Town centre businesses express disappointment at decision to move Christmas light switch on
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Following the news that the Christmas light switch on has been moved to Becket’s Park as a result of town centre regeneration works, business owners have expressed their disappointment at the decision.
Now, they want to use the opportunity to urge people to visit the town centre and support the businesses working hard to increase the variety on offer.
Liz Cox, owner of quirky cafe and bar The Eccentric Englishman in St Giles’ Street, said: “Like most of the independent businesses, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s taking people out of the town centre when there are so many doing so much good.
“There’s negativity being spoken about the town centre and we’re working really hard to improve it.”
Liz shared that many of the independents will be doing their best to encourage attendees to walk up from Becket’s Park to the town centre on the day of the Christmas light switch on – Saturday, November 25.
“Give us a chance,” she added. “I speak of St Giles’ Street but there are so many other places. It doesn’t just have to be shopping, there is a whole experience.”
Ksenia Sturina, owner of KS Flowers in St Giles’ Street and The Ridings, echoed Liz’s points.
“For me, it’s really sad because I’ll be missing a lot of customers,” she said. “With the light switch on outside of town, they will not come in at all.
“Everyone who comes to my shop, they like it but some of them never knew we were here. They’ve been passing by or end up in the town. People don’t know what’s going on in the town and they need to know more.
“We need to make it look beautiful and attract people.”
Matthew Lewis, the co-founder of popular town centre business Vintage Guru, said: “As long as people are coming into the town centre and we have a good enough offering to get people into our shops and small businesses, then we should encourage any Christmas activities to still continue – whether it be at the Market Square or at Becket’s Park.
“It’s just about celebrating the festivities and making it an inclusive event for families and children to enjoy. Ultimately Christmas is just about children. As long as the lights look pretty and it’s a fun atmosphere, I think it’ll be a really good day for families.
“There’s a lot of scaffolding, signage and fences. In order for us to disguise that for better things to come, we need to make the town look as pretty as we can and dress it up.
“The town needs to pull together to try and make it look like a better place for Christmas. It only takes a few Christmas lights and window displays to make all the difference.”
‘We firmly believe our town centre should be the focal point of Northampton’s Christmas celebrations’
Mark Mullen, operations manager for Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID), said: “While we fully appreciate the difficulties caused by the ongoing works to the Market Square and the logistical problems this causes when organising large-scale public events, we firmly believe our town centre should be the focal point of Northampton’s Christmas celebrations.
“Northampton Town Centre BID put forward a range of options to be considered by Northampton Town Council, all of which would have allowed thousands of people to enjoy a festive occasion in the town centre and provide a much-needed boost to local businesses, cafes and restaurants ahead of a busy trading period.
“Unfortunately, these suggestions were dismissed by Northampton Town Council and the light switch on event moved out of town to Becket’s Park, depriving businesses of the significant uplift in footfall and revenues the event brings year after year.
“As a BID we are committed to doing all we can to support our businesses and bring more people in the town centre as we strive to make Northampton a better place to live, work and visit. We will always try to find ways of enabling an event to take place, rather than looking for a reason why it cannot.”
More information on the events BID has got lined up for the festive period can be found here.
‘We hope this expanded offer will attract a new audience to the town centre and encourage footfall, as Becket’s Park is just a short walk’
Councillor Jane Birch, chair of the community services committee at Northampton Town Council, said: “We are looking forward to the Christmas season – partners have planned plenty of exciting events and activities to attract families into the town centre, starting with the BID’s fun day and golden ticket launch on November 18, then followed by the Town Council’s Christmas light switch on, on November 25.
“The Market Square closure and town centre regeneration works have presented us with an opportunity to do something a little different this year. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people attend the switch on event so to ensure public safety, alternative locations were carefully considered. Unfortunately both All Saints’ Piazza and Guildhall Square are not feasible locations, due to both their limited space capacity and the necessary town centre road closures which would cause traffic disruption.
“Becket’s Park provides a viable alternative for this year, with plenty of nearby parking and ample space for a range of activities, including a festive themed marquee and ice skating rink. We hope this expanded offer will attract a new audience to the town centre and encourage footfall, as Becket’s Park is just a short walk from the main shopping streets.
“A special trail will take place as part of the switch on event, encouraging participants to visit the town centre throughout the day and we look forward to supporting the BID with their golden ticket giveaway, by handing out leaflets with our goodie bags. We are also working with local partners, creatives and community groups to make the event as inclusive as possible.
“The Town Council covers a huge area beyond the town centre and we have to be mindful that we represent those living and working in the whole parish. Nonetheless, we endeavour to support town centre businesses throughout the year, by giving grant funding to the Northampton Town BID – most recently for the Santa’s Grotto in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre – by delivering and supporting a lively programme of free events, and by brightening up the town with floral displays in summer and with Christmas trees and lights in winter. This creates a lively atmosphere and enhances the environment, helping local businesses to thrive.
“Our carols and crafts event on December 16 will see choirs and bands playing in various locations across the town centre, along with free eco craft sessions for all. In light of the other events and activities planned by both the BID and WNC, this Christmas in Northampton is set to be the biggest yet.
“We look forward to hosting the light switch on at the new Market Square in 2024, which will be further enhanced by our upgraded Christmas lighting.”
‘The council continues to work with the BID and local businesses to provide support during the regeneration works’
Councillor Daniel Lister, cabinet member for economic development, town centre regeneration and growth at West Northamptonshire Council, issued the following comment.
“West Northamptonshire Council is working closely with key stakeholders, including the BID, Town Council and local businesses, to keep them informed on the progress of regeneration works taking place across Northampton town centre,” said Cllr Lister.
“Due to the extensive ongoing works to transform the Market Square, and the preparation works taking place at Abington and Fish Street ahead of the main works starting early next year, the Town Council has made the decision to hold the Christmas light switch on at the nearby Becket’s Park.
“Most of the funding for the project is through the Government’s Towns Fund initiative and projects must be complete by March 2025 and therefore are being delivered concurrently.
“The council continues to work with the BID and local businesses to provide support during the regeneration works and would encourage local residents to continue to visit the town and businesses over the festive period. We hope that residents enjoy this year’s light switch on event to mark the start of the festive season.”