An open letter has been sent to Northampton’s MPs by the Liberal Democrat group asking them to weigh in against plans to reopen Abington Street to cars.
Councillors Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) and Brendan Glynane (LIb Dem (Delapre and Briar Hill) say there is ‘no business case’ to support spending £6million on removing driving restrictions on the shopping street over the next 20 years.
In a letter to Conservative MPS Brian Binley and Michael Ellis, the councillors wrote: “This is not a small political decision that can be easily reversed of it goes wrong, so please use your influence to halt this before this mistake is made.”
During the borough council’s own consultation on whether to de-pedestrianise Abington Street - 75 per cent of the responses were negative according to the Liberal Democrat group.
The Conservative led authority says the plans will lead to improved trade on Abington Street.
Councillor Glynane, leader for the Lib Dems at the county council says ‘ignoring’ this and pushing through with the plans is ‘contrary to the spirit of the law.”
He said; “To simply ignore the consultation because you didn’t like what residents have to say is to miss the point.”
Councillor Beardsworth believes the moves are irresponsible considering the authority is predicting a £15 million budget deficit.
She said: “Local Conservatives have gone back to their belief that they have the right to rule and know better than local residents.”
The open letter comes in a week the University of Northampton has released a study showing the benefits of pedestrianised town centres.
The research, which looks into the cases for and against opening Abington Street to cars, found no data to support claims such a move would improve trade Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the 2015 elections Sally Keeble says the borough council need to provide research which proves the shopping street will benefit from through traffic.
She said: “We need an evidence-based action plan that is backed by businesses and the wider public that will take our town forward.
“This badly thought-out de-pedestrianisation flies in the face of all the evidence of what makes shopping centres work.”
Councillor David Mackintosh, leader of Northampton Borough Council has said the University of Northampton report is based on general research into pedestrianisation and focuses on San Francisco, Vienna and Bogotá but makes no mention of Abington Street.
He said: “Much of the research is over ten years old and dates back to before internet shopping really started to hit our high streets.
“I am interested in the specific circumstances affecting trade in Abington Street at this moment in time, and what we can do to help local traders.
“I would urge people to read the report and judge it for themselves.”