Alnwick bus station redevelopment hopes hit by funding blow
Plans to redevelop Alnwick bus station have hit a major stumbling block.
Northumberland County Council has decided the project does not contain the regenerative aspect required to meet grant funding criteria.
The news was relayed to town councillors following a meeting of the Alnwick Forum.
Alnwick Town Council clerk Peter Hately explained: “The county’s view is that the bus station in its current design would not meet funding criteria, particularly because of the lack of regenerative element of the project.
"At this time, the indication from county is that given the Covid situation and low usage of public transport that funding from county may not be available for the bus station so we’re now in the position where we have a potential project that is on the shelf without any funding.”
A feasibility study had been carried out to establish how Alnwick bus station and the surrounding area could be improved as a key gateway into the town.
The scope of the feasibility study was to seek improvements ‘which result in a warm, safe, enclosed environment with modern toilet facilities and bus and tourism information’.
Cllr Gordon Castle, member for Alnwick on Northumberland County Council, added: "It’s basically been dismissed because it’s not going to create any jobs. You’re talking £1m to £2m. At this moment in time the future of public transport is very unclear. Not many people are using buses.
"This is hardly the best time to be expecting the council, which has a very tightly-squeezed budget, to be finding that sort of money.
"It’s very disappointing but it frankly does not fit the regeneration criteria.”
The news was met with dismay by town councillors including Mayor Lynda Wearn who labelled the decision ‘short-sighted’.
Cllr Geoff Watson said: “I am extremely disappointed that the county council has decided not to proceed with this project after all our expectations were raised.
"I think it would be a terrific regeneration project for the town. The first thing you see when you arrive on a bus is that awful bus station.”
Cllr Alan Waton said: “The problem with the bus station feasibility study was that it lacked any kind of vision or foresight.
"Why on earth wasn’t regeneration part of the spec of that feasibility study? It would have been in a far stronger position.
"While I understand the current situation is difficult for public transport it seems to me we ought be looking much further ahead to when Covid comes to an end.
"We need to be thinking how we attract people into Alnwick without them using cars and, in that respect, public transport is going to be vital.
"We’ve wasted the £5,000 we put into this. We are stuck with a feasibility study which will go nowhere because nobody is going to give us the kind of money that’s been talked about.”
Cllr Castle responded "The county council would say that it doesn’t own the bus company and it doesn’t own the land and you’re asking it to give money to both to improve the bus station. That would be very difficult in the present circumstances.
"In the longer term there might be a better means and if it was linked to a wider town regeneration project it might be possible but on its own it doesn’t stand up.”