#City & Town Planning
Northampton Borough Council
United Kingdom

Why Is The Building Important?

All towns and cities owe their success to a reliable and comprehensive public transport system. Northampton was no different and the trams and motor buses that eminated from St. James Garage helped convey millions of people over the years who in turn contributed to the economic success of a growing town - moving people from A-B, form home to work, shops and back again is the principle purpose of the Muncipal transport fleet. Its story in the towns success and development over the years is largely untold and unrecognised.

The St. James garage started out as the Northampton Corporation tram sheds after the Northampton town council bought out the Northampton Street tramway system in 1901 and replaced the majority of horse drawn trams with an electrified system in 1904, and opened new facilities in St. James that included storage, workshops and offices; public transport in Northampton was revolutionised with the company returning profits after the first year of operation and industry in the town also grew.

The distinctive arch entrances to the tram shed can still be seen, even though they have suffered some alteration over the years and original tram lines can still be seen inside the building.

In 1937 the council approved a new extension, to house the expanding fleet that was to include a new garage area (itself measuring an impressive 260ft by 90ft and one of the largest unsupported roof structures of the time), mess room, recreation room and engine test room and opened in 1939 along with the fabulous Art Deco Corporation Office building. Have a look inside: http://tiny.cc/8t1p1w

Not many tram sheds or former bus depots exist now as privatised Municipal companies dispose of the sites and sell the land for a profit leading ultimately to demolition and with it our heritage, our make up of what we are as a town. As such they are nationally important and are often overlooked.

St. James garage is well known, not just to townsfolk and Jimmies Enders but to thousand of visitors each year who visit the nearby Saints or are passing on their way to town. Nationally it is well known in transport circles as NCT had a good reputation for excellence. It is an intrinsic part of the street scene in St. James as much as the Church’s shoe factory, Doddridge Centre, St. James Church, Foundrymans Arms and the remaining buildings on the Square including the attractive Natwest bank building originally the “Cafe” on Cafe Square.

These are the very buildings that give St. James an identity, a picture in the minds eye, providing a welcome security upon returning home, like a warm coat or an old pair of shoes!

St. James Garage is a local landmark. Also, with the Church’s shoe factory and the adjoining terraced streets, of Sharman and Lincoln Roads and Spencer St, the bus garage gives a rather impressive historical picture of early St. James and of an early 1900’s town.

With the race to create more jobs and compete with nearby towns like Milton Keynes, our councils are turning us into them by redeveloping sites such as these and creating ugly, faceless monstrosities that strip communities of their history, and therefore their identity.

We want to preserve as much as is possible of the garage building to enable us to convert it to a Heritage Community Enterprise Hub that will include a transport and industrial museum but also a community hub; that includes for example the under threat library, a one stop shop for residents to deal with local authorities, and an advice centre. We also want to include space for small businesses and social enterprises based around craft, engineering and recycling. We could hold antique, craft and collectors fairs and exhibitions in the garage storage area and who knows, small concerts.

The possibilities are endless! We don’t think residents will want another supermarket in the area, nor will they be keen to see more houses squeezed onto the site, so we think our proposal will be the most suitable.

We also would like to have workshops here so we can preserve the skills needed to look after the exhibits, in turn giving young (and not so young!) people the opportunity to learn skills in engineering and in turn securing the future of our living history as the skills and people needed to maintain it are slowly dying out.

We have a unique opportunity to stop an all too familiar, course of action and create something special for our community and create jobs at the same time. Can you help us by signing this petition?

We the undersigned, urge Northampton Borough Council to take immediate action to protect the buildings that form the St. James Bus Depot on St. James road, Northampton from demolition before more of the town's history is lost forever. We call on the council to add these historic buildings to the protected historic buildings list immediately.

The buildings are a vital to the story of the town's social, economic and industrial development. First commissioned, as an electric tram depot they contain many original features and form an intrinsic part of the street scene.

We additionally call on the Council to list the buildings as a community asset under the Localism legislation; "Community Right To Bid" which will allow community representatives time to put together a funding package to make a bid to purchase the buildings and convert them to a Heritage Enterprise Community Hub.

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The Save St. James Tram & Bus Depot petition to Northampton Borough Council was written by St. James Residents' Association and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.