Northampton shoe firm set to make million pound profit on land subsidised by former borough council
Church’s buy-out of the town’s bus depot site was subsidised by the former Northampton Borough Council
By Sarah Ward
A luxury shoe firm that failed to develop a key regeneration site as promised, is set to make a seven figure profit after selling off the prime land.
As previously reported by NN Journal after an exclusive investigation back in 2021, Northampton Borough Council lost £227,000 after helping shoe firm Church’s buy the former First Bus depot site in April 2014, which was next to the company’s headquarters.
Our FOI revealed that the authority had purchased the land from owners First Bus for £1.85m and then sold it in a back-to-back deal on the same day for £1.62m.
At the time of the sale the authority gave an explanation in a council report that it was getting involved in brokering a deal between the two companies in order to boost employment in the area. The site stands as the gateway to the Waterside regeneration project in the town’s St James district.
Church’s (which in 1999 was bought by Prada) had said it wanted to create a manufacturing hub on the site, which would create 150 jobs. But plans were never submitted and in 2021 the firm said there had been ‘unforeseen delays’ and cited Brexit as a factor in the lack of development.
Now, nine years on from the sale, Church’s looks to have sold the site for as much as £3.2m.
It was advertised by a Northampton estate agent earlier this month for the £3.2m sum and the website now says ‘sold subject to contract’.
We asked the shoe company what it had to say about appearing to make profit after a public subsidy and head of communications Flavio Cerbone said:
“Regard this topic the company doesn’t wish to leave any comment.”
At the time of our original investigation West Northamptonshire Council’s media office told us that there was not a claw-back arrangement in place - meaning the authority (which succeeded the borough council) will not receive any money from the sale.
As reported by the Northampton Chronicle earlier this spring, the firm, which was founded in Northampton in 1873, made a number of redundancies.
Asked for a comment about the sale, West Northamptonshire Council:
“Despite the earlier proposal for development not having proceeded as originally hoped, it is a positive step for Northampton, and the wider West Northants area should the former St James Bus Depot be sold to now allow for potential development to come forward after standing vacant for many years.
“WNC will continue to assist Church’s and its owners the Prada Group to consider future options for the site, and seek to work with any new land owner to bring forward a scheme to benefit the local community.”
Read our original story here
This will be the last published post for a week, as I am taking a holiday. Back on September 1. Enjoy the bank holiday.