The borough council’s regeneration chief said he could not ‘rule out a transport facility’ returning to the site of the old Greyfriars bus statsion.
Now that the authority, which owns four acres of land around the building, once dubbed the ‘mouth of hell’, has the rights to develop the site, it will press on with plans to create a “major leisure and retail scheme” there.
But during Monday night’s full council meeting, Councillor Gareth Eales (Lab, Spencer) put it to the authority’s cabinet member for planning and regeneration, Councillor Tim Hadland, that Greyfriars would be the ideal site... for a bus station.
He said: “Would you agree that the new North Gate bus station has been a disaster?
“Is it time we held a review into finding a new site for the station?”
And Councillor Hadland’s response has sparked much debate.
He said: “The answer to your first question is a categorical no.
“But, as far as the general travelling needs of the town are concerned, we are now in the position to think what could happen with the Greyfriars site.”
He went on to say that he could not rule out “transport facilities” at Greyfriars as part of the retail development plans, but could not say what form that would take.
Leader of Northampton Labour Group Councillor Les Marriott (Lab, Semilong) said this left the authority in an ‘absurd position’.
He said: “The Conservatives have finally acknowledged that North Gate Bus Station is inadequate for the needs of bus users as they are now not ruling out the possibility of some sort of bus facility being placed on the Greyfriars site.
“We might now be in the absurd position of demolishing the old bus station, but providing a poor substitute on that same location.”
But the idea of putting some transport facilities back at the Greyfriars site was not a wholly unpopular one.
The concept was mooted by former Northampton borough councillor and ex-MP, Tony Clarke, in the Chronicle & Echo last week.
As a borough councillor in 2008, he had pushed for a retail development on the former Chicago Rock site in the Market Square, rather than on the Greyfriars bus depot.
This week he said: “I am not surprised Councillor Hadland said that transport could return to Greyfriars, but I am frustrated as it should have happened a long time ago.
“North Gate is clearly inadequate at the moment.
“We need to increase the capacity and the footprint of the bus station because the traffic flow clearly doesn’t work.
“The only way we can do that is to put more bays on that vacant plot of land between the Mayorhold car park and the existing bus station.”
Leader of the borough council, Councillor David Mackintosh, said that in any event, retaining the Greyfriars depot land for its own means could only be a positive thing.
“We are no longer shackled to a developer unwilling to bring plans forward for this site,” he said.