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Council set to reject Preston Bus station rescue plan

Preston Council is expected to turn down a local businessman’s proposal to save Preston Bus station from demolition

Energy magnate Simon Rigby proposed overhauling the BDP-designed structure to include new retail and leisure uses alongside a smaller bus station.

His vision – supported by local architects Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) – came after the council sanctioned demolition on the grounds the 1969 terminal cost £297,000-a-year to maintain and was too expensive to repair.

Rigby’s bid to buy the station for £1 is now expected to be vetoed by the local authority at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday next week.

Preston Council believes the offer fails to meet the long term interests of taxpayers. It will instead work with Lancashire County Council on a new bus terminal for the city centre site.

Peter Rankin, Preston Council leader, said: ‘Selling the bus station for £1 might save the council money in the short term but it guarantees nothing. There can be no guarantees imposed on the future use of the building as a bus station, nor on future investment in the building.’

He added: ‘The major risk is that, for whatever reason, anyone who owns the bus station building could at some point simply decide not to operate it as a bus station anymore. That would leave Preston without a functioning bus station and no money or land to build a new one.’

Rigby had offered to take on an estimated £10 million of liabilities and invest £500,000 annually for 10 years to bring the building up to standard and cover any losses. Then,

He said: ‘We are very disappointed that Preston will lose a truly iconic building. We provided safeguards against us being in it for a quick “buck” have the skills, resources and asked for no assistance from any taxpayer. We are at a complete loss but will study the detail when we receive it.

He added: ‘Our motivation was always to save the bus station and we will now be working to see the building listed and thereby saved.’

FWP managing partner David Robinson said: ‘The plain fact is this building does not need to be demolished. Simon Rigby’s vision would dramatically improve the building and the visitor experience – and keep at as a functioning bus station.’

Earlier this month RIBA president Angela Brady asked architecture minister Ed Vaizey to sopt list the structure.

The institute head has also written to English Heritage requesting it look again at listing the building, likening demolition plans to the loss of Euston train station’s iconic nineteenth architecture (letter below).

Preston bus station’s future has been in doubt since 2000 when the £700 million Tithebarn regeneration scheme – a project BDP also worked on – required it to be flattened.

The highly controversial project collapsed two years ago but in December Preston Council sanctioned the building’s in principle demolition on the grounds it cost £297,000-a-year to maintain and was too expensive to repair.

Angela Brady’s letter to English Heritage (EH)

RE: Preston Bus station: letter of support for its retention which could be Jewel in the crown for Preston.

EH has recommended the listing of this building on more than one occasion. EH is the Secretary of State’s specialist adviser on listability of buildings based on criteria for architectural or historic interest. The regulations governing how listing happens say that the Minister must ONLY take into account the issue of special architectural or historic interest. Listing or not listing must be decided only on this issue. The non-listing of the building is shameful as it is happening because there is a lobby to get the building demolished regardless of its merits. The question of whether a building can be demolished must be decided AFTER listing so that the historic interest can be properly taken into account. In this high profile case, an application for demolition would be called in for ministerial decision, which would generate a public planning inquiry. The Act says that Listed Buildings must not be demolished without “compelling” reason -so it is possible but an overwhelming case must be made. The fact that some people find the building “difficult” or “in the way” is not a compelling reason.

The previous refusal to listed Preston Garage was made by Margaret Hodge, who is notorious for her anti-modern architecture “concrete monstrosity” views. Could there be a different view from Tory Maria Miller?

The arguments about costs for running the building and upgrading are spurious. Who can doubt that converting St Pancras Station for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was not only a triumph but also not the cheapest solution? To clear the St Pancras site and put up a cheap shed would have been more “sensible”, but at what an architectural and cultural cost? Such a disaster is exactly what happened at Euston Station where world class historic buildings were bulldozed in 1960 for an indifferent shed replacement. Is not Spitalfields Market all the better for retaining and reusing the 19th century market building? Have we learnt nothing?

Preston Bus Garage could be the jewel in the crown of a town centre regeneration scheme, imaginatively converted, blending heroic 1960s architecture with new facilities. It seems there are still city fathers who think that wiping out the past is the only way to make a future! - They must be proved wrong”.

Angela 

Angela Brady PRIBA
RIBA President

 

 

 

 

 

 

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