The deputy leader of Northampton Borough Council says the authority ‘doesn’t know the answer’ to improving the town’s retail offering.
In a frank assessment of Northampton town centre’s performance, Councillor Phil Larratt said that changing customer habits combined with better shopping options at nearby towns was leaving Northampton behind.
He told a meeting of Northampton pensioners’ forum on Thursday afternoon: “I know full well that my constituents will just as easily jump into the car and go to Milton Keynes as much as they will Northampton.
“Shopping habits have changed enormously. I take up to four parcels every day being delivered for neighbours. Why trouble yourself when you can go online, press a button and have something delivered the next day?
“M&S will be a great loss, but that wouldn’t be the end of it because Debenham’s is on a knife-edge. Everything is changing so much and so quickly that we don’t know what the answer is.”
Asked by the elderly residents what could happen to change the fortunes of the town centre, Councillor Larratt added: “We’re not going to get a John Lewis, they already have stores in
Milton Keynes, Peterborough and Birmingham. It’s all affecting Northampton because we don’t have that kind of retail offering.”
Plans to offer more retail had been earmarked for a proposed mix-use development on the site of the former Greyfriars bus station, but the deputy leader revealed that any development there was now more likely to be focused on housing.
He said: “The site at Greyfriars is being marketed. There was an agreement with a developer and there was a requirement for them to do a certain amount of retail, leisure and housing.
“They came back to us and said they could not do the housing, so we had to blow them out. We are thinking more of a housing site than anything else now.”
James Averill , Local Democracy Reporting Service