More details revealed about how Northampton town centre will be rejuvenated over next five years
'We have a beautiful town centre with beautiful architecture but it's not at its best and we want it to flourish'
More details on the ambitious plans to rejuvenate Northampton town centre have been revealed as the government is expected to decide how much money it will provide this month.
A bid for £37.2 million from the Towns Fund was submitted in December to support numerous projects, including the redevelopment of the old Marks and Spencer and BHS buildings.
The town investment plan document, compiled by Northampton Forward, the group behind the bid, outlines how the cash would be spent and how each scheme would improve the town.
Northampton Borough Council leader and Northampton Forward chairman, Jonathan Nunn, believes the proposals will breathe new life into the town.
"We have a beautiful town centre with beautiful architecture but it's not at its best and we want it to flourish," he told a press briefing yesterday (Tuesday, February 2).
The plan is the result of around two years of consultation between the members of Northampton Forward, businesses and the public about how the town centre could be improved.
Schemes range from £315,000 to support the creation of a visitors centre for St Peter's Church in the Old Black Lion pub to £5.5 million to go towards replacing the old M&S building with flats and businesses.
The biggest project, in terms of size and cost, is Four Waterside: a mix of housing, high-quality offices and a hotel on the land between the train station and St Peter's Way.
Other large schemes are the redevelopment of the old BHS store into flats and the creation of a park and residential area known as Marefair Heritage Gateway.
Northampton Forward also wants to spend £4.6 million on improving the street scene in some of the town centre's busiest routes like Abington Street and Fish Street to make them more welcoming, similar to the work done to Guildhall Road.
Cllr Nunn said: "We think every part of the town deserves this treatment and needs an uplift, especially high volume areas like Abington Street which would benefit a lot from that."
Another £4.2 million would be used to transform Emporium Way into a brighter, more attractive route from the Market Square to the north of the town centre.
The street would be widened and space would be made for 'makers market' stalls for cottage businesses to sell their wares to passing trade.
One project is not a physical one but instead a desire to spend £500,000 on creating a social enterprise to support residents and their skills.
While cultural schemes include the resurrection of an old arts centre on Guildhall Road and the extension of 78 Derngate for a new restaurant.
Royal and Derngate chief executive and fellow Northampton Board member, Jo Gordon, hopes this will all contribute to making Northampton somewhere other towns are envious of.
"For a long time in Northampton we've wanted what other towns have and we know there is a distinctiveness to the town centre," she said.
"But what we have acknowledged is there is something really unique here and that makes me even more excited to celebrate that uniqueness and build on our extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit and vibrancy so people will talk about wanting what Northampton has."
The expected completion dates for the projects also vary from 2022 to 2026 as there is still a lot of work to do on many of them, not least securing all of the funds.
ost proposals would need additional monies to complete but Cllr Nunn said this has been accounted for from other funding pots, private investment and borrowing against business rates.
But the initial injection of public cash is needed to kickstart the projects and generate interest from the private sector, the Conservative councillor added.
The Market Square was identified as a crucial element to the town centre's regeneration but that scheme is being funded by another government pot, the Future High Streets Fund.
So the money needed is now lower than the £37.2 million requested as the £8 million allocated for the Market Square is no longer needed.
Ms Gordon said she hoped to see a vibrant town centre with lots of happy and healthy people in five to 10 years time.
"For me, town centres are really symbolic centres for the health of the community so to see a healthy community with a thriving retail and residential centre with lots of people happy and healthy using that space would be the dream," she said.