“A year of celebration and commemoration” is how leader of Northampton Borough Council has described 2014 in a New Year’s address to the town.
Councillor David Mackintosh’s (Con, Rectory Farm) end of year statement has summed up the past 12 months as “a year of growth” which he said has set “the foundations for success in future years.”
His positive look back on the year was not shared by leader of the Lib Dems though, who described the New Year message as “nauseating self-congratulation”. The leader of the Labour group was less critical, describing Northampton as “being in a good position”.
In a statement released today, Councillor Mackintosh said: “The regeneration of our town has continued as Northampton Alive projects have progressed at pace.
“This year we agreed an end to the development agreement with Legal & General, putting the future of Greyfriars back in our hands, and when it is demolished in the next few months we will have four acres of land in a prime town centre location to redevelop.
“The expansion of all three professional sports clubs is moving ahead, and our athletics club will soon have a fantastic new facility at Moulton College.”
While Councillor Mackintosh did not go on to explicitly mention the town’s £7 million new bus station among the highlights of the year, the leader did say that “transport infrastructure has been improved” and added that work is “nearing completion on the new railway station.”
The leader cited the borough’s free weekend parking scheme, the Love Northampton ‘app’ and the recent German market as measures that have increased footfall in the town centre.
Other successes, he said, included the introduction of the Business Incentive Scheme, which has seen £300,000 invested in 40 local businesses and entrepreneurs.
On proposals to extend the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, he said: “Our plans will see the exhibition space doubled as well as new galleries, teaching facilities and commercial space. And with improvements to Guildhall Road we are working hard to bring people to our fantastic Cultural Quarter.”
And on reopening Abington Street to traffic he said that the move was already “Seeing more people using that part of the town centre.”
But his positive look back at the past 12 months was not shared by leader of the borough’s Liberal Democrat group Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) who disagreed with what she has described as the council leader’s “nauseating self-congratulation.”
She said: “I’m not happy with some of these so-called achievements - I don’t think Abington Street can be classed as an achievement - it’s just another way of leaving the town centre, when we should be encouraging people to come in.”
And on the sale of the Egyptian Sekhemka statue for nearly £16 million to help pay for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery extension, at the cost of the council losing Arts Council England accreditation, she said: “It is not an achievement when you consider the cost to the council’s reputation.”
Leader of the Labour group at the borough council, Councillor Les Marriott, (Lab, Semilong) was less scathing, saying: “Clearly Northampton is in a good position, but I can’t say that is entirely down to the Conservative administration.”
And he added: “I’m looking forward to the elections in May, when the public will have their judgement on the record of this administration.”