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NPS's Norwich bus station: 'waste of money'

CABE has condemned a design by Norfolk County Council's inhouse architects for a new bus station as an 'unacceptable use of public money'.

In a damning design review, the commission called for the current scheme by Norfolk Property Services (NPS) to be abandoned, saying it 'fails to grasp the basic principles in designing a bus station'.

The design review committee also criticised the council's handling of the project, questioning why it had neglected to use a competitive OJEC notice before commissioning an architect.

NPS's £4.1 million scheme replaces an existing bus station on Surrey Street in Norwich city centre. As well as spaces for 12 buses and three 'layover' spaces for resting drivers, it creates a new travel office with seating, WCs and vending facilities.

But CABE said the scheme failed at first principles, by putting buses first and people second. 'The scheme shows a lack of clarity of thought at both a strategic and detailed level, and we think a total rethink is required. While we welcome the aspirations set out in the brief, they are not matched by the quality of the design.'

NPS's scheme is a 'catalogue of missed opportunities', it said, which had barely evolved since the initial sketches. 'We suspect the best thing now would be to abandon the current design and start again on that basis, ' it concluded.

However, NPS's head of project management, Clinton Powell, disputed the criticisms and the need for a fresh start.

'This has been a challenging site to develop and we have tried very hard to come up with something that will be pleasant and pleasing for the public and visitors to use, while providing good value for money - and this is what we feel we have achieved, ' Powell said.

'We are a Beacon-status authority with an in-house service provider, so no OJEC notice was required, ' he added.

Powell also claimed to have the continuing support of Norwich City Council, which will decide on a planning application this week. 'If planning approval is granted, it is hoped to start work on demolishing the existing site in January, ' he added.

lCABE's design review committee also examined Associated Architects' masterplan for Wapping Wharf in Bristol, which it said 'provides both a sound framework for the consideration of the development of the site and a sound basis for the progression of the detailed design of the built form and open spaces'.

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