A public meeting is to be held to discuss the future of Wellingborough town centre and its market.
It has been organised by the Labour Parliamentary candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden Richard Garvie to give people the chance to have their say on it.
Invited panellists include the leaders of both political parties, Wellingborough Council’s chief executive and officials from other key organisations in the town centre.
Mr Garvie said: “I was first informed about issues in the market a couple of months ago, and I’ve been trying to organise this meeting for some time now.
“In the process of organising the meeting, I’ve seen the various discussions about retail developments outside of the town centre and the quality of shops and retail offer in our town and feel that these views need to be heard by the people who can act upon them.
“I don’t believe that Wellingborough has been a small market town for many years, and I don’t believe we will ever be able to compete with the likes of Peterborough and Milton Keynes.
“That being said, we should aspire to improve the retail offer in town, similar to what Corby has been able to achieve in recent years.”
Mr Garvie also criticised the town centre master plan, agreed in 2007, and said a new one was needed.
In response, Cllr Paul Bell, leader of the Conservative group at Wellingborough Council, said: “I thank Mr Garvie for his thoughtful invitation, but as his attempt to arrange a public meeting is clearly a cheap political stunt designed to launch his parliamentary candidacy for an election that’s still some twelve months away, I will not be attending.
“We seek out and welcome the views of residents, businesses and interested organisations when we’re making the decisions that we have been elected to make, and it’s not necessary for Mr Garvie to help us do that by setting up a ‘forum to communicate’ in order to score political points.
“I won’t list all the consultations we run or the ways in which public comments have helped shape decisions, as there are too many to mention here.
“It’s worth noting though that we have recently started a review of our local plan, which includes the town centre, so the process has already started without Mr Garvie’s help.
“People are able to comment at this stage, and again at the next stage in the autumn, and again as the plan progresses.
“We have recently tried a period of reduced market stall fees to encourage more traders, and while we don’t run the Swansgate centre, we do meet with the owners and are always happy to pass on shoppers’ views and wishes.
“Finally, we are on track to launch our new website and social media pages in the summer, which will make it even easier for people to get in touch with us directly and tell us what they would like to see.
“I won’t be drawn into a political spat with Mr Garvie, or attend his meeting, but for as long as I am an elected member of the council I will continue to encourage, and listen to, the opinions and suggestions of the people that live and work in our borough.”
The meeting is at 7pm for a 7.30pm start on Tuesday, May 27, at the Tithe Barn in Wellingborough.