Return of cobblestones to Northampton market square not ruled out as council considers ‘more traditional’ surface

The return of cobblestones to the market square in Northampton has not been ruled out – after the leader of the council said he wanted a ‘more traditional’ surface for the famous landmark.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 7:41 am
Updated Thursday, 14th November 2019, 7:42 am
The borough council is looking at how to improve the fortunes of the market square

The cobblestones stood proudly on the market square for centuries until controversially being ripped up in 1989 in a £1million resurface. The idea of reinstating them had been muted in 2007 but was eventually shelved.

Although any replacement surface would probably not be in the same vein as the previous cobblestones – which legend has it ‘shook the old dears to their bones’ in a popular Cobblers chant – councillors seemed to favour bringing more character back to the market square.

A debate on the issue dominated a borough council overview and scrutiny meeting on Monday (November 11) at The Guildhall, where council leader Jonathan Nunn gave an update on some future plans for the town centre landmark. It forms a key part of the council’s bid for £25million of government funding in the Future High Streets fund.

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The market square was largely resurfaced in the late 1980s

He told councillors: “Some other markets have really positively improved the look of their market by putting a more traditional surface finish on it and I don’t think our blocked pavements necessarily do it justice at the moment.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, Councillor Nunn said that his desire for a return to a more ‘traditional surface’ such as stone was a personal preference. Asked if that meant a possible return for the cobbled stones, he said that ‘nothing was decided’.

Going into more detail at the meeting about the council’s plans, he said: “We all know how dear the market square is to everybody. It’s right at the top of our list in terms of priority. Using the £150,000 we’ve had from the government [to prepare the £25million bid] we have engaged Gillespies, who are experts in landscape architecture. We’ve instructed them that the market square is the key area.

“If you improve the market square in due course you get better competition from shops, more jobs and an upward trajectory. You also have people move into flats in the town centre because it’s a nicer place. It’s quite hard to evidence the immediate return but in my view, there’s a hell of a lot of rippled out positivity that should come from getting this right.”

It had originally had a cobblestone surface

Councillor Nunn argued that an events type space on the market was a popular idea and that there was a ‘strong argument’ for fixed stalls on the site which he said a number of traders were ‘passionate about’.

He also said the council was ‘toying’ with the idea of a green space on the market square near the top corner entrance to the Grosvenor.

Previous plans put out to consultation included the possible inclusion of a borough market-style food hall on the market square. But speaking about that idea, Councillor Nunn said: “Looking at the food hall, this kind of thing has worked really well in other areas but thinking about its location and size it’s hard to come up with something which we know would work, so the jury’s out on that one.”

It is anticipated that further consultation on possible ideas for the market square could be ready for the public to comment on by the end of the year.

“We hope soon to have something that we can start to get people’s views on,” added Councillor Nunn. “We’ll wait until we get it right but it could be in December.”