08 March 2010

Northamptonshire County Council’s new reception and the county’s new tourist information centre based at the Sessions House in Northampton is opening for business this week to provide a new gateway to the county.

The county council has worked alongside Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited to extensively refit the 17th century, grade 1 listed building to create a new central hub for anyone wanting to find out more about Northamptonshire.

The needs of customers have been at the heart of the design of the new centre, with information available both face to face or at the touch of a button whether they are looking for information about council services or wanting to find out about events and places to visit across the county.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy a new exhibition space which will be launched with a display about the history of Sessions House, how it relates to other historic buildings in the county and some of the stories of crime and punishment that took place at this historic location.

The centre also has fully-accessible toilet facilities including a changing place toilet; a changing place is a larger disabled toilet that provides a bed and hoist to support people who have a higher level of care needs.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for customers and communities said: “By working in partnership with Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd on this flagship project for for the county, we have ensured the conservation, restoration and preservation of one of Northamptonshire’s most prominent historic properties, whilst bringing the building into good use as a focal point for visitors and residents by creating a gateway to the county for visitors and people looking for information about Northamptonshire. This a jewel in Northamptonshire’s heritage.

"The building has been on English Heritage’s at risk register so we have worked hard to develop the space in a way that preserves the heritage importance of the building as well as opening it to the public. We have also drawn on the wealth of knowledge held by our archives experts to create an attractive display which celebrates the county’s heritage to people visiting the centre.

“We want people to be able to find out the information they need quickly and easily, whether that is find out about the council’s education or caring services or where best to stay during a visit. And our new fully-accessible reception space will mean that all our customers can enter the building without difficulty, as well as take advantage of the new changing place facility.”

The new centre has been developed by Northamptonshire County Council in partnership with Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd, with funding from the East Midlands Development Association.

Kate Dent , Head of Tourism at Northamptonshire Enterprise Ltd said: “The regeneration of this beautiful building with its new modern facilities provides the ideal gateway to Northamptonshire. The county already receives almost 20 million visitors each year and this is set to grow with the increase in domestic tourism. The Welcome and Visitor Centre will be perfectly positioned to capitalise on this growth and show visitors to the county all that Northamptonshire has to offer."

Inside Sessions House A view from a different angle inside Sessions House A view of the front door from inside Sessions House