THE secret to making Northwich town centre a success will lie in a focus on independent businesses and town centre housing, according to a Northwich councillor.

Card Factory became the latest chain store to move into Barons Quay last week, joining the likes of H&M, Sports Direct and Odeon at the new shopping precinct – which has been bemoaned by some Northwich folk for its slow progress.

Despite the community crying out for shops to take up the empty units at Barons Quay, the celebrations of the new addition were somewhat muted.

This was because Card Factory had only made the short trip from the struggling Weaver Square shopping centre – much like the previous new tenant Sports Direct, which moved across town from Northwich Retail Park.

But the next business expected to open at Barons Quay will be an independent bar and street food eatery, Barons Quay Social, and it’s this kind of tenant that Northwich councillor Sam Naylor believes should be the focus for town centre development.

“I think we’ve got to focus on independents in the town centre,” said Cllr Naylor, Northwich Witton member at Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“Everyone is doing well as far as independents are concerned. The big high street chains are struggling and they’re closing left, right and centre, but the independents are thriving and we need to recognise that and encourage them to come to Northwich.”

And when it comes to Weaver Square, Cllr Naylor says housing is the answer for the dilapidated part of town.

A masterplan was put to public consultation last year and included housing as part of the plans, which also included shops, a public sector hub, food hall and children’s play area.

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But Cllr Naylor told the Guardian that perhaps more emphasis should be put on housing in order to bring life to the town centre.

“The most successful town centres are the ones that are getting housing right,” he said.

“You look at Weaver Square and what we’ve discussed for it and you think: ‘should we look at it again?’

“Maybe we need to look at getting some good quality new housing in there and breathe new life into the town.

“That’s what I’m going to be doing now. We’ve got the local elections out of the way and now I can fully focus on these issues and Weaver Square has got to be a priority.”