Northampton’s reputation as a global powerhouse for leathercraft is set to be significantly bolstered after plans for a centre of excellence involving the University of Northampton were rubber stamped.
Northampton Borough Council is working with the University to create a multimillion-pound leatherworking centre of excellence within the town’s cultural quarter.
The ambitious plans will see the University transfer its Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) from its current home at Park campus to the former Vulcan Works site in Guildhall Road, pictured.
The historic former iron works building will also house the Leather Conservation Centre, currently located at Park Campus, and exhibition space, after the council’s cabinet gave the project the go ahead on Wednesday 11 May.
The project will also allow the authority to bring forward its plans for a cultural hub, creating a series of managed workspaces in Fetter Street.
Rachel Garwood, director of the ICLT, said: “We are currently the leading global HE provider for leather education and the only university in Europe with a full working tannery.
“The new International Leather Centre being formed in Northampton town centre will become the epicentre for leather expertise, addressing the whole of the value chain from ‘the hide to the high street’.
“As well as working with fashion, design, marketing and business within the University, this will be achieved by close working relationships with other specialised areas within Northampton such as Moulton College, the Leather Conservation Centre, Museum of Leathercraft and, of course, the local leather industry. No one else is positioned to offer this level of expertise worldwide.”
Cllr Tim Hadland, Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and planning, said: “This is an exciting plan to bring the former Vulcan Works buildings back into use.
“The University has an opportunity to create something unique here, ensuring Northampton continues to be viewed as one of the foremost leatherworking centres in the world.
“This project demonstrates the strong partnership between the University and the borough council which bodes well for the cultural future of the town centre, and Northampton as a whole.”
The entire project will cost around £13 million, £5 million of which will be used to create the University’s leathercraft centre.
Initially, the university is contributing £2 million to the project, and will pay back the remaining costs through a 30-year lease arrangement with the council. It will also run the cultural hub, though these will remain in the council’s ownership.
Most of the money for the cultural hub is coming through a Local Growth Fund grant, administered by South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP).
Stephen Catchpole, Chief Executive of SEMLEP, said: “We are delighted this leathercraft centre of excellence has been given the go ahead, it will be an exciting addition to Northampton town centre’s already thriving cultural hub, funded by SEMLEP via the second round of our Local Growth Deal.”
A new planning application will be submitted this summer, with work starting on site by the end of the year, and completion in summer 2018.
The University’s ICLT is a globally-unique research centre engages in cross-disciplinary research that responds to the scientific and technological needs of the leather, automotive, fashion, footwear and allied industries.