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Revealed: Expert reports dispute the true cost of restoring Preston Bus Station

Posted on - 18th June, 2013 - 1:00pm | Author - | Posted in - News, Preston Bus Station, Preston Council
The city council and English Heritage disagree on the cost of restoring the Bus Station

The city council and English Heritage disagree on the cost of restoring the Bus Station

Estimates on how much it would cost to restore Preston’s iconic bus station could be “significantly lower” than previously thought.

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The argument for not restoring the building, estimated at a maximum cost of £23 million by consultants,  and demolishing it to build a new one, has centred around the restoration costs.

But alternative reports claim serious flaws in the Jacobs Engineering Group report, prepared for councillors to decide on the future of the building at a December 2012 council meeting, which worked out restoring the Bus Station would cost a minimum of £17 million.

A replacement Bus Station, which would see the original building demolished, is costed by Jacobs at between £8.9 and £9.2 million depending on whether the North or South side of the land was used.

A number of reports prepared for English Heritage contradict the Jacobs report and state “for a building of this age the structural condition is quite good and better than expected.”

These are the words of senior structural engineer Keith Weston who works for the Heritage’s conservation engineering team.

He goes on to write in a letter on 15 February 2013: “The defects are a small proportion of the overall construction and I would have thought that the cost of repairs will not be unreasonably high. “The structural condition of the building does not make a good case for demolition.”

Another report prepared for English Heritage goes further in its criticism of the Jacobs report.

Dr David Farrell, who founded Rowan Technologies in 1991, also states the current condition of the Bus Station is “better than described in the various reports.”

He says in his report “the cost for repairing the damaged reinforced concrete elements within the structure is likely to be significantly less than that given in the reports.

“With suitable repairs Preston Bus Station and car park could enjoy an extended life of 50 years.”

The Bus Station and car park are in the brutalist style of architecture, popular in the 1960s

The Bus Station and car park are in the brutalist style of architecture, popular in the 1960s

The reports into the restoration of the Bus Station was made on behalf of English Heritage and shows approximately 50 per cent of the original report’s estimate – or a maximum of £11.5 million – would bring the building, built in the 1960s, back to a reasonable standard.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: “English Heritage is preparing advice to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on whether or not Preston Bus Station should be listed.

“In the meantime we are examining the relative costs of retaining and demolishing the structure and the extent to which it may be possible to integrate it in plans for the regeneration of the city centre.

“Regardless of the eventual decision on listing, the bus station is a building of historic and architectural significance, and we would like to see it retained and adapted to new uses if at all possible.

“Our view is that the costs of retention are significantly lower than those estimated by the council’s advisers and we will wish to explore the implications of this with the council.”

bus station inside

Time is ticking over whether the Bus Station will achieve listed status or be demolished

Bus Station campaigner John Wilson believes the English Heritage reports point to over-estimation in the Jacobs report and accuses the council of distorting the figures.

He said: “The only thing the councils seem to have got right is that the Bus Station is on prime retail land in the heart of the city. These reports show how the Jacobs report over-estimated the cost for restoring the building.

“The people of Preston deserve to know the true costs and it’s important we know whether council officers have been giving councillors the correct information, rather than trying to sway public opinion in favour of demolition.

“I have written to Peter Rankin amongst others to make him aware of how he may not know the full facts.”

The criticism by English Heritage follows the revelation, revealed by the Lancashire Evening Post, that a recommendation to restore the building was removed.

Minutes released under the Freedom of Information act of a county council environmental directorate management meeting show the early draft Jacobs report was modified.

A scoring matrix, which ranked restoring the Bus Station as the highest scoring option, was removed before the city council cabinet meeting in December.

Lancashire County Council said the report was modified as Jacobs had drawn a conclusion when they were only asked to present the costs.

Preston Council leader Peter Rankin told the Evening Post the minutes from a county council meeting which referred to the decision came to the council’s attention in February.

He said: “We were concerned at the wording. We asked for clarification from Lancashire County Council. We hadn’t seen that draft because as the county have said, Jacobs were told that wasn’t what they were asked to do – they weren’t asked to draw up a subjective assessment.

“Even that draft report estimated the cost of refurbishment to be £23m, so it really doesn’t alter anything as far as the council is concerned. All along I’ve said it comes down to cost. I’m quite confident in my own mind that it really doesn’t alter the conclusion the cabinet came to.”

He also took to Twitter to voice his thoughts on the story:

As well as the questions over the minutes and Jacobs report, the disagreement between Preston City Council and English Heritage has intensified when the council commissioned their own counter-report into the English Heritage surveys.

Tom Lucas Partnership, based on Fishergate Hill, prepared a report in March contradicting the findings by the English Heritage architects.

The report for the city council disputes:

– The costs of £550,000 estimated by Jacobs for concrete repairs being reduced to £174,000, the Lucas report says it is “impossible” for anyone to accurately predict the cost of the concrete repairs

– Disability allowance and health and safety requirements being reduced from just over £2m down to £1.525m.

– Removing the existing concrete apron is omitted by English Heritage saving £250,000, while Lucas say this is needed for a true comparison

– Bus Station refurb is reduced from £1,750 to £1,200 per square metre, the Lucas report says the Jacobs report is more accurate because it uses costs from the recent Accrington Bus Station redevelopment.

– Just over £1.3m is omitted by English Heritage for “Bus Station Infrastructure” which Jacobs say is needed for a true comparison.

Lucas come to the conclusion that “the figures presented by Jacobs are more realistic than these presented by English Heritage.

“Jacobs figures reflect a total refurbishment of the car park and bus station to be comparable with a new state of the art bus station complex.”

A spokesman for Preston City Council said: “The council has had specialist independent consultants, Tom Lucas Partnership, double check both the Jacob’s and the English Heritage assessments of potential bus station refurbishment.

“The consultants concluded that the estimated costs of refurbishment were more in line with the Jacob’s report, which are in the order of £17m to £23m.”

Peter Rankin tweeted on Tuesday afternoon dismissing the reports.

The Bus Station as it stands is still slated for demolition but a question mark hangs over whether it will be listed.

A decision by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey on whether to list the building – for its architectural heritage and brutalist style – is due to be made imminently.

It is the third attempt by campaigners to have the building listed.

View the reports yourself

You can view the original Jacobs report online here. (Will download as PDF)

You can view the English Heritage reports online here, including the Farrell report, Kiely report and Weston report.

You can view the Lucas report responding to English Heritage online here. (Will download as PDF).

What do you think about the estimates? What do you think about the future of the building? Knock it down or restore it? Let us know in the comments below

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