by Jill Hope on 1 July, 2012
Richard writes: “I am delighted to see that Conservative Council leader David Mackintosh says he will do anything to save the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment. I just hope he actually means it.
A year ago, the incoming Conservative administration inherited from the Liberal Democrats a Development Agreement with Legal and General, with outline plans published and a date set for the submission of a planning application and work to start. The Conservatives fought the election threatening to cancel the development, and have spent the past year publicly berating Legal and General at every turn. Council Leader, David Mackintosh, despite professional advice to the contrary, has said Northampton can have both town centre regeneration AND significant out of town retail development. It is a strategy which has now comprehensively collapsed.
If David Mackintosh really wants to get the Grosvenor Centre redevelopment back on track he needs to take some tough choices. It’s time to stop pretending he can please all the people all the time, or to think that simply berating Legal and General will get anywhere at all. We all know that retail is facing hard times, with a combination of both the recession and internet shopping. If Northampton is going to attract to its centre the large floorspace shops that the Grosvenor centre extension will bring, then it has to fight for its centre over the out of town competition. You simply cannot have both.
Our two Tory MP’s naively imagine that if Legal and General sell up then someone else will walk in and pick up the baton. Anyone will find it difficult to make a major town centre redevelopment pay if the council continues to try to please every out of town developer. Starting from scratch a new owner would take years to even get to the point where we are now.
David Mackintosh has lost the confidence of Legal and General. If he is to get it back for the sake of the town he must stop the pointless posturing, get real and decide if a once in a lifetime opportunity to attract £300 million investment into our town centre really is the town’s number one priority. If it isn’t then his legacy will be to make Northampton the polo mint town, with a hole in the middle.”
Former Cabinet member for Planning and Regeneration