Retail and leisure study published to inform Local Plan

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Northampton Guildhall

Northampton Borough Council has just published its retail and leisure study which will form an important part of its Local Plan part II.

The document contains information on current national trends alongside an assessment of Northampton’s town, district and local centres.

Market research also formed a key strand of the work, analysing where people shop and how much they spend in each geographical area.

There was also an outline of how much retail capacity might be needed in the next two decades, along with an appraisal of the town’s current commercial leisure offer.

The study found that 40 per cent of borough residents visit Northampton town centre more than any other area, followed by Weston Favell at 26.8 per cent, Milton Keynes at 22.3 per cent and Kingsthorpe at 10.8 per cent.

Some areas had particularly defined roles, such as Wellingborough Road which has a high proportion of pubs and restaurants. Weston Favell was also found to be performing extremely well.

Northampton town centre vacancy rates have shrunk since 2010 but remain higher than the national average, with a particular focus on large vacant units like the former BHS store in Abington Street.

Cllr Tim Hadland, Cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “This study is proving invaluable as we refocus our thinking on the future of Northampton town centre.

“There are some clear messages in here about people’s changing shopping habits and we are already looking at some excellent practice elsewhere to help shape our approach.

“That said, we must also do what we can to protect and enhance the retail, food and beverage environment in the town centre.”

The study was carried out using random sampling in order to avoid undue weight being given to a particular sector of the community.

It revealed that when it comes to convenience goods – items bought regularly – 96.5 per cent of the money Northamptonians spend is within the borough.

With regard to comparison goods – higher-cost items bought less frequently – the figure was 80.2 per cent, with around 10 per cent going to Milton Keynes.

Focusing on just footwear and clothing, Northampton claimed a 48.8 per cent share while 12.2 per cent went to Milton Keynes and 9.5 per cent to Rushden Lakes.

In terms of leisure, the most popular venues for health and fitness, cinema, restaurants, tenpin bowling, bingo pubs, bars and nightclubs – along with cultural facilities – were in Northampton.

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