Stalled Chester Farm project set to be rebooted

The ill-fated multi-million-pound Chester Farm project could move forward once again as a new business plan is being developed.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 1:11 pm
Updated Friday, 15th November 2019, 1:12 pm
Chester Farm is well behind schedule and was due to have opened last year.

Work stopped on the site earlier this year after construction firm Shaylor Group went into administration, leaving the future of the already behind schedule heritage project uncertain.

Now Northamptonshire County Council, which had committed another £2m to finish the project earlier this year, has said a new business plan will come forward to the council’s cabinet next month (DEC) for consideration.

The £2m pledge from the authority’s capital budget will now be dropped, with work to begin the next financial year once a new builder has been contracted.

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Details in the authority’s latest monthly capital report say: “(There has been) a £2.0m decrease due to the main contractor going into administration and the decision to refresh the business plan for the site to ensure the best chance of it having a sustainable future.

“This business plan will inform a new tender for the completion of the capital works.

“A report will be presented to December Cabinet and, if approved, the re-tendering of works will progress with immediate effect. It is expected limited works will now take place in 2019-20.”

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

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.

The original plan, which was championed by former council leader Jim Harker, was that the asset would be refurbished to become a major visitor attraction for the county and would 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 built and will house artefacts from the county.

However, it is unclear whether the new plan will be as ambitious.

The project had been expected to cost around £12m, with a third of that coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund.