Plan to save Northampton's 'decaying' town centre revealed

Market Square Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The "Love Northampton" campaign was a recent attempt to promote the town

A plan to save a town centre described as "decaying" has been unveiled.

Northampton Borough Council said it hoped that £25m from the government's Future High Streets Fund could be used to redevelop the town centre.

The authority has put together a new board called Northampton Forward to tackle some of the town's long-standing issues.

Council leader Jonathan Nunn said it "promised action" and wanted "something better for the town".

But university lecturer Kardi Somerfield, who lives in the town centre, said the plan "feels like deja vu" with similar proposal in the past.

She said the town would have to get government money "otherwise who's going to pay for it", adding: "Businesses would only invest in a viable town."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Market Square is one of Britain's largest and dates back to 1235

The council said footfall into Northampton had fallen by 15%, while problems such as vacant shops and homelessness are on the rise.

It has produced a vision for five sectors within the town, with ideas including an indoor food hall and new parks.

Is Northampton 'dying'?

The plan said it would "allow the retail core to shrink" and increase the amount of flats and homes in the town centre

Recently, retailers such as BHS and Marks and Spencer have left the town, leaving large empty units on the main shopping street.

That led local celebrity and broadcaster the Reverend Richard Coles to describe the town centre as "decaying".

Is Northampton a 'good news' story?

But Conservative councillor Mr Nunn warned against quickly filling empty shops and selling off land, saying he did not want "a mediocre thing that does not actually achieve anything for the town".

He said if the council does not receive money from the fund it would attempt to secure other funding, but he admitted the plan needed "serious public money".

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