Preston bus station will be demolished next year after a multi-millionaire’s bid to buy it was rejected.
The city’s council has confirmed it will open talks with Lancashire County Council about building a new, smaller terminal on the site after knocking back the offer from businessman Simon Rigby to buy it.
Designs for the new building will be drawn up in the next 12 months and press ahead with demolition before the end of 2014.
Mr Rigby said he will focus his efforts on getting the building listed which would throw up another barrier to its demolition.
Council leader Peter Rankin said: “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 anymore.
“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.”
Mr Rigby said he was “very disappointed” at the decision which he said would see the city lose “a truly iconic building.”
He added: “The council claimed that they were voting with their heads and not their hearts due to budget constraints and appealed for people to come forward so the bus station did not need to be demolished. We did.
“We provided safeguards against us being in it for a quick “buck”, have the skills, resources and asked for no assistance from any taxpayer.
“We are at a complete loss but will study the detail when we receive it.
“Our motivation was always to save the bus station and we will now be working to see the building listed and thereby saved.”
Town Hall bosses said the Rigby offer would have seen nearly £6m put into the building over the next decade, but this fell short of its required investment of between £17m and £23m.
That figure was originally put forward by consultants, Jacobs, employed by the county council to work out the cost of refurbishment, and was disputed by opponents to the demolition.
However, a study undertaken by Preston-based surveyors The Tom Lucas Partnership, commissioned to scrutinise at Jacobs figures, shows it would cost £23.1m to retain the building.
Asked whether the rejection meant there was never hope of a private investor saving the building, Coun Rankin revealed it had spoken with Land Securities, the biggest property company in the country, about reviving the building.
He said the firm, which also owns the neighbouring St John’s Centre, had been “really excited” about what it could do with the building but could not make the numbers stack up.
The leader added: “It is a huge company with huge resources and would have been the kind of people we needed to work with.
“Sadly, we have been national news for months and no-one has come in with an offer that works for us.”
The council’s cabinet will meet on Thursday to approve the recommendation by officers to reject Mr Rigby’s and open talks with the county council about a new building.
It will then have to submit a planning application for the new building and to demolish the existing bus station which is expected to take place next year.
If these plans are approved, work will start before the end of 2014.
The building could yet be listed with watchdog English Heritage expected to recommend the building be given listed status by architecture minister, Ed Vaizey, in July.
But, the council could still look to press ahead with demolition even if it is listed but would have to take its bid to a planning inquiry.
Chief executive Lorraine Norris said: “The council will still have to find £500,000 of savings from its budget next year and £1m the following year and saving £300,000-a-year from the cost of running the bus station helps that.
“Without that saving, obviously the job of finding those savings gets a lot tougher.”
In a report which will be presented to the council’s cabinet on Thursday, officers said Mr Rigby’s offer met only six of the nine criteria laid down by the council.
It did not guarantee a bus station on site beyond the ten-year life of the proposal, offer a deal which was “complimentary to a wider city centre development” and keep the land in the ownership of the council.
The demolition route only failed to meet the criteria of keeping the land in the ownership of the council but would retain it within public ownership, the report added.