Market Square traders to be moved out for two years during Northampton town centre's £8.4million regeneration

Council officials confirm alternatives are being considered as temporary home until 2024

Friday, 1st October 2021, 11:32 am
Updated Friday, 1st October 2021, 11:34 am
stall holders will be moved out of Northampton's Market Square for up to two years while regeneration work goes on

Traders will be moved out of the Market Square for up to two years while Northampton town centre undergoes a £8.4million regeneration.

Work is expected to start next year with a target completion date of March 31, 2024.

Plans were approved earlier this year for improved landscaping, seating, a large-scale water feature and new and better lighting to make Market Square more attractive.

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Work on an £8.4m scheme to make the square more attractive is set to start next year

But officials say it will be impractical to keep the current market where it is while work is being carried out, so alternatives are being considered.

Cllr Lizzy Bowen, West Northamptonshire Council Cabinet Member for Town Centre Regeneration, said: “Feedback we’ve had from people is that Northampton market looks old and tired and doesn’t cater for most people’s needs.

“In addition, the current market arrangements were costing the taxpayer around £120,000 per year, prior to the pandemic, to maintain which isn’t something that can afford to continue.

“Our aim is to attract a wide range of stall holders which will in turn bring in more shoppers from a greater variety of backgrounds. This is vital if our market is to thrive.

“We’re bringing in a team of market specialists to help us with this piece of work, and they’ll be engaging with those who will be most affected, including existing traders and surrounding businesses.”

Fewer permanent stalls will be available when the market returns to the square in 2024 with more temporary ones which can be added and removed as required.

This will greatly improve the appearance of the area and allow the square to be opened up for larger scale events which it is not currently practical to host.

Consultants Quarterbridge, with an extremely strong track record in revitalising markets, has been commissioned to create a vision and business plan for the area. It will deliver its report this autumn.

Laura Graham, Northampton resident and community representative on Northampton Forward, said: “Consultation with the public is hugely important as we are the people who will be shopping, working, socialising, and dining in the space for years to come.

“I’m working with Quarterbridge and members of the community to make sure we get our voices heard and our needs met.

“The prospect of an updated, vibrant, Market Square which is accessible for everyone and used in a variety of ways, is well overdue and something the people of Northampton deserve.”

Northampton's Market Square was first established in 1189, paved nearly 400 years later and rebuilt in 1675 after the Great Fire of Northampton devastated the town centre, destroying more than 600 buildings in just six hours.

Locals raised around £25,000 towards rebuilding the town centre based around the Market Square.

Fast forward nearly 450 years and plans to rejuvenate the area are on the cards with the help of Northampton Forward’s successful bid for a share of the Future High Streets Fund.

Market traders have already voiced concerns over the plans and Eamonn "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick, who has sold fruit and veg in the square for 58 years said: "The whole town centre has gone dead, it's like Chernobyl.

"There are no shops to come here for. It's happening all over the country and I don't blame the council but they have got to realise we are in big trouble.

"They reckon they are going to save the town centre with this £8million. It won't save one shop. It's got to be spent wisely and the council have not got a very good track record of doing that."

West Northants Council leader Jonathan Nunn said: “Through the investments already made and those that are planned, both the Market Square and our £25m of Towns Funded projects, we hope to create a town centre that residents and businesses can be proud of.

“However, this is just the start and will be a catalyst to attract more independent retailers and make Northampton a destination for businesses to start-up, relocate and invest.

"It is this wider regeneration that will put Northampton back on the map as a place to visit with its rich history, culture and independent spirit.”