The finishing touches are being put to Northampton’s new North Gate bus station which will open its doors to passengers for the first time in March.
The £7million development, on the site of the former Fishmarket (picture inset), will replace the ageing and dilapidated Greyfriars Bus Station.
The opening of North Gate on Sunday, March 2, will pave the way for the demolition of Greyfriars which is expected to start the same month. The closure of Greyfriars has been met with criticism from many readers of the Chron. The location of the new bus station has been questioned, as well as the ability of the site to cope with the number of buses using the site. But the leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, is confident it will work.
“I have been monitoring the project since it began and I am really pleased and looking forward to it opening for the public.
“When you look at it in contrast to Greyfriars, you realise what a massive improvement it is to the horrible existing building.
“It’s long overdue and will be a proper welcome for people arriving in Northampton.”
There will be an open day on Saturday, March 1 for people to look around the new building before buses depart for the first time.
Mr Mackintosh added he hoped North Gate would help revitalise the surrounding area and the Drapery while also benefiting market traders.
Northampton Borough Council has also defended its decision to charge commuters 20p to use the toilets at the new bus station. Mr Mackintosh said: “It is fairly standard to charge for toilet facilities.
“It will cover cleaning costs and upkeep and stop them becoming rundown.”
Once open, entrances to the existing Greyfriars building will be boarded up to allow demolition to begin.
The leader of Northampton Borough Council has urged sceptics of Northampton’s new bus station to go and take a look around on its open day in March.
Since the site was announced, letters criticising its location and size have been regularly printed in the Chron’s letters pages with detractors saying people will be unable to get into the Grosvenor Centre without getting wet if is raining.
Northampton Borough Council leader, David Mackintosh, said: “People have been saying it’s much too small, but what you have to remember is that Greyfriars was a home to the entire bus fleet and it was the base for large offices above.
“The buses will not be staying overnight at the new bus station.” Prior to building work taking place, council officials conducted tests at car parks at Sixfields which proved the site could cope with the number of buses arriving into and departing from North Gate.
Councillor Mackintosh added: “People are also comparing the size of the old Fishmarket to the new bus station. “We have actually taken in a lot more of the land around the Fishmarket and it is much bigger than people realise. “People have written to me a lot about it with their views, but I have gone back time and time again and I am certain that the site is fit for purpose.”