Multi-millionaire Simon Rigby is the man leading the bid to buy Preston’s bus station, it can be revealed.
The tycoon, who made his £21m fortune in energy, has said he wants to save the iconic building from being bulldozed and is ready to put his own cash into giving it a new lease of life.
He is backed by commercial property agent, Roger Parker, and David Robinson, the managing partner of architecture practice, Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP).
It is understood the group wants to retain the building’s 1,100-space car park and turn the existing bus station into an area with shops, cafes and leisure attractions alongside a small bus station.
Mr Rigby, who grew up on the Fylde coast, said: “We are all Preston lads, we were brought up around the bus station, we know what it means to people in Preston.
“Love it or hate it, it is part of the family and we do not to see it knocked down.
“I will personally put the money up to keep it, in the short-term this is a charity case because there is no magic wand which can be waved, if there was someone would have waved it by now.
“It is a choice, either we keep the bus station in the family and bring it back to health or it gets knocked down.”
He said the details of the bid were commercially confidential, but added: “The intention is to operate the upper decks as a car park and make the lower part a welcoming area for people.
“I am completely committed to the car park and the bus station staying right where they are.”
Preston-born Mr Parker, whose chartered surveyors practice is based on Winckley Square, said the bidders were devastated when Preston Council confirmed plans to press ahead with demolition of the building last month.
He said: “If Preston Council cannot afford to keep it going, Simon Rigby can and he also has the know-how to make it work.
“It can be made to work but it need huge up front investment which the council does not have, but Simon Rigby does - if it doesn’t work, it’s his money that’s lost, not the taxpayers’.”
Mr Robinson said he believed Mr Rigby’s bid was to “dramatically improve the building and the visitor experience.”
The chartered surveyor said he had taken a detailed look at the bus station in recent weeks and had no concerns about the structure.
He said: “When you take on any architectural project like this, you do not just scrap what as gone before.
“Part of design is to look at what people enjoyed about a place in the past and integrate that into what they will enjoy in the future.”
FWP, which is based on Ribblesdale Place in the city centre, has worked on a wide range of development projects, including the masterplan for the redesign of Preston North End’s Deepdale stadium.
Today, a spokesman for Preston Council confirmed Mr Rigby is the bidder it is speaking with about buying the bus station.
The deadline for offers closed at the end of January and it is now looking at the business case behind the offer.
In a short statement, the spokesman said: “The council can confirm that a proposal has been made regarding the bus station and the council is considering it.
“Whilst this is happening we have agreed the details will be confidential.”
A report has been received from an unnamed firm appointed by Preston Council to give a second opinion on the £23m cost of refurbishing the bus station put forward by Jacobs, a chartered surveyors firm employed by Lancashire County Council to look at the costs of the building.
It is expected a report will be put before the authority’s cabinet within weeks which will outline the findings of the review and the cost implications to the council.
A decision will then have to be taken by the six-man cabinet, led by council leader Peter Rankin.
The team behind Mr Rigby’s bid includes Michael Darch, the finance director of his Rigby LLP investment vehicle, commercial property partner David Hill, of Preston-based law firm Napthens, and Stephen Hunter, partner at finance firm KPMG, who specialises in leisure.