forced through by the Conservative administration. However the new scheme has already hit major teething problems with a number of residents not receiving the stickers for their bins and not having their green waste collected.
NN Journal understands that several months ago waste refuse staff had warned officers that the new system would be hard to manage.
A music teacher who took photographs up students’ skirts during private piano lessons has been sentenced for his crimes.
Stuart Davies, 39, of Brockhall Road, Northampton, committed the offences in 2020 and was sentenced to one year and seven months, although he will not go to jail as his sentence was suspended for two years.
Davies, who pleaded guilty in February was arrested in July 2021 and charged with three counts of making indecent images of children and three counts of possessing indecent images of children.
After pleading guilty to the offences at Northampton Crown Court in February this year, Davies returned to the same court at the end of last month (March 30)
He was also given a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years, and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Leader of West Northamptonshire Council Cllr Jonathan Nunn says he has complete confidence that the cabinet member for planning Cllr Rebecca Breese can turn the service around. The council’s planning department has recently suffered a damning review which said the service was still operating as three separate departments - along the lines of the former councils - and said staff morale was very poor.
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday Cllr Breese acknowledged the errors in her department and said no work had been done before the council began to transform the department. She said parish councils who had tried to contact planners about applications in their areas had been ‘blanked’. She also said that while the reporting systems to track and trace 106 funding - money owed to the council by developers - was poor, there were no funds missing.
MP for Daventry and Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton- Harris met US President Joe Biden this week during his tour of Ireland.
The Carpenters Experience is being staged at the Core Theatre in Corby tonight from 7.30pm. Get tickets here
Comedian Jacob Hawley will be performing at the Charles Bradlaugh tonight from 7pm. Ticket details here.
The first ever Happy Hood Festival takes place at Delapre Abbey, London Road, Northampton tomorrow from midday to 4pm. Entry is free and there will be live music, creative workshops and an art fair.
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