It was almost a Who’s Who of Northampton as town centre stakeholders from charities, businesses and community organisations gathered at the Park Inn to talk about the future.
The conference was organised by Northampton Town Centre BID in the wake of the announcement that Marks & Spencer is closing its Abington Street store. That particular piece of bad news is not the whole picture however and Northampton’s council tax payers are keen to come up with an exciting plan for the town centre of the future.
The BID released the following report on the meeting…
More than 150 people gathered in Northampton – determined to have their say and help shape the future of the town centre.
The ‘Northampton town centre – Our Next Steps’ event, hosted by Northampton town centre Business Improvement District (BID), brought a panel of business, education and council leaders together, with Northampton residents and businesses asking challenging questions and sharing their aspirations.
At the event, which took place at the Park Inn, Northampton on Wednesday 19th September, Rob Purdie, Executive Director of Northampton town centre Business Improvement District (BID), summarised: “There is a deep passion and care for the town, but the key thing is that no one organisation is big enough to affect all of this change – we need to work together. It is time to act, to focus on our town centre, to be positive and to move forwards. Northampton town centre needs a big hug and the passion and commitment from our speakers, panellists and all our guests proves this is what we all want.”
Below are 13 highlights from the event – big and small ideas from the conference – that will help to turn Northampton into a town centre of the future. Feel free to add your thoughts or suggestions in the comments…
- The University of Northampton urged businesses and residents to warmly welcome students and staff to the town centre. Deborah Mattock, Director of Human Resources, Marketing and International Relations, said: “We have 12,000 young people and 2,000 staff coming into Northampton town centre this month as our new Waterside campus opens. So, my question is ‘Northampton – are you ready?’ Our students have money to spend and skills to offer.”
- Market Square – this was announced as a priority for the BID and also the council. George Candler, Chief Executive of Northampton Borough Council, said: “We need to create areas for people to congregate and there is an opportunity to do something with the market square, and we need to be bold and imaginative. This is a priority.”
- The University of Northampton also announced it will, for the first time, be holding its Freshers Fair on the Market Square – featuring 3,000 students encountering the town for the first time
- Christmas lights will return this year, announced the council, despite rumours to the otherwise.
- The Drapery: George Candler, Chief Executive of Northampton Borough Council, said the borough council has pledged to pick up the £55,000 bill for improvements to The Drapery – to tackle traffic flow and reduce the air pollution. Work will start soon.
- New museum: Contractors are now on site, with the £7million refit now underway that will double the size of the museum and also be home to a Centre of Excellence.
- Vulcan Works, next to the museum, will be home to a small business hub. This project has been awarded £3million of European money.
- The old Greyfriars bus station: Jonathan Nunn, Leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “We want something iconic, bold, something better than the plan previously put forward. This is a priority and we are getting professional advice.”
- New town centre homes: The borough council announced it is committed to getting people back into and living in the town centre. There is set to be 200 apartments for key workers and ‘grand plans’ for private and social housing in and around the town centre.
- Blooming and beautiful: It was announced that the East Midlands in Bloom judges had visited Northampton and awarded it ‘gold’ status, so Northampton is now through to Britain in Bloom.
- Business rates for small businesses: Andrew Lewer, MP, answered a question about business rates. He was asked “Will our MP give us a commitment that he will go back to Government and sort out business taxes?’ He replied: “The Chancellor has flagged up business rates. He recognises that business rates are not good for business. They need to be tackled, particularly for small business. The Government needs to be open to the idea of moving away from static business rates for small business and consider a sales turnover tax instead.”
- Safety on Bridge Street: Mick Stamper, Chief Superintendent at Northamptonshire Police, was asked about this. He said: “We police Bridge Street every Friday and Saturday night and are keenly aware that young women can be at risk so we put a lot of effort in to protect people. With the influx of students we are working closely with the university to ensure we have additional resources available at night.”
- Pledge by Northampton town centre BID: “We pledge to focus on vacant town centre units and how we can best fill them, the Market Square and how we promote Northampton as a ‘Shoe Town,” said Rob Purdie during his closing comments.