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iconic Preston Bus Station
An “iconic” bus station in Preston appears doomed after councillors were told to reject a bid from a local entrepreneur to save it.
The Brutalist edifice will almost certainly be demolished if councillors follow their officers’ recommendation to decline an offer to buy it for £1 from Simon Rigby, the former chief executive of Spice, the FTSE 250 utility services business, who said he would revive the “iconic building”.
A report said there would be no guarantees over its future use as a bus station or investment in it and that Lancashire county council had set aside £8.3m for a new bus station.
Labour-run Preston’s leadership cabinet is meeting on March 21 after a vocal campaign from architects and local people against their decision in December to demolish it. The airport-style building, built in 1969, loses £300,000 a year and would cost up to £23m to refurbish.
Peter Rankin, council leader, said: “Selling the bus station for £1 might save the council money in the short term, but it guarantees nothing.
“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 any more. That would leave Preston without a functioning bus station and no money or land to build a new one.
“There is simply no getting away from the fact that the current bus station building needs major investment. To bring the bus station up to modern day standards the costs, which have now been independently checked and verified, are between £17m and £23m.
“Simon’s initial proposal sees investment of up to £2m immediately, which would pay for some repairs and improvements.
“We would like to thank Simon for his proposal and the time he has taken to put it together and discuss it with us. He, like many people, is a lover of the bus station building and wants to keep it.”
Two attempts to list the building by English Heritage have been rejected by government and more than 1,000 people have signed a petition to save it. A local newspaper poll found more than 70 per cent of locals wanted the building to stay.
It features five layers of curved, sweeping concrete on the car park above and a huge light atrium. But half its gates are not used, the parking spaces are narrow and it is connected to the city centre only by subways.
A spokesman for Mr Rigby said he was “very disappointed”. Mr Rigby had told the Financial Times he was willing to sign an “egg-on-face” clause to ensure that he would fulfil his promise to spend millions on refurbishment and keep it as a bus station.
The bus station will feature on the BBC’s Culture Show the night before the meeting.
The tycoon behind the bid to buy Preston bus station has offered to pay profits to the city’s council, the Evening Post understands.
The city’s council has asked Simon Rigby to clarify his final offer for the building which will be set against a proposal to demolish it with Lancashire County Council replacing it with a new, smaller terminal on the same site.
It is understood he has offered to pay any trading profit from the building over the next decade to the city council and should he sell all or part of the building within the next 20 years, the profit will be paid to the council.
A City Centre Regeneration Options Report drawn up by council’s officers is due to be published by the end of the week and is expected to recommend demolition.
The ruling Labour group will meet next Tuesday to discuss the proposals and vote on which route to take before a decision is taken by the cabinet at its meeting next Thursday.
The Evening Post understands the council has asked the Rigby camp to clarify a number of points around its offer which is believed to set out a ten-year vision.
It would see the main bus station concourse developed to include units for retail and leisure businesses with the 1,100-space car park retained above it.
The demolition route, backed by the cabinet in December before Mr Rigby’s bid, would see the county council build a new, smaller bus station on the site of the existing building.
There would also be a surface car park built on the site which would remain in the city council’s ownership, allowing it to continue to generate cash from motorists parking there.
It may even see the county council offer to pay part of the £2m cost of demolishing the bus station.
A spokesman for Preston Council confirmed a decision will be taken by the cabinet next Thursday, guided by a City Centre Regeneration Options Report, which is being written by officers at the council.
It will include the details clarified by the Rigby camp at the end of last week.
A spokesman for Mr Rigby said the details of his bid were commercially confidential and could not be revealed.
Council leader Peter Rankin said the Labour group had discussed the proposals at recent meetings and given the cabinet “a clear steer” as to its view on the future of the building.
He confirmed the group would meet early next week to discuss the final offer ahead of next Thursday’s cabinet.
Plans by a local businessman to buy BDP’s Preston bus station in order to prevent it being knocked down will be decided on by city councillors by next month.
Simon Rigby wants to buy the building off the local council and keep it as a bus station – but add shops and encourage start-up businesses and local artists to take space there as well.
Rigby has asked local practice Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) to help work on his plans and the firm’s surveyors have already judged that it is structurally sound for refurbishment work to take place.
A spokesman for Preston city council, which last December voted to bulldoze the station, said the bid from Rigby, who made £22 million from the sale of a water metering service company he founded, will be put to councillors “in the next few weeks” and added: “It’s up to them to decide what to do next. We need to deal with it and move on.”
Preston Bus Station
The council wants the demolished station to be replaced with a new bus station which will be built by Lancashire county council. The authority in Preston estimates it will cost £17-£23 million to refurbish. It currently costs £290,000 a year to look after.
But Rigby told the Financial Times: “It is iconic. Whatever replaces it won’t be. This was a cool place. It can be cool again. There are thousands of college and university students passing through.”
RIBA president Angela Brady last week asked architecture minister Ed Vaizey, who recently listed BDP’s headquarters building for the Halifax, then a building society when it opened in 1974, to list the bus station as well. “At the very least, it should be spot-listed to take it off death row,” she added.
Rigby has promised to invest £500,000 a year in the station for the next decade before estimating it will then start to make a small profit.
English Heritage has twice recommended the bus station for protected status in 2000 and 2009 but both applications were turned down.