With rising unemployment now at its highest level for decades reaching 2.7 million and increasing, the almost certain news next week that the UK is back into recession and the number of businesses going into administration or closing altogether rapidly increasing means that the closure of retail shops in the town centre in itself a concern also raises a number of other very serious and important issues that are interlinked.
One concern is that their may well come a point at which the reduction in retail in Northampton will start to raise a serious question at the highest level of Legal and General as to whether now is the time to invest in the regeneration and redevelopment of the Grosvenor Centre or delay it until the economy is stabilised.
It is a question I would expect the Borough Council to be asking and certainly will be one I’ll be asking.
It also raises the serious problem of the attraction of Northampton to new businesses who are needed to invest and locate to the SEMLEP Waterside Enterprise Zone on which much of the future of the economic wealth and health of the Town Centre depends.
There will naturally and understandably be calls for a return to the “Town Centre First Policy” and it would be an argument that will be well thought out and will pose a challenge to the Borough Council with undoubted challenges to any suggestion of out-of-town developments such as Sixfields.
There is little doubt as I have said before on a number of occasions that the regeneration of the town centre is essential to the well-being of the whole of Northampton and it now more than ever needs a real focus, however I still maintain that both the regeneration of Northampton Town Centre and the development of the appropriate out-of-town retail in parallel should still be possible.