Opposition councillors today claimed Preston bus station would not have been facing a £14m repair bill if it had not been allowed to fall into disrepair for so long.
It is believed a surveyors’ report on the state of the 1960s building flags up that even the “very minimum” amount of work recommended is likely to top £10m. But the bill could reach £14.3m, even before any future development or improvement of the site.
County Hall has promised to unveil its plans for the station in the coming days.
The experts who did the survey warn doing nothing “is simply not an option” and would lead to the “steady decline of the structural integrity of the building due to corrosion.”
According to Conservative County Coun Graham Gooch, who has seen a copy of the report, the survey found defects including “severe cracking” on T-beams and missing concrete exposing the reinforcing steel which had become corroded.
Surveyors found patterns of cracking on all the parking decks and some crash barrier base plates and posts needed replacing as they were severely corroded.
Coun Gooch, the Conservative group’s spokesman on highways and transportation, accused the city council of “incompetence . . . on a vast scale.”
He said: “A full survey was carried out in 1999, when the cost of repairs was estimated at £2.1m. Now the deterioration that has been allowed to continue leaves the taxpayers of Lancashire with a bill of £14m, just for the repairs.”
Coun Gooch said the Labour led county council had “come to the rescue of their Labour comrades (on Preston Council) and bought the building before they had the survey done.”
He added: “This means that Preston’s bus station will now be paid for by people far from Preston, from Barnoldswick, Morecambe and West Lancashire.”
Eddie Sutton, Lancashire County Council’s assistant chief executive, said: “The heritage listing made clear that the bus station is here to stay and the county council is well-placed to provide the transport and economic development expertise to make the most of its potential.
“The bus station needs work to maintain it, but the plans we’ll be bringing forward soon will also see considerable investment to develop the building, improve the way it operates and link in to the regeneration of the surrounding area.”
Answering the Conservatives’ criticisms, Preston Council leader Coun Peter Rankin said: “There is a lot of history surrounding Preston city centre and its prominent buildings, involving both Labour and Conservative administrations.
“But now it is time to look ahead. The bus station has not been allowed to get into a state of dilapidation, but it is ready for renovation and refurbishment.
“We are working alongside Lancashire County Council to focus on, and promote, redevelopment and growth within Preston.
“I greatly anticipate Lancashire County Council’s announcement of the proposals for moving forward with the next chapter of Preston bus station, which I am certain will complement the other projects that are currently being undertaken in the area.”