THE Barons Quay development has split the town, from an opinion and from a geographical point of view.

It appears we now have two town centres – Barons Quay and the market area.

One is virtually empty and the other is a visual and economic disgrace. Surely the planners and the council should have viewed the town centre as one project and incorporated the market within the new development, rather than speculatively building new retail units?

In addition the development should have included apartments available to all ages, not just over 55s, but in particular younger people and those without access to a vehicle.

If Northwich wishes to be seen as inclusive, it must include all age ranges and not just the over 55s.

I can accept that it is convenient for the over 55s to have apartments/ houses in the town centre, but in general they will not use any of the town centre facilities in the evening, but are likely be one of the first to complain about noise in the evening.

Car parking charges are always a bone of contention, but it seems to me that fewer people will use the town centre as evidenced by the empty car parks both during the week and at weekends.

There does not seem to be a problem in Cheshire Oaks with free parking.

The council seem to think Barons Quay will be a magnet for retailers so the fact that M&S is proposing to close comes as no surprise to anyone.

The decision by M&S to close the branch is because it is a business.

The sole purpose of any business is to make a profit. If the store does not make a profit, M&S has to make a decision. Companies will not allow stores to run at a loss and be subsidised by other stores or shareholders.

It must be clear that whilst residents want M&S to stay, they must shop in the store and it would appear they have not. M&S will not retain a presence in Northwich for emotive reasons.

In a recent statement a spokesman for the council was quoted as saying ‘We’ve got big companies coming in.

If it’s good enough for H&M then why can’t it be good enough for M&S?’ Perhaps the council would like to name those companies (plural) ‘coming in’ and not hide behind the ‘we don’t want to endanger negotiations’.

Either companies are coming in or they are not.

Over the last few years there has been some very naïve rhetoric uttered and despite the assurances that all is going to fine at the end of the day, I regret that from where I sit, the assurances would seem to empty.

In January, the ‘Artisan Market’ was cancelled because of the weather, but would it not have been a good idea to temporarily re-house it in the empty Barons Quay units?

Again this would have increased the footfall in the new development and might have encouraged some artisan traders to think they could operate full-time from a small unit.

It is imperative that any development in Northwich town centre includes apartments for all ages, free parking all day, every day, ensure that the market becomes an inclusive part of future development or immediately allocate some units for use by market traders (on the same terms as they pay now) and that residents are routinely informed of the progress of new retail tenants to Barons Quay Also to renovate the ugly scaffolding building along the walkway from Witton Street into Barons Quay and for the council to openly discuss with current retailers about rehousing to Barons Quay.

Let us be clear, the loss of one retailer in Northwich does not ‘take some of the heart out of the town’.

The loss of a town centre, by piecemeal development, takes the heart out of the town.

Marc Sutton Hartford