My memories of Whitehaven bus station aren’t of the halcyon days. By the time I came to use it, it was for Saturday visits to spend my pocket money in the town centre (pick and mix and singles from Woolworths, and stationery from WH Smiths, for the record).
At this point, it was pretty run down. There were fewer buses and therefore fewer people. Colourful advertising hoardings were long gone, and the travel centre was on its last legs. It also stunk of pee.
That’s when it was open.
For almost twenty years since then, it’s been decaying. The once proud building, a shadow of its former self.
So, the fact that the bus station has been redeveloped is positive news in itself. One of the iconic buildings, at a gateway to the town, will be thriving again.
That’s before you consider that the facility will become an incubator for new businesses – leading to investment and new jobs in Whitehaven.
It’s before you consider that one of the world’s biggest banks is bringing its Eagle Lab concept to a small town – sitting alongside its other venues in the North West – Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.
It’s before you consider that it’s got an inspiring new catering facility. This is creating more jobs and providing a service to the bus station and to the town.
I was lucky enough to take a tour round the bus station earlier this month, and it was inspiring. The sepia-tinted memories of the fume-filled depot were shot to pieces.
The new facility is light, airy and modern. It’s been designed for the future, not the past.
Three separate spaces are joined seamlessly, allowing movement between each of them.
This means flexible spaces that can be used by businesses large or small, with kit to try out new ideas. It means a place where businesses can collaborate and share ideas – moving from small office space to labs and meeting spaces.
The facility has already found its first tenants. I really can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned.
For me, facilities like the bus station demonstrate the value of social impact. Gone are the days of small grants for community football team kits and family fun days. These grants were helpful but rarely delivered long lasting change
In their place are fewer, larger programmes of work to provide a sea change to the economy, to the community in which Sellafield sits – bringing better life chances to all they reach.
I don’t doubt that the bus station will provide a boost to a side of town that needs it. After all, when I used to get the number 12 bus to town, Tangier Street and Duke Street were both still shopping streets. How times have changed.
You can read more about our Social Impact programme – SiX here.
And as a final point, I am delighted that the Buzz Station name was dropped!