Fury over plans to convert a popular Harborough café bar and charity base into apartments

Liz Adams is helping to spearhead a wave of protest across Market Harborough as she battles to stop the project

Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 9:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 10:00 am
Campaigners Neil and Liz Adams with pet dog Monty 15 who is a regular at Louisa's Place. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Fury has erupted over a high-profile scheme to convert a popular town centre café bar and charity base in Market Harborough into nine apartments.

More than 30 outraged people have already formally objected to the controversial blueprint to close down Louisa’s Place on St Mary’s Road and turn the busy hospitality venue into flats.

And the neighbouring building – which would also be caught up in the initiative – is used by HFT, a national charity which supports people across Harborough with learning disabilities.

Louisa's Place. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Liz Adams, 64, is helping to spearhead a wave of protest across Market Harborough as she battles to stop the project being backed by Harborough District Council’s planning committee.

Talking to the Harborough Mail, she hit the warpath as it emerged that 37 residents had objected to the council about the proposals by Monday evening this week – with no one supporting it.

“This is absolutely appalling. I’m determined to fight this awful scheme,” said Liz, of Farndon Fields, Market Harborough.

“And I’ll recruit as many people across the town as I can to get behind me on this one.

Campaigners Neil and Liz Adams with pet dog Monty 15 who is a regular at Louisa's Place. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

“Louisa’s Place is a great little bar and café, one of the best around.

“I and my husband Neil often pop in there for a coffee and a chat.

“I also run exercise classes and take people out for walks – and we’ll regularly call in there for a cuppa.

“Louisa’s Place is a vibrant, thriving bar with a real buzz to it, it’s a huge asset to Market Harborough.

“The last thing we want is for it to be turned into more soulless apartments overnight.

“People of all ages go in there for a drink, a bite to eat and a natter,” said the mother-of-two and grandma-of-two.

“I took my mother-in-law in there for a drink and she’s in her 90s and she loved it – and a lot of young people go in too.

“It’s so friendly and the staff are great – and they’d lose their jobs if this goes ahead.

“We need a good balanced town centre in Market Harborough – pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and shops, the lot.

“Who wants just flats and apartments everywhere? It’s madness.

“It would be a big blow if we lost such a brilliant meeting up place,” said Liz, who grew up in Brisbane in Australia.

“I’m urging all of my exercise clients to back my fight and I’m whipping up support on the Farndon Fields Facebook page too.

“If this plan does go ahead where would the new residents all park their cars?

“And it’s already extremely busy on St Mary’s Road at the traffic light junction in the town centre – and the air quality and fumes pollution is terrible.

“This abhorrent scheme would have a seriously-negative impact on our fantastic town centre – and I hope that our councillors take notice of that.

“So I’m calling on people right across Market Harborough to unite now to help me and our fellow protestors stop this ever getting off the ground.”

Nim Communications Ltd, which owns the former Post Office building, wants to turn the site into five one-bedroom and four two bedroom apartments.

Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the Liberal Democrat opposition group on Harborough council, told the Mail: “It’s crucial that this planning application is dealt with fairly and objectively by our council’s planning committee.

“This scheme raises serious questions about vital local issues such as parking, extra traffic and the entire fabric of our town centre in Market Harborough.

“I would appeal to people for the sake of local democracy to make their views known to the planning committee.

“You will be able to watch the meeting online when it does come forward for appraisal,” said Cllr Knowles.

“And remember that a limited number of people will be able to address the committee meeting to have their say as well.

“I’m keeping an open mind at the moment about this project - but there are certainly important questions to be answered.”

Asked for his thoughts, owner Ian Scott, who opened Louisa’s Place in December 2013, said: “I’d rather keep them to myself until this matter is settled one way or the other.

“But I do want to thank all of our loyal customers as well as everyone else here in Market Harborough for their support over this – it’s been overwhelming.

“We have 15 brilliant staff here – and we all truly appreciate the town’s support.”

Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough council, said: “I don’t want to say anything which would pre-empt our planning committee’s meeting to discuss and debate the merits of this case.

“But I do understand the concerns of residents in Market Harborough.

“I would encourage people to make their voices heard online through our planning portal.”

A document submitted on behalf of Nim Communications to Harborough council with their application states: “The owner of the site has recently reviewed their options and considers the conversion of the property to a series of residential apartments presents the most effective use of this town-centre site.

“Whilst the site is not itself a Listed Building, the site is located adjacent to the Market Harborough Conservation Area and within the vicinity of a number of designated heritage assets.

“Nevertheless, the proposed development does not require any significant external alterations to the property and, accordingly, it is not considered that the proposed development would result in any unacceptable detrimental impact upon the setting or character of any designated (or non-designated) heritage assets, nor the town’s Conservation Area.”

Both Nim Communications and the HFT charity have been asked for a comment by the Mail.