THE redevelopment of Kettering town centre has been branded a ‘disaster’, a ‘disgrace’ and an ‘utter waste of money’, with 84 per cent of nearby businesses saying it has failed.
Kettering’s new Market Place and the pedestrianisation of Market Street have been unsuccessful, say 42 out of 45 businesses who filled in a Market Area Retailers Concern group survey.
The businesses, from estate agents to an Indian takeaway, have reported takings are down by as much as 40 per cent.
Karen West, owner of Karen West Hair Design in Sheep Street, said: “Overall it is becoming a great concern as to the future of this town and the survival of the remaining businesses.”
Criticisms range from water not draining off the new flagstones and the pavement being icy to inconvenient delivery times and traffic continuing to drive down the pedestrianised street.
Jaswinder Singh, of Linnetts Newsagent in Market Place, who reported a 35 per cent drop in business, described an ‘invisible wall’ in High Street, with no-one venturing further.
Howard Payne, of Howard David Associates in Market Street, said: “The pedestrianisation of Market Street has been the complete disaster that I always knew it would be.”
Leanne Regan, of Heroes clothes shop in Market Street, said: “Overall this project has been a disgrace.”
Jonathan Brown, sales manager for Keeble and Co Estate Agents, said: “It is a complete and utter waste of money.”
MARC founder Tony Lucchesi is planning to launch a campaign to highlight independent traders.
Neil Griffin, chairman of Kettering Chamber of Trade, said: “It is fair to say that the public realm works did cause a fair bit of disruption at the time but this was inevitable. However, the end result looks good and it provides an excellent platform to move forward. Economic times are hard and trading is difficult for all.”
Mark Dearing, Kettering Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “Economic times are however difficult and for a lot of businesses to hold their own in the current conditions is an achievement in itself. The recent announcement of new shops opening at this end of town shows that the approach taken by the council and its partners is having a positive effect.”