Preston Bus Station’s £23 million future remains on track, as county councillors voted not to force the proposals to be re-examined.Advertisement
Claims the finances didn’t stack up and the proposed Youth Zone are in the wrong place were ignored by Lancashire County Council’s scrutiny committee.
They voted 8-5 not to call-in the decision to proceed with the refurbishment of the Bus Station and the Youth Zone being located there.
Former county council leader and Conservative county councillor Geoff Driver led the call-in attempt.
He said: “We’ve asked for a call-in if you’re going going to do it that it’s done right. Estimated costs are nearly £6m to £8m light in what experts say.
“An asset like the Bus Station to work on the basis of the minimum required work when it’s clear there’s been under-investment for a number of years and estimated costs of doing it in 2012 were £23 million. In discussions I had with Peter Rankin as leader and he was having trouble on whether to knock it down. PCC commissioned their audit of our estimate and came within £100,000 of it. To refurb and repair to any reasonable standard for another 25 years is £23 million.
“You work out how much it is going to cost and how you’re going to fund it. Even though minimum £6m to £8m in costs, it is £9m short of funding it.”
Fellow Conservative county councillor Malcolm Deavaney, who represents Chorley Rural North, attacked the idea of the Youth Zone being located there. He also launched a scathing attack on the Lancaster Road area of Preston.
He said: “My concern of the fitness of the purpose of the area as a Youth Zone. I’ve had one or two personal experiences of that part of Preston because I have a 17 year old son coming in from Leyland by bus and I go and pick him up. To say the area is somewhat dubious in nature is to understate it by 1000 per cent. It’s wider than just the major environs. That whole part of Preston is a blot that will not attract the youth of the town.
“The whole of that part of Lancaster Road and the developments of between there and the Western Apron of Bus Station is drab and not welcoming.
“Quite frankly the other day I struggled to get up the ramps of the car in my car.
“Is the area really right for the youth of the town? What is the commitment of PCC to look at the Lancaster Road area to make it fit for purpose and be well lit enough and welcoming enough for a Youth Zone. Go away and re-think it and put some proper numbers in.”
The Tories claims were rebuffed by county council leader county councillor Jennifer Mein.
She said: “This call in was based on the funding and not the location. As far as the location goes and I’ve spoken to a lot of young people and I haven’t met anybody yet who disagrees with the site. They think it is a perfect location.
“I really find it quite breathtaking that the former leader can criticise us for the funding packing we’re bringing forward. He must be forgetting the decision he made in March 2012 to underwrite proposals that were on the table. He’s just not being realistic and trying to make a political statement which just doesn’t wash.”
County councillor John Fillis, responsible for highways and transport, said the Fishergate scheme was being extended to link up with the Bus Station.
He said: “Now regarding the siting of the Bus Station I accept it is dark and gloomy at the present time but you only have to look at our plans for Fishergate to see how it will link up and be well lit and open. Quite clearly what they are looking at and what is proposed is entirely different.
“The fixtures and fittings are of an age gone by and they need to be brought up to standard. We have to choose what pace we bring it up to standard. We have to have a detailed design and we have to have a budget to work to. What we’re not proposing to do is to let it go up and up.
“We need to bring the Bus Station back into full use.”
Further questions from county councillor Driver claimed the Labour administration “didn’t fully understand the financing arrangements.”
In a stormy response Cllr Fillis snapped: “I didn’t say we didn’t understand the finance. I said we didn’t understand what the Tories were talking about. It’s like being ravaged by a dead sheep.”
A more detailed report on where the funding for the Bus Station plan and detailed architect reports are due to be delivered to the county council’s cabinet in the coming months.
You can watch the full scrutiny committee meeting on the Lancashire County Council website.
What do you think of the Bus Station plan? What about the Youth Zone? Let us know in the comments below