Market Square redevelopment 'will be a catalyst' for Northampton town centre prosperity
The redevelopment of Market Square is hoped to be the catalyst for the area's prosperity and the overall makeover of Northampton town centre.
The public is being asked to comment on the plans to change the layout of the square as well as the potential additions of trees, stepped seating and an interactive water feature.
Royal and Derngate chief executive Jo Gordon, who is also a board member of Northampton Forward, the group behind the scheme, has high hopes.
"The thing that's exciting for me is for this to be a catalyst for what new business in the Market Square might look like," she told the Chronicle & Echo.
"What I love about the designs is it really cleverly accentuates some of the things we love about that square."
Three different 'visions' of the Market Square redesign were revealed at the end of November with a consultation launched to gather people's thoughts on them.
So far, the number of comments submitted has nearly surpassed the original consultation conducted earlier this year on the overall 'masterplan' for the town centre.
Jo thinks this is because the Market Square is such an important part of Northampton as the historic central hub and it has been 'fascinating' to see the responses.
"In the last consultation, the Market Square came out in particular as one of the things with so much energy, passion and imagination behind it, not just because of the heritage side of it, but also because of how stronger everyone feels about it and its usage and their experiences," she said.
"A lot of people are having really positive experiences there because they're coming to some of the great events that go on or they have great relationships with the market stallholders.
"Then some people are citing it as one of the reasons why they don't come into the town anymore and it's not what it used to be."
Jo was full of praise for the architects, Gillespies, for taking so many different things in account when designing the plans - 'who knew the Market Square had its own micro-climate?'
She said they want to make the most of the market stalls, as one design has them lined up along the main thoroughfare, and the area that gets the most sun.
The 'interactive water feature' is quite fluid at the minute, with potential for it to be fountains if that works best or channels of water following the square's natural slope.
While the space created by moving the market stalls would be used to host pop-up events like food festivals - the idea of a permanent 'food hall' was ditched to keep the area 'dynamic', Jo said.
"I don't think it's going to be a case that we will pick one of these schemes as there are elements in all of them that people are going to love," she added.
"I think we will end up with something that will be a version but to have got everyone in Northampton to feedback on those bits that they like I think will really help."
The redesign is dependant on external cash though, specifically from the Government's Future High Street Fund, with a £25m bid to be made after this consultation.
However, it is expected that each town selected for a grant will receive between £5m and £10m, and a decision is not due until the summer, meaning any changes are unlikely to happen before 2021.
Jo believes the regeneration of the Market Square will help both what her team at the Royal and Derngate as well as the town as a whole.
"A thriving town centre is so essential for us at the theatre in terms of bringing people to the town, not just cultural tourism but tourism more broadly," she said.
"As well as what the retail offer looks like, what the food and beverage offer looks like, that can all support what we're doing at the theatre.
"To have a thriving Market Square again, to drive footfall, to drive new business, to celebrate heritage, performance and community, that's why I'm excited by all of the plans because they really cleverly respond to those things in different ways."
To take part in the consultation and view the plans in more detail, visit survey.websurveycreator.com/s/nmsc3.