Shoppers say council will need to 'get its act together' to pull off £25m plan to rejuvenate Northampton
Northampton's shoppers want to see the a multi-million-pound vision for the town succeed - but they say they have been hurt before by unfinished schemes.
Northampton Borough Council has staked its claim for a £25million grant from the Government to revitalise the town centre.
Under the banner of "Northampton Forward", the plans - which were unveiled yesterday (May 9) - set out hopes to transform Market Square with an indoor food hall, refashion Gold Street as the "arrival" into town and reconnect Greyfriars.
The group also wants to a "encourage cafe and boutique retail culture" in Fish Street, redevelop how traffic moves around Greyfriars and rejuvenate shop fronts throughout Northampton.
Speaking about the plans as they were unveiled yesterday, leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Jonathan Nunn, said: “We felt with the market that more footfall can be driven there - and food halls are an incredibly popular thing at the moment.
“Hopefully this shows that we are talking about a vision for the town on a more ambitious scale than a bit of paint and some paving slabs.”
The plans have already been submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities.
The Chronicle & Echo spoke to shoppers outside the second-floor entrance of Boots Pharmacy in the Grosvenor Centre, where a vinyl poster announcing the plans has been pasted.
But feedback to the plans was mixed.
Many shoppers seemed sceptical of more promised developments in Northampton, while others wondered if the plans were the right priorities for the town.
One woman said: "I'm baffled. It's encouraging but I don't trust them to get it right.
"First they took away the fish market and now they're suggesting a new food hall in the market square. This is after they hacked the market back for 'open spaces' in the summer."
In contrast, one resident wrote on the Chronicle and Echo's Facebook page: "There's zero point focusing on what's long gone.
"Northampton has some fabulous heritage buildings, lovely independent shops and good restaurants, cafes and bars.
"I hope the council are successful in their bid and that this draws more people to the town."
The poster outside Boots was printed to announce the plans and raise awareness of consultations events where the public can give their thoughts on Northampton Forward's proposal.
But one shopper criticised the wording on the poster. She said: "Heritage gateway improved active frontage? What does that mean? Redefine existing pedestrian links? That's just paths isn't it?
"New shop fronts is one thing, getting shops in first is another."
One man read the poster and said: "They've got to really get their act into gear if they want this to go well.
"I don't know if they've got their priorities straight. I just want to see the streets cleaned and to have a bus station that works. They really improved the 'pedestrian links' when they filled the Drapery with bus shelters."
It comes after the Chron compiled a list of game-changing buildings that were once suggested for Northampton that never came through - which included a town-wide tram system and four "Eco pyramids" near Delapre Abbey.
Meanwhile, on the Chron's Facebook page, residents have expressed their own concerns.
One woman wrote: "Market squares are meant to be open. We had a perfectly good indoor market where the bus station now stands and it closed because the use of it depleted. An indoor food hall is nothing more than a supermarket."
Public exhibitions of the plans will be held on May 15 at the University of Northampton and between May 18 and 24 at the Grosvenor Centre (Details pictured above).
An online consultation on the £25m plan will be announced at a later date.