15 Nov Cabinet approves plans to temporarily close Northampton town centre walkway
West Northamptonshire Council’s (WNC) Cabinet has approved plans to temporarily close Emporium Way in Northampton at their meeting last night (14 November).
The walkway, which is located off Northampton Market square and provides shortcuts to Sheep Street and the nearby Mayorhold and Newlands carparks, has become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and crime including loitering, urination, muggings, fighting, drug dealing and other illicit activities.
Over the past six months Northamptonshire Police has noted a significant rise in crime and anti-social behaviour in the walkway, including 3 recent serious sexual offences, and additional police presence has been introduced.
Crime Data shows 20 recorded crimes from September 2021 to August 2023 in Emporium Way, increasing from 4 crimes between September 2021 to August 2022, to 16 crimes in the same period the following year. In addition, during the same two-year period 19 incidents were also recorded consisting of 6 incidents between September 2021 and August 2022, to 13 incidents for the same period the following year.
The results of a recent public consultation with residents and businesses showed that 58 percent of respondents voted in favour of gating Emporium Way, 60 percent felt that anti-social behaviour and crime are an issue in the walkway, and 36 percent have witnessed or experienced either one or more issues of anti-social behaviour or crime there.
The Council will now make a Public Spaces Protection Order to close the public highway 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the market square redevelopment is complete, using its powers under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Access to all adjoining areas will be available via alternative routes and fire exits and access to bin storage will still be available for businesses adjoining the walkway.
Cllr David Smith, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Engagement, and Regulatory Services, said: “For many years, Emporium Way has been used as a place to conduct illicit activities, away from the eyes of passing pedestrians and other capable guardians such as the Police and wardens.
“Due to the low ceiling height in the underpass and layout of the alleyway, CCTV coverage is very limited and often vandalised, at great cost to the taxpayer.
“I am confident that temporarily closing Emporium Way will have a positive impact on crime and anti-social behaviour in Northampton town centre and will help create a better environment for residents, shoppers and local businesses who invest here.”
This will be Northampton’s sixth Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), following the implementation of orders across the Town Centre, Dunster Street, Marble Arch, Jeyes Jetty and Francis Jetty.
The cost of the hoarding and installation will be funded by West Northamptonshire Council with support from the Office of Police Fire and Crime Commissioner (OPFCC).
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “We have heard about the issues in this alleyway from the people who are affected by it, and so I was pleased to support the temporary closure to prevent further crime and anti-social behaviour. “I want people to feel safe and confident as they use the town and am pleased to be able to work together with the local authority to tackle crime.”