Set out below are observations and suggestions from a Group of Northamptonians who are keen to see the cultural regeneration and economic success of their Town Centre.
All comments are intended to be constructive.
Most town centres are facing difficult times resulting from “out of town” and “edge of town” retail parks, together with internet retailing. They need urgent help. Time is running out!!
- The Town Centre should be the vital heart of the community, which is enthusiastically used by all occupation groups and all age groups, during both daytime and night time. Until this is achieved, we have failed.
- Northampton as a town will always ultimately be judged by the quality of its Town Centre.
- Northampton is predicted to increase its population from 200,000 to 300,000. Anyone can make the town bigger. Not anyone can make it better. Making it substantially better should be our objective.
- We should all strive to create a town centre based on the solid foundation of quality, which ensures civic pride for future generations – no quick fixes or cheap gimmicks.
- The Town Centre should be defined as the area within the inner ring road. This would enable the investment of time, energy and cash, to have a more dramatic effect. This is the area the target market is avoiding. It makes absolutely no sense to alter this definition and thereby increase the area, until the current town centre is a success.
- Appoint a ‘Tsar’ to drive the DELIVERY of the finalised ACTION PLAN. This should it be a high-ranking executive officer who can focus energy, resources, and creativity on the objectives. This person must have the authority and the budget to achieve the objectives.
- Town Centres should not be undermined by other developments.
There needs to be very strict planning control to prevent increases in out-of-town & edge-of-town retail floor space.
- Town Centre cloning should be avoided.
Market Harborough is appealing because architectural vandalism has been minimalised and there is a great number of independent retailers. This diversity is very, very important.
- Encourage more street café’s – there should be a 10 year moratorium on new Pubs.
- Whatever buildings are created, we should be proud of in 50 years, not embarrassed by after 5. Sol Central was an example of being oversold and under delivered.
- There is a demographic change in the age profile of the nation.
In the near future we can expect to see cities, regions and countries competing for people to work, live and play in them, rather than leave to go elsewhere.
People that live in and visit Northampton will be demanding the sort of environment that they seek when visiting other places.
Providing theatres, entertainment, restaurants, exhibitions, culture, clubs, things to be proud of, and the ‘brands’ that are a part of any successful city or region, will be mandatory. This includes easy access.
The consequence of not getting this right will be costly. A leakage of people and skills will put Northampton into a downward spiral!!
- Strong town centres are vital for competitive economies to be sustained. This includes quality recruitment of students and lecturers to The University.
- Strong town centres are vitally important as cultural centres.
- Should we again be aiming at the creation of a Unitary Authority
(NBC + NCC)? Northampton does not benefit from Unitary Authority status and responsibilities are shared by different local government organisations and other agencies. There is a need to ensure that the Town Centre has a single agency focus – a partnership of those organisations with the power and responsibilities to make things happen in a concerted fashion.
In April 2009, Unitary Authorites already covered 60% of England where they run all the services which used to be provided by County Councils (paving, lighting, traffic regulation, street furniture, signage etc)
- As a golden rule, architectural heritage should always be preserved. It follows that the vandalising of our architectural heritage should be criminalised.
It should be noted that city centres that respect and preserve their heritage, normally act as a magnet to both the local population and to tourists.
- Give relentless focus to the Greyfriars development.
- The library to be upgraded but retained in its current location
- The Old Law Courts in George Row to be maximised for public use.
- The Market Square to be cleared of stalls. Future markets should include Farmers Markets, Antiques Markets, General Markets, Italian & French Markets. These markets to be conducted on the continental model.
NB -The market will only survive if the retail offer is good enough.
- The market square should also be used for frequent entertainment – both free and possibly pay to view.
The entertainment should be as diverse as possible.
- Abington Street to be retained as a pedestrian area but to be softened with greenery and water features when it is upgraded. This would encourage people to meander and socialise. At the moment, it is drab and in urgent need of a makeover.
Zero tolerance policing and a conspicuous police presence will eradicate yob culture and make the area attractive to the decent majority.
A feeling of security is essential.
- Install a new building facade on ‘Penman’s Folly’ (the old Notre Dame)
- The Town Centre to contain the following PREMIUM facilities:
- Royal and Derngate Theatre
- Rennie Mackintosh @ 78 Derngate
- The Central Library
- The Market Square
- All Saints Church
- The Church Restaurant
- The Central Museum
- The Old Crown Court
- Holy Sepulchre Church
- St Giles Church
- A dedicated Boot and Shoe Museum
- A vastly upgraded Abington Street
P.S. The Churches should all be encouraged to promote community activities including social debates.