Here's a look back at the major headlines that dominated the news in Northampton this year

Take a look back at what the news in Northampton has had to offer in 2021

By Logan MacLeod
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 7:30 am

Here's a look back at some of the major news stories in Northampton this year.

2021 was anticipated to be the year we beat Covid and emerge from lockdown, but the virus continues to impose on our daily lives.

However, amidst the Covid headlines, this year has seen fires, shop closures, hotels used for quarantining and refugees, a controversial bus lane camera installed, a suspected tornado, a petrol crisis, drink spikings and much more.

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England fans (top left), Semilong fire (top right), fallen tree in St Andrew's Road (bottom left), 24/7 bus lane camera in St James' Road (bottom right)

Let's take a look back at what made the news in Northampton on the Chron's website in 2021.

January

The first NHS vaccination centre opened in Northampton on Monday, January 25.

The centre, at the Royal Pavilion building in Moulton Park, has since given thousands of vaccines to people across the county over the 11 months it has been open.

Chris Pallot, director of the Northampton vaccination centre programme, said back in January that it was a privilege to be a part of the scheme.

"It's a huge privilege to be a part of this because I, like everyone else, have completely had enough in lockdown. To put a light at the end of the tunnel is a great privilege. It has been humbling to see how many hands have gone up to help," he said.

February

Northamptonshire County Council decided to bring in a controversial 24/7 bus lane enforcement camera and positioned it opposite Westbridge Garage in St James' Road.

This caused a stir as many people were being caught and fined by the camera for using the bus lane to undertake stationary cars turning right into the petrol station.

The newly-formed West Northamptonshire Council generated a minimum of £290,000 in fines during the first weeks of its operation and handed out nearly 10,000 fines in the first 81 days...that's one every 12 minutes and around 123 a day.

March

The first Saturday in March marked a sad day for Northampton as Sainsbury's closed its doors for the final time after decades of serving the town centre.

The supermarket giant opened the store in Princes Walk, Grosvenor Centre in July 1975.

For just under 46 years, the shop and its staff have served residents, workers and commuters from the old Greyfriars Bus Station.

Following the news of the closure, one colleague said there was 'a lot of tears' and the company itself said it was looking to find 'alternative roles for those affected'.

The large unit now sits empty inside the Grosvenor Centre.

April

A huge fire broke out in Northampton on Thursday, April 15 which sparked a major incident in the town.

Four fire crews from Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue were on the scene in Semilong Road near the Co-op, alongside Northamptonshire Police and East Midlands Ambulance Service.

The blaze at the substation broke out at around 9pm. Just before midnight, the fire was still raging and firefighters battled to put out the flames.

As a result, there was a huge power cut affecting hundreds of homes in the NN1 and NN2 area.

May

My 1st Years - a personalised children’s gifting company - was based in Caswell Road, Brackmills until the unit was subjected to an arson attack on May 1.

The firm lost more than £3 million in stock, £1 million in equipment, its 100,000 square foot warehouse, a photography studio and its head office. Staff were left heartbroken.

At the time of the devastating fire, which nobody was hurt in but took the fire service a whole day to deal with, bosses of the company assured customers they would ‘bounce back quickly and stronger’.

Less than five months later, the company launched a rebrand from its new home in Grange Park, which is secured on a ten-year lease.

All staff - around 120 people - who worked for the company at the time of the fire, retained their jobs, as insurance helped to keep paying wages while there was no business.

June

Northampton football fans went wild in pubs across the town as England beat Germany 2-0 at Wembley to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

The Chronicle and Echo's photographer snapped topless fans going crazy in Thomas Beckett, cheering on The Three Lions outside at Barratts, and sitting tensely in Jimmy's Sports Bar.

England's goals came from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, which sent Gareth Southgate's men into the quarter-finals where they beat Ukraine 4-0.

They eventually fell at the final hurdle, losing 1-0 to Italy at Wembley.

July

A huge Northampton town centre hotel was closed as part of a 'Government takeover' in a move suspected to be related to quarantine following international travel.

The Park Inn in Silver Street, owned by Radisson, was not taking bookings in July and was closed to the general public.

In an email sent to the guest, which was seen by this newspaper, Booking.com said: “The property has recently been closed due to Coronavirus (Covid-19).

“The hotel will be taken over by the Government for Covid purposes.”

August

Two Northamptonshire hotels closed to provide temporary accommodation for refugees from Afghanistan.

The refugees fled from their home country after the Taliban reclaimed power following the withdrawal of US troops.

The hotels, which the Chronicle & Echo has chosen not to identify in the interest of Government advice and safety reasons, were not taking bookings from members of the public for the foreseeable future.

There was a combined total of more than 200 refugees which moved to Northampton as part of the Government’s resettlement scheme.

September

Oil giant BP revealed it was restricting deliveries to at least 50 of its 1,200 petrol stations in the UK because of a shortage of lorry drivers.

A 'small number' of Tesco refilling stations were also impacted according Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told drivers to keep calm and not panic buy petrol.

He said: "The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well."

However, Mr Shapps' request was ignored and a five-day panic-buy for petrol swept the country, including in Northampton.

October

The county was hit by strong winds on October 31.

The swirling gales made it look like a tornado to many around town and across the county but meteorologists dismissed this, saying it was actually 'straight line winds'.

Nevertheless, the freakish weather caused plenty of issues for residents and drivers.

The main damage came from large trees that had been blown over into the road, smashing cars and causing destruction.

November

Issues with drink-spiking continued to persist in the town.

Police said in November they had been inundated with freedom of information requests about spikings.

Officers published a data set in November which showed that there had been 79 spikings across the county in 2021, with 51 of them coming in September and October.

Police revealed in December that another 32 spikings were reported in Northampton town centre between November and December 24.

No one has yet been charged in connection with the crimes, according to the police's data.

Tributes flooded in for a 'wonderful' Northampton historian who suddenly died in December.

Mike Ingram died on Friday, December 10, and many people took to social media to pay their respects.

The father-of-two was the chair of Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, a volunteer-run registered charity dedicated to the protection, promotion and interpretation of Britain's battlefields.

His published books included Northampton: 5,000 years of history, Northampton Guildhall: A beginner's guide, Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth, The 1460 Battle of Northampton and The Battles and Battlefields of Northamptonshire.

In other news, the controversial St James' Road bus lane enforcement camera was switched off by the council after public outcry. It earned the council nearly £800,000 in fines between February and December.