Agenda item

Northampton Forward

The Committee to receive a briefing around Northampton Forward.


Dr Dickie, Chair, Friends of Northampton Castle, addressed the Committee emphasising the need for a focus on local history. She conveyed concern that there was not a local historian on the Board and a Heritage Strategy had not been produced.  Dr Dickie gave a brief history of the town, advising that the town began around the 8th or 9th Century at Black Lion Hill and had expanded east from there. Dr Dickie referred to when the town centre had walls and gates and asked that the gates were brought back so that medieval history could be retained.  There needs to be a destination for people to visit Northampton.  Dr Dickie concluded her address by advising that the Friends of Northampton Castle had a website and contained within this was a petition - Create a public park celebrating the history of Northampton!


Dr Dickie was thanked for her address.


Councillor Jonathan Nunn, Leader of the Council, and George Candler, Chief Executive, gave the Committee a briefing on Northampton Forward.


The Committee heard that town centres are changing dramatically, including Northampton town centre; due mainly to the impact of online shopping and out of town retail centres. However, 35% of the town centre of Northampton is retail; which is more than other town centres.   A masterplan will be created and consists of two stages.  Over 300 towns expressed an interest and Northampton is one of 41 towns that has been included in the list for funding.  Northampton has the ambition and assets to make the town centre really good and become more of a destination; there is a need for there to be an offer to attract people into the town.   It was acknowledged that Northampton Borough Council (NBC) could not deliver this on its own and was keen to ensure that everyone’s views had been captured.  A full consultation process took place and 600 responses were received; in addition, a shop was used in the Grosvenor centre for the consultation and a further 800 responses came in.  NBC is also working closely with the University of Northampton. A number of sub-groups will be set up to work on different streams.  Councillor Nunn confirmed that historians would be a key part of the process.  It was highlighted that decisions would be made through Cabinet and full Council.  The next stage of the process would be around heritage; for example the restoration of shop fronts.


The Committee asked questions, made comment and heard:


·         It was queried whether this would provide an opportunity to increase green spaces in the town and use solar panels.  It was acknowledged that the borough of Northampton does consist of a lot of green space but there is little in the town centre.

·         It was commented that funding is available via the urban tree planting scheme.

·         The aesthetics of the shop fronts in St Giles Street was commended and it was suggested that this could be replicated in Abington Street. Councillor Nunn supported this suggestion.

·         Concern was raised regarding the current location of the Tourist Information Centre.  NBC is working with Northamptonshire County Council regarding the future use of County Hall.

·         Heritage weekend is scheduled to take place during September 2019.

·         In response to a query regarding the use of empty shops, Councillor Nunn confirmed that the Grosvenor Centre is increasingly community focussed.

·         In answer to a query regarding the results of the consultation, Councillor Nunn confirmed that he could attend a future meeting of this Committee to provide future details.  He confirmed that the questionnaire was comprehensive and took over 20 minutes to complete.  It was queried how many individuals started the questionnaire but failed to complete it.


Councillor Nunn and George Candler were thanked for their address and were invited to attend the next meeting to provide a further update.


AGREED:         That the update is noted and a further briefing will be presented to the September 2019 meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.