As my wife and I have experience of shopping in both Corby and Kettering I could not understand why, as reported in your Corby edition of the ET on January 5, the regeneration strategy for the north of the county has identified Kettering as the focal point for retail investment.
The view that Kettering is the main shopping centre in north Northamptonshire is years out of date.
The major improvement in the shopping facilities in Corby over the past four years has been very impressive. The new Willow Place shops have made a major contribution to this and have been the catalyst for many of the existing shops having to “up their game” including opening on Sundays and bank holidays. The multi- storey car parking charges are very reasonable, 60p for up to two hours and 80p for up to three hours and free on Sundays and bank holidays. It is not surprising that Corby is attracting customers from such a large area and the number of customers would increase further if a department store such as Debenhams or BHS could be persuaded to come to the town. This must be a top priority for the new owners of the town centre.
But I am afraid there is little evidence of much regeneration in Kettering. When you walk around the streets of the town centre you find that there are far too many shops boarded up.
Too many of those which are open are not showing the enthusiasm I would expect to hold on to existing customers and attract new ones. Although shops are legally allowed to work six hours on a Sunday some are not doing so – M&S opens for only four hours and Dorothy Perkins for five hours. Surely if all the shops were keen to support the regeneration of the town they would wish to work all the hours they are allowed to.
Another example of too many shops not putting the customer first was that when my wife and myself arrived at the Newlands bentre car park on the New Year Bank holiday on January 2 at around 3pm we were disappointed that the barrier was down, so we would have to pay when leaving. In the shopping area we decided to have a coffee but found that the Baker’s Oven café shutter was closed and when we then approached a member of staff at the BBs Coffee & Muffin café we were informed that it was closed as they needed from then, 3.05pm, until the Newlands Centre was due to close at 4pm to clean up.
When we left the centre car park shortly afterwards we had to pay £1.50 and if we had been there for over two hours the charge would have been £2.70 .
I agree with Cllr Pengelly that Corby has moved forward but my experience has shown that the same cannot be said for Kettering which needs to urgently “up its game”.