Travellers caused damage in Northampton this week, claims residents’ group

The former First Bus depot in St James was the site of a traveller emcampment on Tuesday.

The former First Bus depot in St James was the site of a traveller emcampment on Tuesday.

Calls have been made to speed up development of a disused bus depot in Northampton after a group of travellers allegedly caused damage there this week.

The former First Bus depot in St James was bought by Church’s Shoes in 2013 as part of its bid to expand its factory and create a further 150 jobs.

St James Residents' Association says something needs to be done to stop the former depot from being vandalised again.

St James Residents' Association says something needs to be done to stop the former depot from being vandalised again.

But the plans have halted over the past three years.

On Tuesday, a group of 14 traveller caravans pitched up there, leading to reports of criminal damage to the distinctive Corporation Transport office block.

Plants were removed from a set of flowerbeds in St James Square, at least one pub had to close early due to alleged rowdiness, and human excrement was found within the bus depot building according to eyewitnesses.

St James Residents’ Association (SJRA)is now calling for action to see the site developed.

SJRA Chairman Graham Croucher said: “The fact that the depot has stood empty for over two years now, and no sign of any redevelopment work in the offing, is also of great concern to us and this situation will only encourage similar attacks as this unique building falls into disrepair.”

The residents’ association says the fact the traveller encampment managed to gain access to the site is a “major concern.”

A statement from the chairman claims it has tried to contact Church’s about the building, but received no reply.

Church’s has also been contacted for comment by the Chronicle & Echo.

The residents’ association mounted a campaign to protect the building in 2013 and was initially glad to see it bought by Church’s.

Mr Croucher added: “We fought hard to preserve this historic building for future generations and we now fear for its future.

“We call on Church’s to make a statement on the buildings future and inform residents of a start date for redevelopment, and to take steps to secure it from future attacks of vandalism and criminal damage.”

When Church’s first announced its intentions to take over the site there had been fears over the power supply to that part of town.

Mr Croucher said the resident’s association now fears the bus depot development could be linked to the success of a proposed power plant plan on the nearby Westbridge depot - which has been the source of several protests.

He said: “We hope that a start date for work to commence is not dependent on planning permission being granted for the proposed waste to power plant as has been suggested.

“As for the travellers, we call on the local authority and police to act in a much quicker fashion in future.”