We will soon see the initial plans for the derelict Greyfriars site. I really hope this is not rushed and time and care is taken on the decision. This site is of huge importance to the town centre and we cannot afford to get it wrong. There must be extensive public consultation on this to help us get the right decision. The Greyfriars site proposals will be put on display to the public from 12 noon on Monday 18 July until 5.30pm on Wednesday 20 July in the Court Room at the Guildhall.
In recent years we have seen decline in the town centre as people have voted with their feet and are now shopping elsewhere. The biggest reason for decline is the growth of large nearby retail centres (such as Milton Keynes and Leicester) and out of town shopping developments (such as Riverside and Sixfields). The approval of Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre is another disaster for Northampton town centre as people will have less of a reason to come and shop here. Town centres where once an important part of civic life, but big retail parks have changed all this. Big department stores no longer come to Northampton due to the proximity of their stores in Milton Keynes, Leicester, Oxford and Bedford.
Nevertheless, we are where we are. I want to see some big attractions that will ultimately increase footfall in the town centre. This is why the Greyfriars site is so important. It is welcome that the County Council offices will now be based in the town centre and the University will be a lot closer. Lower cark parking charges has helped but to really increase footfall our town centre must offer more and something unique. I welcome the improvements being made to St Giles Street. Northampton is surrounded by hundreds of small prosperous villages and we need to start attracting them back into the town centre. Let’s get our thinking caps on and decide how we can do this.
Cllr Arthur McCutcheon
Labour Shadow Cabinet for Planning and Regeneration