Council responds to residents' ideas of John Lewis, a lido, full market and ice skating rink in Northampton

Councillor Lizzy Bowen has shared her thoughts on the idea of having a full market square, an open air swimming pool, an ice rink and more

By Megan Hillery
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 1:09 pm
Northampton residents want to see a full market in Northampton town centre.
Northampton residents want to see a full market in Northampton town centre.

Last week, The Chronicle & Echo asked you - our readers - to tell us what shops and leisure facilities you believe would improve Northampton.

Ideas included a full market, a lido, an ice skating rink and an indoor skiing and snowboarding centre. Many residents also feel that it is very important to appeal to retail giants such as John Lewis and IKEA.

This newspaper has since approached Councillor Lizzy Bowen, cabinet member for economic development and town centre regeneration at West Northamptonshire Council, to share her thoughts on these suggestions and tell us the likelihood of them coming to fruition.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The council has responded to the popular idea of introducing an ice skating rink to Northampton.

Wagamama, Zara, John Lewis and IKEA

Popular suggestions of retailers and chain restaurants included Wagamama - which serves Asian food based on Japanese cuisine - Zara, John Lewis & Partners and IKEA.

Currently, anyone in Northampton wanting to access these shops and restaurants, can find all of them in Milton Keynes.

Councillor Lizzy Bowen said: "The regeneration of Northampton is vitally important to us, even more so in the light of our city status bid. We have to be commercially attractive to businesses such as Wagamama and Zara but also to independent shops which will contribute to the individual uniqueness of our towns.

"However, planning and regeneration is complex, and many aspects such as traffic, transport and pollution increase resulting from it, are very important issues too."

IKEA did apply to build a 30,500 square-metre store on the edge of Northampton in Grange Park in September 2002 - it was turned down by the now defunct South Northamptonshire Council. The furniture company was not the only idea turned down by the council in that same location.

Lizzy added: "With regards to John Lewis, I do know that the company approached South Northants about a Grange Park location some years ago now. The application was turned down I understand, based on opposition from residents, parishes etc.

"Some of this opposition was with concern to insufficient highway capacity. I would hope with the Junction 15 area being revamped, that we would look at this again in a favourable light.

A full market

Many residents believe that the Market Square in Northampton town centre could provide more opportunities for both visiting and local artisan food sellers.

At present, only a small section of the Market Square is used by the town's traders.

Readers have also suggested the Market Square could be made more 'cosmopolitan' with restaurants that have heated outdoor seating and a licence to serve alcohol in the summer evenings along with music and entertainers.

Councillor Bowen said: "The latest market square designs are well under way and we will be engaging with people soon on those. The market stalls are very much integral to our plans, as is outdoor seating and licence to serve food and alcohol.

"I like the word 'cosmopolitan' as this is a good descriptor for what we are trying to achieve."

A lido, ice skating rink and indoor skiing and snowboarding centre

Many readers want to see a heated outdoor pool introduced in Northampton - much like the Midsummer Meadow lido, which was closed in 1983.

Another popular suggestion was to build an ice skating rink at the old and now empty 'Toys R Us' site in St James Retail Park. The closest ice skating rink is currently at Planet Ice in Milton Keynes. This could alternatively - or additionally - be an indoor skiing and snowboarding centre, much like the Snozone in Milton Keynes.

Councillor Bowen said: "An outdoor swimming pool, ice rink and ski/snowboarding offer, would - I am sure - be very popular and one I have added these to my action list to explore more fully.

"We are looking at creating a more structured activity quarter in Northampton to complement activities already on offer. This will be looked at in this context.

"We, like you, want to see the heart of Northampton beating strongly and vibrantly. We have some great plans underway and happy to keep you updated."