Deputy leader of council shares vision of Northampton's regeneration and things to look forward to in 2022
From HMOs to town centre regeneration to brown bin charges - here's what the council's deputy leader said to the Chronicle and Echo
The deputy leader of West Northamptonshire Council has spoken out about major issues in the town and things to look forward to in 2022.
Conservative councillor Adam Brown has been deputy leader at WNC since its inception in April last year when South Northants Council, Daventry District Council and Northampton Borough Council merged into a unitary authority.
Now after nearly a year in power, councillor Brown wanted to talk about his plans for the town going forward.
Councillor Brown says he is passionate about providing more social homes for people in Northampton and that a housing strategy plan is set to be submitted for scrutiny in March.
He said: "I find it [being deputy leader] challenging but it's very rewarding. With that responsibility comes a lot of opportunity.
"I find the housing side of things and homelessness is most rewarding. It's something pretty close to my heart.
"There's a diverse opinion when it comes to social housing. I think most people do aspire to go on and own a home. For me social housing plays a massive part in people's lives and provides stability to residents and families."
Further housing issues councillor Brown touched on were the rise of HMOs in the town and an update on how WNC is tackling homelessness.
He said: "We have got a new planning committee that launched last month to set up a HMO working group which I am going to be chairing. We need to find that balance of meeting the needs of permanent residents and for people passing through.
"We are bound by national legislation and we are never going to be able to make HMOs illegal but I hope we communicate better with good landlords.
"We have also significantly reduced the amount of rough sleepers in the town in the past year. We have an amazing outreach team. It's about making the most of people's potential. It's making sure people's basic needs are met and giving them an equality of opportunity."
Town centre regeneration
The councillor addressed the decline of retail in Northampton and explained his vision for the future of the town centre.
He said: "Retail is never going to be what it once was. Northampton needs to look away from retail.
"I think we have got to focus on culture and entertainment and experiences. Especially events in the Market Square, a focus on the theatre and St Giles' Street and have a café culture on Giles Square.
"The Market Square stands in comparison to a lot really impressive Market Squares across Europe. I think there is scope for having different market stalls coming in like European food market stalls, displays, representing different communities, themed events.
"The council can only give it a kickstart after that, market forces will prevail. It's down to people to support what's on."
The councillor was asked about the increase of flats being built in the town centre.
He said: "There's a need for flats. I know it's a constant bug bear for people. It's a conundrum. We are told we should build on brownfield land where possible using brownfield land means using former retail units and the disused town centre sites."
There has been uproar across the west of the county as a new garden waste bin charge is set to be brought in this year, which will see residents cough up an extra £42 a year for the privilege.
Councillor Brown said: "There is a wider point that we need to start thinking as one WNC instead of harking back to the authorities that were there before us. We need to acknowledge we are in a different landscape now with the unitary authority.
"In an ideal world I would love to cut the brown bin charge down to nothing but the council needs to have sufficient reserves to see it through potentially tough times, if we didn't we would be doing a disservice to the public. If we didn't bring in that charge we would be losing millions of pounds a year, it's a difficult one.
"It's a result of the council not receiving the funds from central government. No one is making a profit out of this. It's the council making sure we have the money for services people want."
Councillor Brown said some of the money will go into street cleaning in the town centre.
Things to look forward to in 2022
Work is finally set to restart on the uncompleted East Stand at Sixfields after Cobblers announced they have reached an agreement in principle with West Northamptonshire Council for the development land next to the stadium.
On this, councillor Brown said: "It's got to be the right deal for taxpayers. In an ideal world it's got to provide stability for the football club. The football club brings a level of prestige to the town. We will take all the time and precautions we need to make sure that it's the right deal.
"There is an additional caution around Sixfields, so if it's moving slowly then it is because we are being mindful we are getting the right deal."
A bid to upgrade Northampton from a town to city has officially was submitted by West Northamptonshire Council on December 8.
Councillor Brown said: "I am massively in support of it. I think it will send a fantastic message about Northampton's ambitions. It's saying, 'we have grown as a place and we want to aspire to more in the future'. It will attract new investors.
"I think it will let people hold their heads up high and say they are from the city of Northampton."
And finally, what's the most rewarding part of the job?
Councillor Brown said: "The most rewarding part of the job is making someone's life a little bit easier to take away that anxiety, it's the reason you get into politics.
"I go home and speak to my wife about decisions to see how she feels as a non-political person. I hope that people know that my heart is in the right place and I make decisions for the right reasons.
"I think there needs to be more of that in politics. I think at WNC, we work with each other to an extent [cross-parties]."