Public meeting protest against £3 million plans to re-open part of Abington Street to traffic

Coloured markings in Abington Street.
Coloured markings in Abington Street.

More than 100 people packed into a public meeting to protest against £3 million plans to re-open part of Abington Street in Northampton to traffic.

The meeting was called by members of the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, who objected to plans by the Conservative administration.

Opposition councillors said the move did not have the support of businesses, has not had proper consultation and is a waste of money. The Tories dispute this, arguing it will revitalise Abington Street and stating that the plans were debated by cabinet and full council last year, as well as formal consultation.

Following the meeting on Tuesday night, the Labour party accused the leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, of not listening to the concerns of the public.

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Abington and Phippsville), who helped to organise the event, said: “The public attended this meeting because they wanted to air their views.

“It’s such a shame Councillor Mackintosh decided against engaging in a genuine discussion on such an important matter.”

Kevin McKeever, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Northampton South, added: “I have deep concerns about both the lack of consultation and the glaring absence of a business case to justify £6 million of additional council expenditure.

“I call on Councillor Mackintosh to show some humility and let common sense prevail; re-open the public consultation and release a robust business case for the opening of Abington Street to cars.”

Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Kingsthorpe), who also organised the event, said the battle was not over.

“I am going to be pressing the chief executive of the borough council for the business case for spending the £3 million without any proof of value for money. People were very angry that the administration wouldn’t answer the questions.

“There has never been a meeting where we have discussed this issue on its own. There’s never been a document to prove to any of us the case for doing this or to argue against these plans.

“We talked to the businesses in the area and the majority are against it. We aren’t giving up on the issue, there is a lot of strong feeling on this.”

Councillor Mackintosh said: “The re-opening of Abington Street has been debated many times over the last two years. Decisions have been taken and the work will start in April and I look forward to seeing the street come back to life.

“Labour and the Lib Dems called a public meeting despite ignoring the issue when it was first discussed at a Cabinet meeting last July and despite many council meetings, which are open for the public to speak at, reaching the same conclusion.”

Opposition members also accused Councillor Mackintosh of “storming” out of the meeting. The Chron understands that Councillor Mackintosh made the meeting aware that he was scheduled to leave before 7pm to attend another appointment.

Previously, the Tory administration had said a consultation ran in September and October last year, as well as consultation in December on the traffic regulation order to make the changes to Abington Street.

Kevin McKeever has been selected as the Labour candidate.