A campaign has been launched to try to transform Alnwick’s ‘eyesore’ bus station, which has been branded ‘unattractive, unfit for purpose and embarrassing’.
And as part of the fight, James Matthewson has formed a new development trust for the town, in a desperate bid to help redevelop the facility.
The state of the much-maligned bus station regularly comes in for criticism, although attempts have been made recently to improve the situation, including the installation of new CCTV.
But earlier this month, Mr Matthewson, 24, chairman of the Alnwick Branch Labour Party, who lives in Rock, conducted a survey at the station, which attracted some damning feedback – with scathing comments coming from locals and visitors alike.
And now he believes it is time for action to be taken at the well-used bus station.
Mr Matthewson, who was a county-council candidate at this year’s elections, said: “Alnwick’s bus station is now infamous. This well-used, well-known transportation hub didn’t always look this way and it certainly didn’t always have the reputation it currently has attached to it.
“But somehow, over the past 10 years, this central structure has become outdated, unwelcoming, unattractive, unfit for purpose and, frankly, embarrassing.
“Alnwick Branch Labour Party recently conducted a survey of people in the centre of Alnwick town, asking their opinions on the bus station itself, in addition to asking for their recommendations on what could be done to improve this eyesore of a building.
“Not one of the people surveyed – which was more than 200 – regarded the current bus station acceptable, with just under 70 per cent of people opting to describe the facilities and building as terrible or less than poor, with all others deciding it was simply bad or unacceptable.
“The thoughts of tourists and visitors are also a valuable insight into an outside perspective and 100 per cent of visitors surveyed admitted that they believed the bus station was one of a very small list of things – the public toilets being the other – which are letting down the aesthetic of the town.
“Desired facilities identified through this survey included toilets, coffee machines or a café and proper up-to-date, technology-driven information boards, among other things.
“Surely these demands are hardly excessive? For the largest tourist town in Northumberland, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year, is a decent standard of bus station really too much to ask for?”
As part of his attempt to force action at the site – which is owned by Morrisons and leased to Arriva – Mr Matthewson has formed a new development trust for Alnwick, called Hotspur Development Trust.
It comes six years after Alnwick Community Development Trust – operated by different people – folded.
He says that the Trust’s priority is the bus station, but could look to target other projects in the town, such as helping Alnwick Community Centre, on Howling Lane, and trying to improve the town’s public toilets.
He said: “The former development trust did some great things in Alnwick, so I have started and registered a new development trust. I am really excited about it and it has got the potential to really benefit the town.
“The bus station will be our first project and we want to work with everyone – including the town council, Morrisons, Arriva and the county council – and it is important that we look at all of the options.
“I know that finance could be an issue with the redevelopment of the bus station and a development trust can raise funds and apply for grants.”
Mr Matthewson said that he is looking for trustees to join the trust and wants to bring people in with a broad range of skills and a passion for the town.
He said: “I want to bring in people from across the spectrum and I am calling for people to get involved with this. I feel that we need to look more at the community to solve the community’s problems.”
To contact James, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07484 141363.
At the end of last year, the Gazette reported that high-tech CCTV was going live at the bus station. We also reported that other steps – through a partnership approach involving a number of organisations – would be taken to try to solve the issue, such as monitoring the cleaning of the bus station and ensuring the bins are emptied regularly.