Preston Bus Station is to receive a £23 million refurbishment in a huge overhaul of how the building operates.Advertisement
The grade II listed building divides Prestonians but its listed status has seen its future secured – and now Lancashire County Council are opening a war chest of funding.
Proposals are to be put to the county council’s cabinet which will see a smaller Bus Station operate from the Eastern side of the building.
£7.4 million is being ploughed into creating a 36 bay bus station, including a four bay coach park and rerouted vehicle access. Half of the space inside the ground floor would be given over to the Bus Station operation.
The multi-storey car park is to be repaired and the county council say the life of the car park will be extended for another 25 years.
The area between the Bus Station and the Guild Hall and shopping centre is to be made an open public area, and link up with the extended Fishergate shared space which is due to be extended right up to the Bus Station.
Estimates put the cost of repairs at £6.4m, and improvements to the apron at £2m, with a further £1.5m to be spent on highways improvements.
Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “These proposals not only secure the bus station’s future, they represent a major investment in young people, transport and the regeneration of the city centre.
“We aim to breathe new life into the building and the space outside, making it a far more welcoming gateway to Preston.
“Much has been made of the historic place of the bus station but these proposals show how we intend to make the building a valuable part of Preston’s future.”
Part of the rest of the Bus Station’s ground floor is to be converted into the Preston Youth Zone, as revealed on Monday.
The charity was due to be based on Marsh Lane in a new purpose-built building but it was shelved due to budget cuts, after the nursery on the road was demolished.
Now the Youth Zone Plus is to find a home in the Bus Station at a cost of £5 million from County Hall and £1 million being put in by the Youth Zone.
A statement from the county council says: “The world class facility will provide somewhere to go, something to do, and someone to talk to, for young people from the age of 8 to 19, and up to 25 for those with disabilities and/or learning difficulties from Preston and surrounding areas. It will also feature an indoor sports hall, outdoor pitches, a climbing wall, fitness suite and areas for music, dance, and arts and crafts.”
County councillor Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people, and schools, said: “The Youth Zone Plus will make a huge and positive difference to the lives of thousands of young people from Preston and beyond, and it’s fantastic that it will be now be located at the heart of the city.
“The Youth Councils have been involved in the development of Preston’s Youth Zone Plus from the beginning, and our experience elsewhere in Lancashire is that they really deliver what young people want.
“We are delighted to be working with OnSide to invest in this facility which will offer a wide range of activities as well as much needed practical help and support for our young people.”
Quizzed on the funding for the proposals, councillor Tomlinson said: “Quite a bit of the money we’ve already got put aside. We were planning to spend on a new Bus Station and we’ve still got that money and we were already planning to build a Youth Zone. Bringing in our friends OnSide and local government partners as well.”
Guy Topping, chairman of Preston Youth Zone, said: “We owe it to our city’s young people to ensure that Preston Youth Zone Plus is the best it can be. This is a very exciting development for the Youth Zone Plus, Preston bus station is not only centrally located it is also extremely accessible to young people, making it an ideal location for us to deliver youth services.
“We’ve received tremendous support from the local private sector so far, and now more than ever their investment is essential to ensuring Preston Youth Zone Plus becomes part of the city’s legacy for young people. Local community support for the project has also been overwhelming and I know we are all eager to take this step forward in making the Youth Zone Plus dream a reality.”
Preston City Council leader councillor Peter Rankin said: “This is a very exciting and very welcome announcement. We have always said that the bus station needed a huge amount of investment to bring it up to date so it’s no surprise to hear that £23m is required.
“Clearly there is still a lot to do before work starts. I understand that it is hoped to start building next Autumn.
“The added bonus is of course the prospect of fantastic facilities for young people.”
He also said the city council be providing no money towards any of the refurbishment of Preston Bus Station.
Planning officers are in talks with Simon Rigby, the new owner of the Guild Hall, about improving the high level footbridge between the venue and the Bus Station car park.
The St John’s Centre owners are also in discussions about improvements to the subway connecting the shopping centre to the Bus Station concourse.
Conversations are also happening with English Heritage to ensure the proposals are sympathetic to the building’s character.
It represents a sea-change in fortunes for the Bus Station, which was granted listed status in September last year.
County Hall took over ownership of the building in May after buying the building and land for £1 from Preston City Council.
Conservative county councillors have criticised the proposal to spend money on repairing the Bus Station, saying it is unfair on other areas of Lancashire who are subsidising the building.
Originally £8.3 million had been set aside for repairs and refurbishment of the building, but this figure has dramatically increased with the inclusion of the Youth Zone and further works.
If plans are approved by the county council’s cabinet at a meeting on Thursday 6 November the full plans will be revealed in March 2015.
If planning permission is granted the work on the Bus Station would begin during October 2015.
You can view the full county council plans on the cabinet meeting agenda on the county council website.
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