'It only matters if people have their say': Get involved with Market Square plans and make a difference, say Northampton's traders
Northampton's market traders say they feel 'optimistic' about plans for the town centre for the first time in years - but they need residents to get involved too.
This week, three options for how Northampton's Market Square could be renovated to make a new 'heart' for the town were revealed.The plans by Northampton Forward show how the square could be redesigned to create interactive water features, trees, stepped seating, art installations and new arrangements for the market stalls.
Now, a consultation is open to hear residents' thoughts - and, for good or bad, Northampton's market traders are pleading with the town to have their say.
It comes after the last consultation on the market square in mid-2019 had a turnout of just 660 people - less than one per-cent of the town's population.
"It's very important to the future of Northampton," said trader Eamonn 'Fitzy' Fitzpatrick. "But it only matters if people have their say.
"I've been telling my customers they must tell the council how they feel about, because if you don't bring it to them they won't bring it to you."
To take part in the consultation and view the plans in more detail, visit the council's survey webpage.Last night (November 29), the square's traders met with borough council leaders and planning consultants from Gillespies so they could be talked through the proposals first-hand.
The updated plans have also scrapped a controversial indoor food court envisioned for the square.
Eamonn told the Chronicle and Echo: "I'm glad that's gone anyway. I hated that idea.
"I feel a bit more positive. I finally feel as if the council actually wants a market square here. It means so much to the people of Northampton.
"But we know we will be in for some disruption to business as traders while they make any changes."
In fact, all the traders the Chron spoke to were concerned at how shuffling the stalls could impact business, and were concerned about how they would make a living during any construction.
Three options for where to place the stalls have been put forward, but all of them draw them closer towards the east side of the square, towards Market Walk.
Elliott Jones, of Tony Jones Florist stall, said: "It was a positive meeting but we're all concerned about our business.
"Gillespies has failed to recognise that all the footfall is between the Drapery and the Grosvenor - so they've moved all the stalls away in their plans.
"Any plans should funnel footfall through the market, not past it."
Other traders say they wonder how any of the plans will work in practice.
Les Brannan of LJB Rutherford said: "I'm happy with anything they want to put in this market to make it a better place but part of me says I've seen it all before.
"There are seats and fountains, but they're thinking of sunny days where people come down with their sandwiches. The weather is only any good for eight weeks a year.
"For better or worse, we need people to have their say. I'm always optimistic, and if nothing happens we'll still be here like this."
Market Square is one of five 'quarters' of the new masterplan for the town centre, which was revealed in October after a major consultation earlier this year.