Kettering Council is joining forces with a new business group to move forward plans for its town centre.
Council leader Russell Roberts has said he is excited about the ideas being put forward by the newly established Kettering Town Partnership and wants to work with them to get the town centre thriving again.
The group was formed six weeks ago and has already begun a car park survey to find out whether shoppers and businesses want to see two hours’ free parking introduced. It is also doing an audit of shops and businesses to work out the current retail mix on the high street.
Three of its members, chairman Simon Cox, retail expert Donna French and Brightkidz owner Alison Holland, spoke at the council’s executive meeting on Wednesday (March 13) night.
Mr Cox, who runs a Kettering social media company, said: “We recognised that there hasn’t been a business-led group focused on the town centre for many years and this is the key for any town to have. We have also recognised that we have a unique opportunity to help the town forward by us all working together.”
Donna French said there were huge opportunities as people are still making almost 80 per cent of shopping purchases from shops rather than online.
Alison Holland’s focus will be on transport and providingalternatives to using cars to get to the shops.
Council leader Russell Roberts, whose Conservative-run authority has been criticised in the past for not doing enough to regenerate the town centre, has warmly welcomed the efforts of the partnership.
He said: “You have got our attention. Some of the things you have been saying tonight I would like to develop with you.
“Rest assured we are all on the same page as Kettering is an amazing place.”
Cllr Mark Rowley said: “The town centre has been a problem for a while. The council is not going to be able to fix it on our own so it’s great you guys are engaging with us.
“It will be a challenge but we have always been up for a challenge.”
In the summer the town lost its flagship Marks & Spencer store and a number of high street names have also moved out.
At the meeting the executive approved plans to put in an expression of interest for the Government’s recently launched Future High Streets Fund. Corby, Wellingborough and Northampton will also be putting in bids to what is expected to be a very competitive process with high streets up and down the country wanting investment.
Chief executive of Northamptonshire County Council Theresa Grant, who has experience of town centre regeneration in Altrincham, will be sharing her expertise with the Northampton bid.
The councils will hear in the summer whether they have made it through to round two and then business cases will be put forward in spring 2020.