Northampton Market stays in the square until Christmas but traders say it's a 'stay of execution'

Councillors push back August start date for work on £8.4m transformation

Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 11:48 am

Traders have been told they can stay in Northampton Market Square until Christmas — just days before they were due to move out.

Councillors confirmed on Wednesday (July 27) that work on an £8.4 million transformation project for the town centre due to start in August is on hold until January 2023.

It comes more than a month after stall-holders demanded clarity from the council following rumours plans were about to change.

Fruit and veg trader Eamonn Fitzgerald says delaying work on transforming Northampton town centre is only a 'stay of execution' for the Market

Fruit and veg trader, Eamonn Fitzpatrick, called it a “stay of execution” but admits it will give his staff another few months’ work before the move to a car park on the edge of the town centre puts jobs at risk.

He said: “They told us it would be the end of August, then it went to November and now January.

“I’ve got three or four staff and there’s no way I’ll get enough to give three or four people a living once we move down there.

“This has given them a a bit more time, so I’m delighted with that.

“But I still can’t see us sending us down there in January when there could be snow on the ground and wind whipping around. They can’t be that heartless.”

Traders are furious at being forced to move to Commercial Street, near the Carlsberg roundabout, for two years while work goes on to add a new water feature, trees, paving, public seating and lighting scheme to the Market Square.

West Northamptonshire Council said pushing back the start date allows business as usual over Christmas.

But it insists the move to Commercial Street will happen in January as construction work, additional traffic, noise, dust and disturbance makes it impractical to stay on the square.

Councillor Daniel Lister, cabinet member for town centre regeneration, said: “We’ve listened to what a range of traders, both from the market and surrounding businesses, have told us and we’ve decided that work should start after Christmas.

“This will give everyone some stability at one of their busiest times of year before we commence work on the extensive redevelopment of Market Square.”

Traders claim regular customers, particularly the elderly and infirm, are telling them Commercial Street is too far out of the town centre.

But councillors ruled out alternatives in Abington Street and Wood Hill, insisting it was the only option, which allowed the entire market to remain together.

They believe splitting up stalls would have led to lower footfall, impacting its long-term sustainability, and have pledged to continue promoting the market in the lead-up to and after its move in January.

Cllr Lister added: “The improvements we have planned will undoubtedly cause disruption, but we’ll continue working with traders to minimise the impact on their businesses.

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“Once the work is complete, I know people will be extremely impressed with the new space we’re going to deliver for them.

“Alongside the enhancements in Abington Street and Fish Street, and all of the other projects we have in the pipeline, Northampton town centre is set for a renaissance.”