Opening of Irchester’s Chester Farm delayed until next year

Chester Farm back in 2013
Chester Farm back in 2013

A multi-million pound heritage project that has been championed by Northamptonshire County Council is running behind schedule.

Chester Farm was due to originally open in April this year but now the county council is saying visitors will have to wait until next year to go through the doors of the long awaited visitor centre.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Construction work on Chester Farm was due for completion in September but there has been a slight delay.

“The site is scheduled to open to the public in Spring next year.”

The reasons for the delay are not being made public.

The construction firm doing the work Shaylor Group declined to comment on the reasons why the build is running behind.

The project is costing the county authority £7.1m in total and the Heritage Lottery Fund has also put in just under £4m towards the project.

The farm, which is in Irchester and situated just off the A45, is considered to be of significant historical importance in the county.

The 17th century farmhouse is built on the site of a former Roman walled town and has evidence of Mesolithic, iron age and medieval periods.

When opened it is hoped the project will become a major visitor attraction for the county and will feature a cafe, community, conference and training venue, offices and classrooms for school visits.

An archaeological resource centre in a huge newly built outbuilding has also been constructed and will house artefacts from the county.

There has been some controversy about the 45-acre site after NCC had to put put in an extra £2.2m this year after failing to find another funder as originally hoped for when the project was first taken on by the council in 2013.

The authority’s cabinet member for finance Michael Clarke said last month that the authority is proceeding with the project through ‘gritted teeth’.

It is understood that if NCC abandons the project at this stage it could be liable to the lottery grant being clawed back.

The authority is in the midst of a huge task to try and save £70m from its budget and is cutting back on all services apart from the ones it has to provide by law.

Emergency spending controls are now in place, which has included the stopping of newspapers and magazine at the county’s 36 libraries.