Plans to refurbish Northampton's Market Square as part of an £8.4 million redevelopment have officially been submitted for approval.
After more than two years of planning and consultations, West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has submitted proposals to its own planning committee.
Traders are set to be moved out of the Market Square for up to two years while the site undergoes the regeneration.
They will be moved by WNC to Commercial Street car park, alongside the Carlsberg Roundabout, until the work is complete.
Work is expected to start in August with a target completion date of March 31, 2024.
What do the plans say?
A design and access statement says the new market will be condensed to just 18 permanent stalls instead of more than 100 “low quality” stalls it has now.
The statement goes on to say that the Market Square is in decline and that “betting shops have become a hotspot for anti social behaviour” and the “congregation of homeless people”.
Planning papers say: "In recent years the trading stalls are in decline and the overall quality of produce and products being sold is depleting.
"The overall appearance of the square is rather tired and underused.
“A significant portion of the market stalls are not occupied, the increase in vacant ground-floor buildings and building uses such as betting offices become an attractor for frequent antisocial behaviour and the congregation of homeless people."
A number of key objectives have been developed to assist with defining the brief for the new square, according to the plans.
The key objectives of the new market are as follows:
• A “revived heart” of the town.
Plans say: "Enabling the market square to be the 'beating heart where people meet, gather and stay'.”
• An “iconic and attractive” space.
Plans say: "The square should be identifiable and unique, picking up Northampton’s important heritage and emphasising the positive qualities, such as historic existing architecture.”
• A “flexible canvas” for events.
Plans say: "The proposed square should enable a diversity of different uses across the seasons, including markets, festivals, performance and installations."
• A condensed, improved quality market.
Plans say: "The existing traders market should be reduced in size and upgraded with a mixture of permanent and temporary stalls. This should enable a smaller number of higher quality stalls."
• A space for everybody.
Plans say: "The square should provide a space attractive, accessible and exciting for a large diversity of the community, including families, tourists, young professionals and the elderly.
• A catalyst for transformation of the town
The square is critical to the wider regeneration of the town, providing the centre-point for the transformational change, and setting the precedent for the future vision of Northampton.
• A new leisure destination
The Square should be diversifying its appeal to the wider community, providing opportunities to visit more frequently and to stay longer, including places to eat and drink both in the day time evening.
• A trigger for the regeneration of surrounding buildings
An improved public realm for the Square would also trigger important positive change to existing buildings and their associated ground floor uses and activation and spill out into the square.