I appreciate how strongly people feel about the recommendation to Preston City Council to demolish the bus station and car park, but the council has a real problem on its hands.
It’s an historical fact
that, whether it was right or wrong, the council agreed over 10 years
that the bus station building should be demolished and incorporated into
the Tithebarn development scheme.
At a time of a booming
economy the developers were certain they would need the site of the bus
station for their ￡700m retail scheme. Consequently repairs were kept to
As the council leader faced with the consequences of
that decision, I have a dilemma. Ten to 12 years of lack of investment
have taken their toll and the repairs have piled up. The car park facade
is stunning but the building itself is huge; the length of two football
pitches and with nine levels. Is it any wonder that the basic repairs
bill will be ￡5.5m over the next few years?
The council has
tried to keep the building standing now it’s no longer needed for
development. We asked officers from Preston City Council and Lancashire
County Council, with a team of external specialists, to examine the
feasibility of modernising the bus station and car park for 21st century
They have spent the past few months doing this
and their detailed research shows that a complete refurbishment,
including modern health and safety needs and disability requirements,
would be very costly.
The technical advice is that to bring the
building up to this standard would cost a minimum of ￡17m and perhaps as
much as ￡23m. Its interesting that to refurbish St Pancras station in
London cost ￡800million.High quality stone mosaic tiles.
just not feasible for the public sector to come up with this sort of
money, particularly as the remaining design life of the building is
fewer than 20 years. Lancashire County Council won’t pay, as this is
hardly good value for money for the council taxpayer, and Preston City
Council can’t pay.
Preston City Council has ￡5m for city centre
development but we are committed to a regeneration of the market. We
can’t contemplate investing ￡5.5m in fairly basic repairs over the next
few years as we can’t spend that money twice.
The council has
dwindling financial reserves and is struggling. We are facing further
huge and savage Government cuts over the next decade, with announcements
expected on December 20. We have to prioritise and do what we can to
protect front-line services. Demolition will save us ￡297,000 a year -
currently the cost of running the building even with profits from the
car park. Don’t believe me? We have placed all the reports and figures
on the website so that people can see for themselves the magnitude of
Lancashire County Council will not invest in the
current bus station building but we have an assurance that should the
City Council take a decision to demolish the building, then they would
work with us to build a new smaller bus station for Preston.
modern bus station in the same location that offers improved facilities
and is cheaper to run and maintain than the current building. It is
simple maths. The decision to demolish and rebuild offers better value
for money to taxpayers. That is why that option is being recommended to
cabinet as a way forward.
That’s not to say we wouldn’t welcome
private investment in the building. We have talked to developers and
they could not make it pay but we are happy to talk to anyone about
investing in the current bus station building – as long as they are
serious investors with money to invest.
But they need to be
quick. The declining state of the building and moreover the diminishing
state of the council’s finances means that a decision has to be taken
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