Northampton town centre can find ‘new kind of vibrancy’


The leader of a new council says a town centre with high crime, homelessness and lack of quality retail, can embrace a “new kind of vibrancy”.

West Northamptonshire Council’s Jonathan Nunn said Northampton has “lost the retail vibrancy it had for the last half century”.

Mr Nunn said an investment plan showcased the town’s culture.

He said the area would have “more to celebrate in terms of history and heritage”.

It says people can be attracted by the town’s “history, beautiful architecture and artisan culture”.

West Northamptonshire Council was one of two new unitary authorities that came into being earlier this year following the demise of Northamptonshire County Council.

In doing so, it took over the duties of the now defunct borough council, which had been planning a series of initiatives to improve the town centre.

These included successful bids for two separate pots of central government funding – the Town’s Fund and the Future High Streets Fund.

The Town Investment Plan said Northampton town centre “is in decline” and falling behind areas like Milton Keynes and Rushden Lakes.

It pointed to prime shopping area vacancy rates of 15% and “a year-on-year decline in footfall of 14%”.

It said many residents “described the town centre as ‘scruffy’ with vacant units, and high levels of crime and homelessness.”

However, it said the solution is to “showcase Northampton’s culture and heritage to attract people to come to the town”.

The report said: “Northampton has a lot to offer – shoe history, heritage sites and country homes.

“It would be wonderful to see Northampton vibrant with people enjoying the town.”

Mrs Teckman, who runs Vintage Guru in St Giles Street, a two-storey emporium which plays host to around 60 independent traders, said plenty of people already come to the town centre to shop.

She said plans to concentrate on heritage and culture come from “people who don’t come in to the town”.

“People want independent shops and cafes,” she said.

“They are put off by parking rates and by negativity from people who never come here.”

Mr Nunn said the council would “like the town to be defined by independents”.

“We are asking people to take a big jump from traditional retail to culture,” he said, “but we are also looking at an easier jump to a different kind of alternative retail and cafe culture.”

Midlands Area Director for Arts Council England, Peter Knott, said successful high streets are made up of more than just shops.

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He said the cultural sector in Northampton “is already in a great position to play its part,” highlighting the Arts Council funded Royal & Derngate Threate, NN Contemporary and The Picturedrome.

“High streets are at the heart of our towns and communities,” Mr Knott said. “making sure there is a space for culture, creativity and the arts will mean traditional towns like Northampton will continue to thrive.”

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Olivia Wilson
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