BID boss: Loss of M&S needs to 'galvanise' us into drawing up a masterplan for Northampton

BID boss Rob Purdie is hoping town leaders can thrash out a masterplan for the town before September.
BID boss Rob Purdie is hoping town leaders can thrash out a masterplan for the town before September.

The likely loss of Northampton’s Marks & Spencer needs to “galvanise” town leaders into drawing up a masterplan for the town, according to the new director of the BID.

Last year, leader of Northampton Borough Council Jonathan Nunn said town leaders were looking to draw up a plan of action to boost footfall in the centre.

Marks & Spencer announced plans to close its Abington Street branch last week.

Marks & Spencer announced plans to close its Abington Street branch last week.

In July he said: “This town has an amazing story to tell, with an incredibly rich history, some outstanding buildings, parks and other attractions that very few towns can match, and we can bring these together to create a compelling offer.”

When the Chron held a focus group of town centre traders last year their feedback was clear also.

Cleanliness, a lack of big name stores, the absence of signposting and clogged roads around the bus station were hitting their takings.

The masterplan is yet to surface.

But the executive director of Northampton’s Business Improvement District, Rob Purdie, said the likely loss of M&S needed to spur the town leaders into making that plan a reality.

He said: “The shape of town centres has to change - it has to be about experience.

“It’s about finding a distinctive experience for your town.

“Maybe something like M&s closing galvanises us into recognising that we need to sit down and define a plan that we can deliver."

The Chron launched a campaign to back our indpendent stores in the newspaper last Thursday - and our rallying cry can be read here.

Mr Purdie was hoping the BID and the borough council could finalise a masterplan – playing on the town’s rich history and former castle site – by September.

But the marketing expert, who has been in post for six months now, said Northampton needs to do more to sell its bounty of independent shops.

“A lot of people come into town to look for independent, quirky stores,” he said.

“In the area around the cultural quarter, there are some great success stories.

“But if you look at Bridge Street, Greyfriars, Gold Street and Drapery of an evening there are some great pubs and businesses.

“We need to be more distinctive and prouder of what we do.”

Northampton’s BID is funded by a levy on businesses in the town centre area and works to make the town a nicer place to visit.

Backing our bid to shop local this week, Mr Purdie was clear – “it’s a use it or lose it situation”.

“Shopping local is about having pride in your own town, by supporting the pope who runs its businesses.

“The reputation of a town centre is everyone’s business.”