Second-best city

Preston has the second biggest bus station in Europe.

This "fact" seems undisputed ... although in all my long years of covering the news in the city I have never been able to find out where the biggest of them all might be situated.

Wherever it is, it somehow hasn't made it into the tourist brochures...

"Come and see our massive bus terminus! It's slightly larger than the one in Preston!"

That famous factoid is just one of the wacky contradictions about the architectural gem/ugly wreck (delete as applicable) that has stood at the heart of Preston since the end of the 1960s.

Who on earth boasts about having the second biggest of anything, let alone something as unsexy as a bus stop?

Now the bus station has been tried and found guilty of standing in the way of progress. New ways must be found to separate the people of Preston from the contents of their wallets, and the bus station site has been earmarked for the long awaited/dreaded (delete as applicable) Tithebarn shopping experience and bazaararama.

But when exactly will the long years of destruction and building actually begin? It's anyone's guess, what with the credit crinkle putting a crimp in all plans, and so the bus station stands and gets on with the job for which it was designed - being a super-sized bus stop and a huge car park.

And while it stands, it generates controversy. Because the official access to the bus stop is via a rubber-lined, stinking, often slippery and definitely unpleasant subway, many people - including the city's mayor - prefer to walk illegally across the concrete apron where buses bleep and roar.

Now a sudden outbreak of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" thinking has led to plans for new pedestrian access which will shut off half the bus stands. Is this a sneaky first stage in shutting down the station?

Maybe, but it could backfire gloriously.

A bus station that's actually connected to the city centre in a convenient and quick way? Why, Preston's not had such a thing for 40 years! More people will use it, and if a few quid could be spent on refurbishing the other bits and bobs that have been left to rot and rust over the years, it could become a jewel in the crown.

And you don't demolish jewels, do you? Not even flawed ones.

The Tithebarn project is potentially a great thing for Preston, but it shouldn't be at the expense of what we've already got. The developers who say it can't go ahead with the bus station in place have got it wrong. Go back to your drawing boards and design harmony, not harm.

Either that or make your new bazaararama the very biggest in Europe.

Then we'd really have something to boast about...