Preston bus station should be saved

PUBLISHED: 01:15 13 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013

Adam Murray and Rob Parkinson who took over a unit in the Guild Hall arcade in February for a Preston Is My Paris exhibition which featured photographs, objects and writing concerning Preston

Adam Murray and Rob Parkinson who took over a unit in the Guild Hall arcade in February for a Preston Is My Paris exhibition which featured photographs, objects and writing concerning Preston

Preston has a great future and past worth preserving, but why has it taken two incomers – one of them from Burnley – to help Prestonians realise what their city can offer? Paul Mackenzie reports

The main difference between Blackburn and Preston, is that Preston is more western, or so says a poem by John Hegley. Hes from Luton and can perhaps be forgiven for not knowing better, but even those of us with more detailed knowledge of the distinctions between the towns would accept that the two have more in common than do Preston and Paris.

One is a city of infinite beauty and romance with proud literary connections; it is a seat of learning, a centre of innovation and a major industrial hub; it has striking architecture, an important river and a long and fascinating history. The other is the capital of France.

But for Adam Murray there is no competition. He is the man behind Preston Is My Paris, a celebration of Englands newest city which has so far spawned a free monthly magazine, online blog and exhibitions in the city centre.

There are some similarities between Preston and Paris but we just want to show that Preston can be as good and exciting as anywhere else, Adam said.

We want to get people to start enjoying Preston a bit more. It has the potential to be an exciting place. The amount of creative people and students there is in Preston these days should mean there are more things around the city.

Preston was ranked the third worst cultural city in the country a few years ago. Things are starting to improve but there is a long way to go.

Maybe a sign of how low the city had sunk is that it took two outsiders to point out Prestons potential. Adam came to Preston from Loughborough nine years ago to study photography at the University of Central Lancashire where he now lectures in the subject. Rob Parkinson, who works with Adam on the Preston Is My Paris project, didnt travel so far - he is originally from Burnley and while he has an obvious passion for Preston, he has not lost his East Lancashire burr.

A lot of people think of Preston simply as a railway station but if you have a look around theres a lot of good stuff here, Rob added. It is slightly sad that it has taken two outsiders to show Prestonians what there is here already and what there is the potential for.

But while they are positive about the citys future, they are concerned about a link with Prestons past which is threatened with demolition.

We are a bit worried about the bus station, Rob said. It is such an iconic building and it seems a shame to knock it down. It will cost so much to knock it down when all it really needs is some redevelopment.

If we cant keep the bus station we would at least like to document it and record its passing.

The bus station, one of the largest in the world, stands on land earmarked for development as a major new shopping centre.

The 750million Tithebarn Project would include two major department stores and about 100 other shops as well as a nine screen cinema, restaurants, bars, a new bus station, car park and 500 new apartments.

The plan was approved by Preston City Councils planning department last July but in October the major developer - the Duke of Westminsters Grosvenor Group - pulled out. And the Twentieth Century Society were hoping they could further disrupt the proposals by applying for the bus station to be listed.

The bus station appears alongside the Notre Dam Cathedral in Paris (yet another link there, you see) in the book 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die. Its entry describes the bus station as a perfect example of how a potentially utilitarian building with a mundane use can be transformed into a dramatic and bold structure in which the difficult balance of grand scale and fine detailing is achieved.

And while English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society believe the bus station deserves to be a listed building, their opinion was not shared by culture secretary Margaret Hodge, who decided against their application earlier this year.

Aiden Turner-Bishop, the chairman of the North West group of the Twentieth Century Society who lives in Preston, said: Margaret Hodge said the building was not fit for purpose but that it is not a legal ground for refusing.

She has been explicit in the past about not liking modern 20th century buildings. She is altering the law to sit her personal preferences and she shouldnt do that. The decision should be made purely on the buildings architectural and societal merits.

Saying it is not fit for purpose is a very strange argument, it could be argued that Stonehenge is not fit for purpose, it doesnt have a roof or wheelchair access for disabled druids.

And Aiden added: It is a very striking building and in its heyday it was extremely smart but it has been run down. The society has asked for a review of the decision not to grant listed building status but when that will happen, given that well have an election soon, I dont know.

The lack of listed building status means the bus station will have little protection against the wrecking ball when developers push forward the plans for the 32 acre Tithebarn site. The project has been mooted for more than ten years and the planning application is expected to be submitted in the summer with the scheme not expected to be completed before 2014 at the earliest.

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