BUS company Stagecoach is in line to get more than £5 million in compensation because of Northampton Borough Council’s long-standing plan to demolish the Greyfriars bus station.
The council published its annual budget plans yesterday.
Among the documents was a plan to pay Stagecoach £5.5 million during 2011/12 as compensation for having to move out of their current base in the town centre bus station, which is owned by the council.
The council’s cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Richard Church (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) admitted the pay-out was ‘a lot of money’, but said it had to be made because the council wanted the firm to move out of the bus station to allow it to be demolished and the long-delayed expansion of the Grosvenor Centre to be built in its place.
He added: “Stagecoach have currently got about 12 years left on the lease for their base at the bus station, so this money is basically compensation for the termination of that lease. They can then spend that money on building a new facility.
“It is a lot of money, I can’t deny that, but if you have a lease on a property and your landlord wants you out early, then they have to put some money up to help you find an alternative facility.”
Stagecoach currently uses the bus station to store its buses overnight.
In February this year, the firm revealed plans to build a new depot in Far Cotton.
While the borough council could have to pay £5.5 million towards the construction of the new depot, the authority has said it hopes up to £4.5 million of that bill will be funded by either the Government or the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC), leaving just £1 million to come from the council.
But opposition leaders at the Guildhall have labelled the plan ‘a gamble’, when no exact date for the redevelopment of the Grosvenor Centre is known.
Councillor Tim Hadland (Con, Weston) said: “The Liberal Democrat leaders of the council still have no idea when development might begin, and this £5.5 million bill had better not land on Northampton tax payers’ doormats.”
Plans to expand the Grosvenor Centre by knocking down the bus station were first revealed by the shopping centre’s owners, Legal & General, in 2000.
It was originally hoped the development would be completed by 2005, but earlier this year, Legal & General said they now hoped to have the scheme completed by 2017, with the bus station demolished in 2014.
Commenting on the council’s plans to terminate Satagecoach’s lease at the Greyfriars bus station, Stagecoach spokesman, Adam Rideout, said: “Northampton bus station is used as an overnight garage facility by Stagecoach Midlands for the Northampton bus fleet.
“Under council proposals to extend the shopping centre and to replace the existing bus station, that facility would disappear.
“The figure included in the council’s budget is Northampton Borough Council’s allowance for the relocation of this facility to a new depot site.”