Retro: How Corby town centre has changed

Twenty-five years ago this month, London-based Tops Estates bought Corby town centre for £25m.

Tops came with the promise of investing a further £30m on a revamp for the town’s shopping areas.

Retro: Corporation Street, Corby, August 1972

Retro: Corporation Street, Corby, August 1972

“My message to Corby is that such a remarkable town deserves the very best,” the firm’s then-chief executive Everard Goodman had announced.

Progress was initially slow. The town centre was built in the 1950s and in 1994 – five years after Tops Estates had taken over – the Telegraph lamented the glacial speed of the regeneration since bold plans were published in 1964.

“Three decades later still nothing has been done to protect long-suffering residents from gusting winds and rain,” the article said.

“Partially covered malls act as wind tunnels and in winter shoppers literally have to battle against the elements.”

During the 1990s, the ageing town centre waited in vain for a full-scale facelift.

Corby was found to have a very high rate of empty shops and a national survey branded it as the second worst shopping precinct in Britain in terms of spending.

Corporation Street, which had been pedestrianised in the 1970s, had undergone a number of facelifts, including the installation – and, later, the removal – of blue steel girders and canopies which protected shoppers from the elements.

But, that aside, full-scale regeneration remained on the horizon, with a number of false dawns frustrating residents, shop owners and local politicians.

Thanks to developments over the past decade, however, there is a new air of optimism. The borough council describes Corby as a vibrant, confident and successful, and developments have included the Willow Place shopping centre, the international swimming pool and, away from the town centre, the railway station.

In October 2011, the shopping precints were bought for £70m by property firm Helical Bar from Land Securities, which had acquired Tops Estates four years earlier.

In November last year, Crown House in Elizabeth Street was pulled down, with the old bus station to follow it. A new £10m cinema and restaurants are planned for the site.

Dan Pickard, the town centre manager, said Corby had evolved with the changing times and fashions of the past half century with regard to shopping, and was now continuing to adapt by offering residents more leisure options, such as the new restaurants and cinema.

“Corby town centre, in the 1950s when it was originally constructed, was there to service the growing population,” said Mr Pickard.

“It’s one of those towns that has been fortunate enough to have evolved over the years, because of private ownership.”

We have taken a look into the Telegraph’s photographic archive to bring you some images which show how Corby’s town centre has changed over the past few decades.