News that St Giles Street is to get a £3 million “pedestrian friendly” revamp after Christmas has been roundly applauded by the street’s independent traders – but questions over the amount of parking it will deliver and the length of the roadworks remain.
Last week Northampton Borough Council unveiled plans to revamp the independent shopping destination by widening pavements, adding parking bays on St Giles Square and adding features to the eastern end of the street intended to slow traffic and make it easier to cross.
This week many traders on the street, which was recently voted as one of the top three high streets in the UK, say it is about time they saw some investment.
“We’ve been hiding the secret of St Giles for too many years,” said manager of Blenders coffee shop, Tony Egan. “It’s great news.”
Personal tailoring manager of menswear shop Montague Jeffrey, Patrick Leonard, said: “St Giles has always been the little brother of Abington Street, but we’ve always had a reputation for having the quality shops.
“If you get areas which are very pedestrianised they feel much calmer to walk down. If it lifts the ambience it can be no bad thing for trade.”
And when asked whether he was concerned that roadworks would hamper trade during the construction period, he said: “It’s a short term loss for long term gain.
“We have to be philosophical about things like this.”
Manager of Dychurch Lifestyle next door, Steve Partington, had a similar view.
“The works are going to be pandemonium,” he said. “But it will make a fractional improvement to trade.”
And owner of Rococco fashion boutique Helen Abbott added: “If this goes ahead it is going to really put us on the map, we are going to be taken more seriously.
“You’ve got to crack some eggs to make an omelette.”
Many of the traders on St Giles felt their shopping street had too long been the hidden gem of Northampton and has long needed better signage to draw in punters.
Co-proprietor of cafe Are You Being Served, Wendy Wenham, said: “We have been to many a planning meeting to talk about how St Giles is the forgotten jewel in the crown of Northampton.
“It’s nice but it needs nurturing and looking after, so this is a commitment to do that.”
But many are keen for more details of exactly how many parking bays will remain on St Giles after the revamp and whether delivery lorries will still be able to access a street with widened pavements.
“It would be nice to make the street a bit prettier,” said owner of St Giles Cheese, Steve Ward. “Our concern is we haven’t seen the full plans yet.
“What is it going to do to customer access, will there be more or less car parking spaces?”
Co-owner Caroline Ward, said: “We’ve got a lot of disabled customers, we just hope there is enough parking for them.
“And how long will the works take? It will hurt our business while the roadworks are going on.”
But proprietor of cafe C’est La Vie, Su Paterson, has questioned whether it is the right time to be lavishing improvement works on St Giles, when so many independent firms are struggling to cope with Northampton’s high business rates.
“I think that money is better off spent elsewhere,” she said.
“Let’s look at more ways of helping the independents stay in business before we spend all this money on widening the paving.
“This is not going to have an impact on my business at all.”
Northampton Borough Council says it intends to meet with traders on the street in the coming weeks to discuss the £3 million revamp plans in more depth.