After years of stagnation, the revival of Northampton town centre will continue apace in 2014, with a raft of major redevelopment projects finally due to see the light of day.
Over the next 12 months, work will start on redeveloping the home of both the Saints and the Cobblers; the town’s new bus and railway stations will open; and demolition work will start on the Greyfriars bus station.
The leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh (Con, Rectory Farm), said the new year represented a real turning point for the town.
He said: “It seems there’s something happening on every corner and in every community.
“There’s a real buzz about the town as we see that new buildings are constructed and opened, and the improvements Northampton needs are being delivered.”
The first major change the town will see in 2014 will be the opening of the new bus station, on the site of the former Fishmarket in Sheep Street, in March.
The opening of the new bus station will allow demolition work to begin on Greyfriars at the end of March, potentially clearing the site for a major new retail development.
Councillor Mackintosh said: “We are now seeing plans coming together and how success creates success.
“We’ve laid the groundwork and the completion of one project opens the door for another, which in turn creates opportunities for yet more.
“We’re transforming our town, making it a welcoming and business-friendly place that employers want to invest in and the Government is using it as a success story for the rest of the country.”
Northampton’s new railway station, which is currently being built, will open in August, with the current, dilapidated building scheduled for demolition at the end of the year.
Other major projects due to be carried out over the next 12 months include the reopening of Abington Street to cars between St Giles Terrace and Wellington Street and a £3million project to update the Grosvenor Centre.
Opposition politicians in Northampton have broadly welcomed the developments for the town in 2014, but have opposed the re-opening of Abington Street to traffic.
Labour Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said her view on the regeneration programme was ‘mixed’.
She said: “ I wholeheartedly support the demolition of Greyfriars, the building of the new bus interchange and the new train station.
“However, there are other things where I have my doubts. While I welcome new student accommodation, I’m still not sure whether the St John’s site is the best place for it. And I’m totally opposed to the opening up of Abington Street, which is nothing more than a vanity project for the council.”
The leader of the Liberal Democrats at the Guildhall, Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) also opposes the re-opening of Abington Street to cars.
She said: “I’m not sure that opening up Abington Street to traffic is the right thing to do, because I think pedestrianisation is important.
“I’m also not sure the new bus station is going to be in the right place. A lot of people like to get off the bus and go right into the shopping centre as they do at the moment.
“It may increase trade on the Market Square, but that’s the only benefit I can see,” she said.
In February this year, plans for the £43 million Northamptonshire County Council headquarters, which will be built in Northampton town centre, will also be submitted to officials at Northampton Borough Council for approval.
Ahead of their publication, the latest plans for the development will be on show at the Grosvenor Centre on Friday and Saturday this week.