Campaigners fight to get historic former bus depot in Northampton listed using 'little known process'

The council bought the site in November for £3.3million
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Campaigners fighting to ‘save’ an historic former bus depot in Northampton are calling for the building to be listed.

Northampton Transport Heritage (NTH) says it has this month (January) formally applied for the former St James Bus Depot to be listed with Historic England.

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This detailed application, the result of months of effort and in-depth research, included the submission of 240 rare photographs and documents, some never seen publicly before, according to NTH.

The former bus depot in St James was sold to WNC for £3.3m in NovemberThe former bus depot in St James was sold to WNC for £3.3m in November
The former bus depot in St James was sold to WNC for £3.3m in November

West Northamptonshire Council bought the site in Novemberfor £3.3million with plans to build affordable housing on it.

An NTH spokesman underscored the need for safeguards in this process, urging WNC to enact a Building Preservation Notice (BPN).

An NTH spokesman said: “In what would be an ironic step, we are calling for safeguards to be put in place and for WNC to serve on itself, a BPN, a little used tool in a council’s armoury that allows a six-months moratorium in order that the Historic England can work through the application to determine the historic status and therefore give the building protected status, until a determination is made.

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"This process is little used, or known about, because of the fear of a compensation claim against the council by impatient developers. In this case, though, the developer and landowner is the local authority and it should not put itself at an advantage over any would be opposition merely because it is both the landowner, developer and planning authority, that is a potential conflict of interests and would be wholly inappropriate. Indeed, WNC cannot be all three things without some safeguards. Transparency is what is required now.”

Graham Croucher, chair of NTH and leading the Save the Depot campaign, said: “We can still create a win-win situation here. The council’s own document shows that it is uncertain as to what can be built on the site in terms of cost benefit ratios. Insider information tells us that affordable housing looks to be off the table due to this factor. Demolition and clean up costs have also yet to be factored into the total site expenditure. There is also concern, internally, that the purchase was not a shrewd move by the council.

“So, whilst it evaluates and makes it mind up, we urge them not to rush into any hasty decisions, avoid a conflict of interests and not become that unscrupulous “developer” that rushes to demolish before a process can be determined. They need to allow the listing process to determine any historic value, for local people to have their say and to keep to their promises. We have now shown there is, and always has been, an historic value to this rare building and we are determined to protect it. We also call upon them to make the site safe and inaccessible to would be vandals and intruders, as already, in council ownership, fences are now falling over, leaving the site unsecure.”

A WNC spokeswoman responded, saying said: “WNC acquired the former St James Bus Depot site in November. As part of the initial process, WNC is working with a team of architects who will consider future options to unlock this key brownfield site and provide a regenerated space for the local community. The media statement [from NTH] is the first time that the council has been made aware of the application to Historic England and will now consider this ahead of issuing a further response.”

NTH says it was promised face-to-face meetings with the council leader four months ago but these are yet to materialise.