Veteran market trader compares Northampton town centre to Chernobyl and urges council to spend regeneration millions 'wisely'

"Fitzy" has urged the council to provide free parking in the town centre, lower rents, and abolish business rates in a bid to increase footfall

By Logan MacLeod
Thursday, 5th August 2021, 8:02 am

A veteran market trader in Northampton has compared the town centre to Chernobyl and is hoping new funding to reinvigorate the town will be spent 'wisely'.

Eamonn "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick got in touch with this newspaper to say he was worried about the rapid decline of the Market Square and the town centre in general.

Fitzy has said a combination of Covid and the closures of Debenhams, in the Drapery, and Sainsbury's, in the Grosvenor Centre, has led to a drop in trade at his fruit and veg stall.

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Eamonn "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick

And now Fitzy is calling on West Northamptonshire Council to spend its recently acquired government funding to improve the Market Square wisely.

In December, it was announced that Northampton was one of 73 successful towns to be awarded Future High Streets funding of £8.44m by the government.

The project is expected to be completed by March 31, 2024.

However, Fitzy believes there are other aspects where funding should be spent in the town to increase footfall, which does not involve improving the Market Square.

He said: "I'm worried about the future. They have got this money to spend from the government to regenerate the Market Square but I'm worried about how they are going to spend it.

"I think it's the wrong time to do anything like that [regenerate the Market Square]. The council reckons its going to save the town centre with this £8million. It won't save one shop. It's got to be spent wisely and the council have not got a very good track record of doing that.

"The town centre is dead. It's like flogging a dead horse here. There are no shops to come here for. I've been here 58 years and I have never seen such a decline. Since Sainsbury's and Debenhams shut we have noticed it more.

"The state of the town centre, it's happening all over the country. It's a runaway train. I don't blame the council but they have got to realise we are in big trouble. They are making these changes at the wrong time.

"I would re-pedestrianise Abington Street. Since the council did that, the whole town centre has gone dead. It's like Chernobyl.

"We need to provide free parking in the town; lower rents for market traders; and abolish business rates (BR). They have got to be abolished if they want to regenerate, but they won't because BR are a cash cow."

Fitzy said he will not let the High Street and the Market Square die 'without a fight', even if that means going to the Prime Minister himself.

The 71-year-old said: "I'm choked about it [the decline]. I am a market trader through and through.

"I'm not going to go without a fight. I am going to make a nuisance of myself. I will go to Boris Johnson and tell him. I will do whatever it takes.

"I feel I owe the market a favour, it's been good to me, but I don't see much future the way it's going.

"Without this market, the whole town centre will die."

Fitzy also gave his two cents on the large influx of planning applications for flats in the town centre.

"They think building all these flats in the town centre is going to regenerate it. It's going to speed up the decline," he said.

West Northamptonshire Council has been contacted for comment.

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