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Marie Dickie, chairperson of the Friends of Northampton Castle, asks what’s happened to Northampton’s Heritage Gateway
“It is now just over a decade since the Friends of Northampton Castle was formed and issued its proposal for a Marefair “heritage led regeneration project”. Made up entirely of local volunteers, the group brought together neighbourhood residents, teachers, archaeologists, history buffs as well as young people with an interest in new technology.
Together they created a website and published their proposals – for a recovery of the Northampton Castle archaeology still underground beside St Andrews Road, a landscaped medieval garden to replace the Chalk Lane public car park, and a “Plaza” on the site of the then empty Castle House Office block on Marefair.
The aim was not simply a static display of the archaeology and history but for a space which gave opportunities for micro businesses, exhibitions and performance. The notion of a gateway between the railway station and town centre emerged, but this was not meant to be simply a place to pass through.
Initially the project seemed to have a fair wind behind it – by 2013 the then county council had purchased the empty office block, demolished it and declared its intention to create a heritage park on the site. Across the road in a separate move, the Churches Conservation Trust began to set out plans to enable their Grade I Listed church of St Peter to be more frequently used, eventually seeing this in terms of a revamp of the neighbouring public house as the means of better access for visitors.
The people who lived in the Spring Boroughs housing estate (running from Marefair to Grafton Street) had already had a taste of local initiatives, as the result of Single Regeneration Budget Funding at the beginning of this century. They had found it invigorating to have a choice about how money should be spent in their estate. So it was no surprise when they opted to be part of the new Neighbourhood Planning process, indeed, amongst the very few urban estates to do so. Nor was it a surprise when they adopted the Heritage Gateway as their own.
The Plan, passed by referendum in 2016, placed a new emphasis on the need for open and green space for neighbourhood children. This was an emphasis that Friends of Northampton Castle welcomed with open arms.
With all this agreement you would have thought that progress would be swift. But in reality it has stalled – whether from lack of will or finance or the confusions caused by local government reorganisation or even Covid paralysis is difficult to understand. The opportunities presented by the present Government’s funding for town centres or for levelling up so far from assisting seem now to be acting as an incentive to change the whole project into an upgrade for a pub, and the hope of more funding for one church. The greening of the Chalk Lane car park may be somewhere on the horizon, but the threat of speculative developer led housing on Marefair is imminent.
The Friends of Northampton Castle still believe that Northampton’s past should be part of its future. The links in the chain of that history should not be broken for short term and mercenary reasons. Local leaders will need to step up and step up fast if the links between local pride and local history are not to be wholly severed.”
Gareth Banton is one of several people to get in touch about the Nationality and Borders Bill
“I'm writing to tell other local people about cruel new laws that our MP should be fighting in parliament.
The anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Bill breaches the UN convention on refugees. Rules were put in place after the Holocaust to protect all of us if we flee torture, war or persecution.
Refugees could now be separated from their families, and even locked up. No one should be punished for trying to find safety.
The bill is being discussed in the House of Lords right now and then it will go back to MPs.
I want to call on our MP to do the right thing and vote for the amendment to remove clause 11 from this bill.
Clause 11 of the Bill would punish refugees and torture survivors for trying to find safety and prevent people from rebuilding their lives.”
Iulia Palagesiu from Rushden believes streets should be designed around people, not cars
“During the pandemic, many of us rediscovered the simple act of walking – the oldest, cheapest and greenest transport there is. Walking kept us connected to ourselves and to others and helped us to stay healthy and happy.
Walking is good for our minds, our bodies, and our cities, towns and villages.
But lots of us still struggle with narrow, cluttered, uneven pavements; crossings that prioritise cars rather than people; and growing numbers of speeding vehicles.
It doesn’t have to be like this. That’s why I support the demands Living Streets has made calling on politicians to pledge to improve our streets for all, cut air pollution and make walking easier and safer.
Politicians must commit to set Vision Zero targets of significant reductions in people killed and injured on our roads. We call for commitments on default 20mph speed limits in built-up areas, improvements to our crossings and junctions and an increase in the number of low traffic neighbourhoods. One person killed on our roads is one too many.
It is time we redesigned our streets around people, not cars. That way we can all enjoy the benefits of walking and build healthier, happier communities.”
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