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BDP's £700m Tithebarn scheme canned as John Lewis pulls out

BDP’s controversial £700 million Tithebarn has been shelved renewing hope for the future of the iconic Preston 1969 bus station which was set to be demolished

Project developer Lend Lease has been forced back to the drawing board after retail giant John Lewis decided to pull out of the ‘comprehensive redevelopment’ of Preston city centre.

The withdrawal means the long-running plans, which cleared a final legal hurdle in June this year (see below), have now become financially unviable and will not go ahead in thier ‘current form’.

As a result the much-loved but unlisted Brutalist bus station - earmarked for demolition under the huge plans - could yet be saved with the city council claiming the demise means the authority can now ‘review all our buildings and assets in a new way’.

The large scale comprehensive Tithebarn scheme is financially unviable

Councillor Peter Rankin, leader of Preston City Council said: ‘We are in the middle of one of the worst economic and financial situations since the 1930’s and it is now clear that the large scale comprehensive Tithebarn scheme, that received planning permission as originally proposed, is financially unviable.  The world has simply changed and we have to move on and be realistic about what can be achieved.

‘Our aim is though is to still re-generate the Tithebarn area of the city. 

He added: ‘Our development partner Lend Lease, is working with us to rethink the proposals for Preston City Centre, and together we are exploring how best to achieve the city’s ambitions to offer a wider range of quality shopping, more leisure and mixed use of the city centre including new offices and homes.’

Richard Coppell, development director for Lend Lease, added: ‘While we are disappointed that Preston Tithebarn is not going ahead as originally planned, this is unsurprising given the market backdrop. 

‘The tough economic climate and John Lewis Partnership’s decision not to come to the city centre means that the scheme’s design needs to change.  Lend Lease remains the City’s development partner and we are continuing to work closely with the Council to help Preston achieve its ambitions.’

Comment from The Twentieth Century Society - senior caseworker Christina Malathouni

We have always argued that Preston Bus Station is a unique landmark that, with due care and imagination, can continue serving Preston and adding to the city’s personality for many years to come. It has been said numerous times, but cannot be repeated often enough: were Preston Bus Station to be demolished, its loss would be sorely regretted by future generations. Now is the time for the Council to review plans that were drawn a long time ago and have been challenged time and again: in these very difficult circumstances that impose further delays on the Tithebarn scheme, the Society hope that Preston will see a great opportunity for the long-term future of the city and for its precious heritage, of all different eras, that gives the city its distinctive character.

An international architectural competition should be held for the retention of the building

The World Monuments Fund recently accepted the Society’s bid and included Preston Bus Station in its 2012 Watch List, as a key representative of ‘British Brutalism’. As part of its bid, the Society suggested that an international architectural competition should be held for the retention of the building and its integration in any regeneration plans for the city centre.
We hope that this recent international recognition of the building’s special interest will give Preston the confidence to abandon proposals that are against contemporary thinking, both as regards heritage and as regards environmental considerations, and adopt a brave forward-looking new approach to its regeneration needs.

Previous story (AJ 29.06.11)

Time running out for Preston Bus Station as Tithebarn clears final hurdle

Time running out for Preston Bus Station as Tithebarn clears final hurdle

The future for BDP’s Preston 1969 bus station looks increasingly bleak after an appeal against the £700 million Tithebarn city centre retail scheme was thrown out yesterday (28 June)

Neighbouring authority Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council had challenged communities secretary Eric Pickles’ decision to approve the massive LendLease-backed project last November. The new development, which is also designed by BDP, will see the existing bus station flattened and replaced as well as creating a huge shopping centre, a new cinema, cafés, bars, offices and homes.

The court of administration in Manchester upheld the secretary of state for communities and local government’s decision to allow the project to proceed although a future timescales is not yet known.

Speaking about the imminent destruction of the bus station, which designed by BDP’s Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, Jon Wright of the Twentieth Century Society said: ‘As the likelihood of the Tithebarn scheme increases, it’s popularity decreases.

Preston Bus station has become the photogenic poster-boy for this country’s sad neglect of its recent built heritage

‘Preston is in real danger now of demolishing their favourite building, which in the course of the campaign to save it, has become both international icon and photogenic poster-boy for this country’s sad neglect of its recent built heritage.’

Intriguingly, the existing, Brutalist bus station currently leads a ‘readers’ poll’ of BDP’s favourite buildings (click here)

A ‘delighted’ Preston City Council leader, Peter Rankin said:’ Our focus now is working with developers Lend Lease and Lancashire County Council to take Tithebarn forward, in what is a difficult economic climate.

‘There is still a lot of work ahead, including raising the necessary finance and assembling the land. But now we have the planning permission, we can move forward with renewed energy and positivity to meet the challenges ahead to deliver the Tithebarn development and the investment and new jobs it will bring.’

 Previous story (AJ 25.11.2010)

Preston Bus Station doomed as Tithebarn scheme approved

After years of uncertainty Preston’s 1969 bus station looks set to be flattened and make way for BDP’s £700 million Tithebarn city centre retail scheme

Earlier this week communities secretary Eric Pickles approved the huge regeneration plans, overruling the planning inspector’s recommendation to reject the Lend Lease-backed development - a decision which will eventually result in the demolition of the ‘neo-Corbusian’ concrete bus station, ironically also designed by BDP.

A future timescale, however, has yet to be set out.

It is understood Pickles felt the project failed to meet the transportation aspects of both the development plan or national policy, but he still rubberstamped the project based on ‘outweighing economic, environmental and regeneration’ benefits.

Richard Coppell, development director for Lend Lease said: ‘This is a great milestone for the project and we are delighted to be able to continue our excellent relationship with the city.

‘We now need to work closely with the City Council and other stakeholders to determine the path to delivery.”

Back in January Architecture Minister Margaret Hodge went against English Heritage (EH) advice and turned down a second bid to list the landmark. The much-loved behemoth has been under threat for more than a decade. In 2001 Terry Farrell revealed a masterplan which would have removed the Brutalist station.

Eddy Rhead of the Manchester Modernist Society, who has campaigned for the preservation of the bus station, said: ‘This whole scheme seems to be fundamentally flawed and beyond the regrettable loss of the bus station, a hugely important building, there are a much wider implications for the future of Preston and the surrounding areas.

‘The secretary of state himself draws attention to fact the scheme goes against national policy and the arguments for any positive contributions are at best vague and at worst spurious. The lack of a meaningful development partner also calls into question the viability of the whole scheme.’ 

The approved BDP scheme features flagship John Lewis and Marks & Spencer stores, a new bus station, cinema and 400 flats.

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