TOWN CENTRE SURVEY: Town leaders, landlords, investors, retailers take note. The people of Northampton have spoken
More than 1,300 of our readers can class themselves as major stakeholders in the future of Northampton after filling out our big town centre survey.
And our poll - completed by an astounding 1,345 people over the last three weeks has thrown up some incredible results, which we have already shared with Northampton Borough Council.
Your answers could play a major part in shaping the future of the town at a crucial time.
Leaders, including the Business Improvement District (BID), are in the process of drawing up a “masterplan” for Northampton, which they hope to have ready for September.
And now they are armed with some crucial information.
Today we can reveal that most of you would like to see the soon-to-be vacant Marks & Spencer in Abington Street replaced with another large retail outlet – rather than a leisure option.
John Lewis, Ikea and Zara are the shops you think the town needs most – while Cantonese-style Wagamama came top of the national eateries you would like to see open on the high street.
But the results also gave us an important insight into how we view and use the town.
Many of you want to see the town made cleaner; public spaces made more accessible; parking made free again.
Proposals to put a hard cover on the Market Square received a lukewarm reaction - with only 37 per cent of you thinking it would be a good idea. Views on the town’s now award-winning nightlife show there is also room for improvement.
On the other hand, the survey gave a resounding thumbs up to our independent shops and cafes - with three quarters of you saying you use them regularly.
We asked you how frequently you visited shops in the centre.
And of those that filled out our forms the most popular answer was once a month - 23.6 per cent.
But that shows the fight to save our high street is more crucial than ever before - as that figure pales in comparison to the number of people who say they shop online once a week - 31.4 per cent.
The effect out-of-town shopping centres are having on Northampton is also clear.
Out of the 1,345 people to fill out our survey, 1,192 said they used them to shop “regularly”.
But fears people are now rushing off to the new Rushden Lakes centre in the north of the county may be unfounded.
Only 9.6 per cent of people said they used the multi-million pound new retail complex regularly.
The top answer though, shows Milton Keynes’ Centre MK is acting as the main draw away from Northampton town centre. More than a quarter of our readers (26.3 per cent) said they used the shopping centre in Buckinghamshire regularly.
As to why people come into town, the answers were also interesting.
A quarter of the people who answered our survey said clothes shopping was the main draw for coming into town. Leisure came a close second, with nearly a fifth saying they came in for restaurants and eating out.
But rather than restrain our readers to a series of multiple choice questions, we also wanted to let you off the leash at the end of the poll.
And hundreds of you certainly did.
In fact, many of you couldn’t fit all of your ideas into our cut-out form in the newspaper - you had to attach separate pieces of paper. Some of your responses were just shy of 500 words.
That is why we have tried to include as many of your town masterplans on pages eight, nine, ten and 11.
Town leaders, landlords, investors, retailers take note. The people of Northampton have spoken.
Now it is over to you.