Northampton Town Centre summit highlights issues needing "urgent attention"

Northampton Town Centre
Image caption There were 88 empty shops in the town centre in April 2013

Northampton town centre has suffered from a decline in shoppers, a rise in anti-social behaviour, parking problems and dirty roads, according to a study.

Businessman Stephen Church published a 23-page report highlighting issues raised in a "summit" in September.

He said some needed "urgent attention" and were crucial to the town's future.

Borough council leader David Mackintosh said Northampton had a "very bright future". The council is due to discuss the findings later.

It has made 27 recommendations to address the problems including: cracking down on street drinking and begging, introducing free parking for the first two hours on Saturdays and encouraging landlords to maintain their shop fronts.

Mr Church, who chaired a summit on the future of the town centre, said the "overwhelming areas of concern" were the cleanliness and maintenance of town centre streets and the cost and availability of car parking.

He also said anti-social behaviour, the development of the cultural quarter and major routes into the town centre should be addressed.

Fall in shoppers

A change in shopping habits has led to a sharp decline in footfall, meaning "town centre retailing will never be the force it was," and so a "fundamental" approach was needed to revive it.

It should now be thought of a place to live, work, dine, visit the doctor and be entertained, according to the report.

In response to the issues raised, the council is to set up a hotline for people to report areas that need cleaning immediately.

Mr Mackintosh said: "I think Northampton has got a very bright future ahead of it which is why we're investing so much time, energy and money into its future.

"It is also important to recognise that retail is changing, circumstances are changing and we need to make it as open and accessible as possible."

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