EXCLUSIVE: Borough council was 'fixated' on town centre bus station in Northampton claims cabinet member

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage claims he did not want the town's bus station to be positioned on the former Fish Market site.
Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage claims he did not want the town's bus station to be positioned on the former Fish Market site.

Northampton Borough Council ignored warnings by the highways authority over the location of the town’s bus station because it was ‘fixated’ with the former fish market site, a Tory cabinet member has claimed.

On Monday night, opposition members on the borough council labelled North Gate Bus Station “an accident waiting to happen” in a joint-party call to improve safety around the station.

Their motion at full council came after a bus parked in the station reportedly rolled into a barrier after its handbrake had been left off.

Northampton’s Lib Dem and Labour parties said the borough had also overlooked blind spots, air pollution troubles and the issue of buses mounting the pavement in their planning for the site.

The motion was turned down, with all but one Conservative member on the borough - Councillor Sam Kilby-Shaw (Con, Obelisk) - voting against the motion.

But a Conservative colleague on the county council took a different view during a later debate at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, the first time anyone on the North Gate project team has broken ranks to admit they got the location wrong.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage admitted: “It is in entirely the wrong place, which wasn’t of [the County Council’s] choosing.

“There is a serious problem with its location, I agree.”

Roads around Sheep Street and The Drapery have been subject to regular snarl-ups since it opened as part of a joint venture between both councils in 2014.

There was further controversy in 2017, when it emerged all the previous year’s air quality figures for The Drapery were not recorded.

But the remark by Councillor Gonzalez De Savage, the cabinet member for economic growth, puts an end to the united front between the county and borough over North Gate.

In an interview with the Chron yesterday, the councillor claimed the borough council was “fixated” on using the former Fish Market land on Sheep Street.

He also maintains the facility should have been built on council land next to the town’s railway station.

“It was against all logic to put it at the Fish Market site. It didn’t make any sense,” he told the Chron.

“I did think it was going to be a bit of a squeeze. When I planted the time capsule [at North Gate] I remember saying to [then council leader] David Mackintosh, ‘this won’t stay as a bus station for too long’.

“I still think it could be a coach station. The congestion in Greyfriars is a mess.”

Councillor Gonzalez De Savage, who also said he would run for the leadership of the county council Conservative group if he had backing, believes both councils can still build a bus terminal next to the railway station.

Councillor Jane Birch, (Lab, Trinity) who proposed the motion for a safety review of North Gate this week, said she was “surprised” by the councillor’s comments.