Northampton Mayor would welcome IKEA opening in town - 20 years on since plans were rejected

The decision remains a sore subject for many still in the town today
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Let’s take a look back at the time when Northampton could have had an IKEA in the town – if councillors did not vote it down.

It was September 2002, Ronaldinho’s Brazillian national team had beaten Germany 2-0 in the World Cup final in South Korea that summer, Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" was the smash hit of the year and IKEA had just submitted big plans for Northampton.

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The world-leading Swedish furniture store wanted to open a new site next to Grange Park, just off junction 15 of the M1 – surely a perfect location?


What is more, IKEA opened a store in Milton Keynes, which is still thriving today.

IKEA wanted to build a 30,500 square metre building that had a car park big enough for 1,500 customers. In addition to the store it was proposed that part of the site be developed for a park and ride facility where a further 450 car parking space would be provided. It was reported at the time the site would create around 600 jobs.

But the plans were not met with enthusiasm by South Northamptonshire Council at the time, or Northamptonshire County Council or Northampton Borough Council.

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Chronicle & Echo spoke to the town’s current mayor, councillor Dennis Meredith, who was a young Labour member at the time, to get his perspective on how it all unravelled.

Within the red boundary is where IKEA was planning on opening its store in Grange ParkWithin the red boundary is where IKEA was planning on opening its store in Grange Park
Within the red boundary is where IKEA was planning on opening its store in Grange Park

Councillor Meredith said: “There was lots of debate going on whether they should allow IKEA to come here or not. I think they were a bit worried it would overpower all the other shops in Northampton.

“The mood back then, as far as I was concerned, they didn’t now whether it was the right decision or not. It went to the planning committee who rejected the proposal.”

In planning papers from 2003, South Northamptonshire Council explained why it rejected the proposals.

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Planning papers say: “In conclusion on shopping grounds, the application does not demonstrate sufficiently why such a store needs to be located at Grange Park, when there are alternative town centre options available.

"The proposal may have a detrimental impact on Northampton town centre by diverting trade and potentially putting at risk the proposed Grosvenor extension.

"The application is not consistent with the Borough Council’s policy on out of centre retail development as contained in the Northampton Local Plan.”

Looking back, was it the right decision? Many shops are currently vacant in the town centre, Rushden Lakes was built and IKEA in MK is thriving. The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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Today, in the area where IKEA was proposed, a massive logistics hub is being built which will create 7,500 jobs, and housing developers are considering building 900 homes between Grange Park and Quinton.

Councillor Meredith said: “It was quite a sad decision, really, because with all the other shops now gone we could have done with an IKEA.

"I don’t know if IKEA would come to Northampton now, would they? I’d welcome them."

The IKEA saga still remains a sore subject for many in the town today. Will they ever submit another application?