The city of Northampton? Council considering bid to change town's status to boost economy and civic pride

Secret proposal could also bring environmental benefits to area and celebrate history and culture, says presentation

Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 10:48 am

A bid to make Northampton a city is being considered by the council as a way to boost the area's economy, profile and civic pride.

West Northamptonshire Council said the proposal could also bring environmental benefits and a way to celebrate its history and culture in a presentation to councillors on Friday (October 22).

The local authority would spend the next six weeks consulting with the public, MPs and other organisations as well as drafting the bid before the December 8 deadline.

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West Northamptonshire Council is considering a bid to make Northampton a city

Labour councillor Danielle Stone, who represents Northampton Castle ward, said: "I think it's really important as city status would acknowledge we have become a large, diverse, urban, metropolitan community.

"I think it's appropriate and fitting and the right time to do it - I think we need to reimagine ourselves and embrace the future which this will help to do."

According to the council's presentation, city status attracts inward investment, new businesses and skilled employees while the surrounding towns and villages would also benefit.

Northampton could provide those wanting 'the London experience' without the high cost of living - as seen by other cities near the capital, the slides read.

West Northamptonshire Council is considering a bid to make Northampton a city

The presentation gave examples of the economic boosts seen by Brighton and Wolverhampton since both were made cities in 2000.

While Perth in Scotland, which gained city status in 2012, saw £30 million invested into its cultural sector in 2016 and universal credit claimants were declining pre-Covid.

'Cities have larger platforms in the setting and implementation of national policies and legislation', while it would be 'an opportunity to promote the many highlights and hidden treasures of West Northants', the slides read.

Independent councillor and leader of the West Northamptonshire Shadow Authority, Ian McCord, supports the idea but believes it needs to be part of a wider plan to regenerate Northampton.

"Most councillors seem supportive of the bid but the only people who were cautious about was about having the capacity to do it and if they don't get it, then would it be counter-productive in terms of civic pride," he said.

"Personally I think there's nothing to lose by going for it but my biggest concern is what we need to have is a complete strategy.

"Where I struggle with these things is we have a serious of unconnected things so city status needs to fit in with Northampton's regeneration and to inform planning policy."

City status has been in the news recently after the government pledged to make Southend one after MP David Amess' murder as well as the £7 billion investment for cities in the 2021 Budget.

Councillor Stone said she explored the idea of bidding for city status for Northampton when she was leader of the old borough council in 2014.

But most people were reluctant as they feared it could negatively impact the town's heritage and status as the biggest town in Europe so it was not pursued.

The council presentation says October would be spent briefing councillors, MPs and the Northampton Forward group, which is spearheading the town's regeneration.

Next would be to consult the public, stakeholders and businesses, including promotion on social media, then compiling the bid and accompanying website.

On December 2, councillors would discuss it at the full council meeting before submitting the bid six days later.