A request to reconsider a decision to hand ownership of Preston Bus Station to Lancashire County Council has been rejected.
County councillors voted not to ask the cabinet to review the deal at yesterday’s scrutiny committee meeting.
County Coun Geoff Driver said: “The Conservative group has absolutely no problem with Lancashire County Council getting involved in resolving the problem that is Preston Bus Station. When we were the administration we made the £8.3m available to help to do just that. The problem is to do it in the way proposed is just simply irresponsible.
“Even without a detailed structural survey, the estimated cost of repair and refurbishment of the bus station to bring it into line with modern requirements is between £16.5m and £23m.
“There is £8.3m available and without a detailed business case as to how that deficit would be bridged it’s simply irresponsible. We could end up with the worst case scenario of spending £8.3m on the bus station and still not be able to bring it up to modern day requirements.” He added: “All we would ask for is that before any decision is made, a proper business plan is produced so we know exactly what the commitment is we are taking on board.”
The county council’s assistant chief executive Eddie Sutton said: “This is not a commercial transaction between the county council and a private organisation trying to make a return. We are not doing this as a business opportunity.
“At the heart of this is about a public facility within, currently, the ownership of one public authority and it is being proposed that it transfers to another public authority.”
Following a question about “why it has to happen so quickly” from County Coun David Westley, leader Coun Jennifer Mein said: “£8.3m has been in the budget for a long time. Why now is because it has been listed so we need to be able to move.
“The City Deal will release funding coming forward, and we need to do it for the benefit of Preston and the benefit of Lancashire people.”
County councillors voted not to “call in” the decision.
Speaking after the meeting, County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “It is absolutely clear that as the strategic transport authority for Lancashire we have the experience and expertise of running other public transport hubs and are better placed than Preston City Council to make the bus station work.
“We have £8.3m to invest in the bus station, with the option to attract additional funding made possible by the listing decision – something we can do thanks to our greater financial resources and which simply would not be possible for Preston City Council.
“The listing decision changed the game and made it clear that the bus station is here to stay. Preston is vital to the wider economy of Lancashire and taxpayers will make no distinction between which council takes on the task of creating a sustainable future for the building and ensuring that a successful, thriving bus station plays its part in the wider regeneration of Preston’s city centre as a whole.”