Demolishing Preston’s bus station is being considered by the city’s council as it grapples with a black hole in its finances.
Council leader Peter Rankin has admitted the move is “an option” being considered as the authority’s cabinet grapples with “some big decisions” to plug a £2.5m black hole in its finances.
He admitted these big decisions will have to be taken within months and said spending a £5m pot of cash set aside for the city’s collapsed Tithebarn regeneration on the build is another option on the table.
The leader said: “We have come to a cross-road and very clearly to succeed as a city; we have to take some very important decisions.”
Meanwhile, an opposition political party on the council has put forward proposals to demolish the building and offer the Guild Hall up for sale which it will put before a meeting of the council next week.
Coun Rankin said: “We have a bus station which is too big, a Guild Hall which is too small for major rock concerts but too big for other events, a market hall which desperately need investment, so there are some enormous decisions which the Labour group has to take.”
The leader said he had told chief executive Lorraine Norris and environment director Mick Lovatt the options on the table from the county council – which involve creating a bus interchange at the city’s train station – were “not good enough yet.”
Asked whether demolishing the bus station is an option, the council leader reader: “It is one option, one of a number, but no decision has been taken.”
The Liberal Democrat group has claimed bulldozing the bus station would save it £420,000-a-year with selling or mothballing the Guild Hall saving a further £600,000-a-year – both moves would see jobs cut within the council. They also say the council could use a flattened bus station as 700-space car park until a developer is ready to look to build.
Coun John Potter, the group’s finance spokesman, said: “If we do nothing, Preston’s city centre dies, it dies slowly, but it dies.”
The group’s proposals outline plans to offer the Guild Hall for sale as a going concern after this year’s Guild celebrations are offer until the end of March 2013 when, if no-one takes the offer, it should be moth-balled and offered for sale as a development site.
Group leader Coun Bill Shannon and Coun Potter held talks with trade union officials, admitting their plan would lead to jobs being cut.