‘Attitudes will have to change in Northampton’ if town is to move forward

Stephen Church.
Stephen Church.

A “fundamental change” in attitudes is needed to deal with issues affecting Northampton town centre, the author of a new report has claimed.

Former Church’s China managing director, Stephen Church, says the town will only move forward when it accepts it will never be the retail force it once was.

Mr Church has penned a report on the results of a town centre summit, held last September, which was being discussed by councillors on Wednesday.

In it, he says Northampton has suffered from changing shopping habits, including internet shopping and use of out-of-town retail parks.

But he says the town does have a “bedrock” on which a revival can be founded, including heritage, low unemployment, a vibrant multi-cultural population and a successful university.

He goes on to say: “To bring about a revival in the fortunes of Northampton, a fundamental and original approach is required, akin to the post-war restructuring of many of Britain’s towns and cities.

“The first step is to acknowledge that retail can no longer be the sole way of attracting visitors. Without swift, innovative and appropriate action, the commercial and social life of the town will continue to decline.”

Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo, Mr Church said: “We have to cast aside thoughts of what it used to be. Market traders would say 25 years ago, it was full. But 50 years ago, it was only open two days a week. People have to get away from the obsession with retail. It is clear the big chains do not consider Northampton to be attractive. It’s no good trying to be King Canute, and turn the tide.

“It still can be a great place to live, in the broadest sense. But it won’t happen without fundamental things changing.

“Good things are going to happen and people should not be despondent.”