Plans to turn Wellingborough’s neglected waterside into a leading Northamptonshire attraction are going out for consultation.
A marina, river taxis, eateries and a museum are just some of the ideas in the mix for along the 3.1m stretch of the river Nene and embankment between the Upper Wellingborough Lock and Chester Farm.
After two-and-a-half years of workshops and brainstorming sessions with more than 20 organisations, the River Nene Regional Partnership (RVNP) which has led the waterside regeneration project wants to put the draft masterplan out to Wellingborough residents to get their feedback.
All this will be taken on board, a final plan will be devised by the summer and then RNVP will get cracking on finding private or public funding to get each project moving.
This could be the biggest regeneration project the town has seen in recent decades and comes at a time when 6,500 extra homes are being built at the north and eastern sides of the town.
Chief executive of community interest company RVNP Kathryn Hardcastle said everyone with an interest on the riverside from nature enthusiasts to recreation groups, local businesses and landowners has been involved.
She said: “We are a small organisation and what we are really about is helping other organisations to achieve their objectives to make the waterside a sustainable destination.
“A few years ago we were hearing lots of ideas from many different people about plans for the Wellingborough waterside. So we thought it would be good to bring them altogether in a working party and share all the ideas in one place.
“We thought. ‘Why shouldn’t Wellingborough have grand aspirations? How do we get it on the map?’ The waterside is an incredible asset and there are some really lovely parts. One idea would be to link it more to the town centre with a walk. Back in Victorian times there used to be a riverside festival and
“We then commissioned a landscape architect, following a £15,000 grant from Wellingborough council, and he took all the ideas and has come up with a scheme.
“What we have come up with is a concept plan and it is all an aspiration at this point. We now want to hear from Wellingborough residents what they think of the scheme, what they use the waterside for and what are the priorities they would like to see take forward.”
One idea is to create a marina. Local businessman and president of the Welligborough Chamber of Commerce Simon Toseland is backing the idea and would be involved in getting investors to make the proposal become a reality.
Another plan is to turn the former Whitworths flour mill, which is now derelict and populated by pigeons, into a museum telling the history of flour manufacturing. Kathryn Hardcastle says the company is receptive to the idea.
At the end of the 3.1m river stretch is Chester Farm, the 17th century farm built on a Roman site which Northamptonshire County Council is currently renovating into a historical tourist attraction.
A cost has not been put on the scheme, but if realised it would run into tens of millions.
Cllr Clive Hallam, who is a member of the working party, said the riverside has been largely ignored for the past 60 years.
He said: “As a keen boater, Wellingborough embankment is like a hidden gem on the Nene.
“There is so much opportunity to attract boaters and also develop all aspects of the waterway was so it benefits everyone.
“I think there are probably about 1,000 boats moored between Northampton and a lot that travel through the area and don’t currently stop. That is a missed opportunity and there is so much that could be done.”
People can have their say on the scheme by completing an online survey. As well as commenting on the existing ambitions people are being encouraged to come up with some more. The Wellingborough Waterside Working Group will also be at the Swansgate shopping centre from Wednesday, February 19, to Friday, February 21, to chat to residents about the plans.