Town centre summit chairman says Northampton Abington Street traffic plan is a ‘costly punt’

Abington Street, Northampton
Abington Street, Northampton

Allowing vehicles back into Abington Street is “a £6 million punt” not based on any evidence, according to the former chairman of a town centre strategy group.

Stephen Church, who used to run Church’s China and was chairman of the Northampton Town Centre Summit, said he was worried by the idea of de-pedestrianising the top section of the shopping street.

He said: “From the evidence I see, I’m increasingly opposed to the scheme and I’m making this last-minute plea to the leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, and his colleagues to halt it.

“There is a lack of a business plan because none of the benefits the council is claiming are based on any evidence at all. And when you look at the public consultation comments, which came out heavily against, people are begging the council not go ahead, but councillors are flying in the face of it and this makes me angry.

“They are borrowing £3m, probably, with the interest, at the cost of £6m, which is a vast sum of money on what is nothing more than a whim or punt.

“You may have a punt on the boat race but not on huge capital projects. I hope he will stop and think when his pen is poised to sign this deal he may be signing his own political death warrant.”

Councillor Mackintosh said: “I’m surprised Mr Church has suddenly raised this. I discussed this matter with him when we announced our plans last July and he did not raise any concerns, so I question his motives in speaking out about our plans at this time.

He added: “We have the courage of our convictions that this is the right way to bring life and vitality back to the town, alongside our free parking, which started this week.”

Meanwhile, a petition signed by more than 1,000 people protesting against the Abington Street plans has been handed in to Northampton Borough Council. The petition was collected by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians and community campaigners. Labour party member, Dan Moloney, who set up the online petition, said: “I felt it was important to make people aware of what Councillor Mackintosh and his cabinet are doing to our town.”