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Bus Station U-Turn
DEMOLITION TO BEGIN
Derby's bus passengers are being assured by the city council that a new interim station will be ready by the New Year.

It will be along The Morledge and Corporation Street with temporary offices on Osnabruck Square. Demolition work on the existing station, the closure of which caused fierce controversy, will begin in January 2005.

City council officers are confident services will not be disrupted. About 15,000 people signed a petition opposing plans to replace the existing Art Deco station. Transport Policy Officer, Pete Price, said he expected the change over to go smoothly.
JUST A SUGGESTION
Before its too late, I ask the question: Why cannot the Roundhouse become the base for the new bus station? This would contribute towards an integrated rail and bus service, which is said to be one of the Government's priorities.

Perhaps the city council could even get a grant or aid. It would also free up the old bus station area, which could become a landscaped extension to the River Gardens, making it a much friendly place to visit.

We could have a restaurant overlooking the river and a dropping off point for the buses. This, I think, would solve a number of problems at once. It would use the Roundhouse area for something useful, solve the problem of the old bus station and make the River Gardens much more accessible to the public. Barry Whittingham
       


BUS STATION

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Bus StationControversial plans to demolish Derby Bus Station are to go ahead, despite hopes of a reprieve through the new political alliance. The 1930s landmark is set to disappear to make way for the 83m Riverlights development, which will include a new bus station. In recent election manifestos, both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives backed opponents of the scheme. Last year, the Conservatives told voters that they would "retain the Art Deco bus station" and the Liberal Democrats said that they wanted "to keep the best of the current bus station".

So when the new alliance of Lib Dems, Tories and one Independent came to power, protesters hoped this would mean a reprieve for the station. But it has now been revealed that the new council will not block Riverlights, the latest plans for which are expected to be presented to the council in three weeks. Liberal Democrat Maurice Burgess, new council leader, said, "The developers have planning permission to demolish the bus station. We've no powers to stop them."

Conservative Philip Hickson, now deputy leader of the council, said in 2001 that the future of the bus station "has degenerated into a shambles". But Mr Hickson said, "The current bus station is no longer fit for the purpose. It doesn't cater for the safety and security of passengers - particularly lone women at night. Also there is poor access for disabled people. People waiting for a bus want to be dry and warm and have good lighting and security."

The Riverlights project has been plagued with controversy and delays since the council signed an exclusive deal with Nottingham-based developer MetroHolst in 1996. The latest scheme proposes a major development on the site, between the Morledge and the River Derwent, which would include the new bus station, 150 flats, an office block and a leisure complex with bars, restaurants, a nightclub and a casino. In 2002, the council established a cross-party working group to negotiate changes with the developer.

Richard Kemp, a director of MetroHolst, said, "We will submit a presentation to the cross-party working group on June 13 and then put in a planning application. The new application relates to other parts of the site, because we received permission to demolish the existing bus station in 1997. It's impossible to retain the existing bus station because that land forms part of the new concourse." After the new planning application is lodged, the council will embark on a major public consultation exercise.


The controversial redevelopment of Derby bus station has been given Government approval. The original idea was for a joint shopping centre and bus station, but developers found there was no demand for more shops in the area. A new scheme was then drawn up based around a multiplex cinema and hotel, but this idea was scrapped in 2002 when the UCI cinema chain pulled out. The latest plan features bars, nightclubs, restaurants and a casino, as well as 150 apartments and 150,000 sq ft of office space.

The centrepiece of the development will be a 29-bay airport-style bus and coach terminal to replace the existing Art Deco bus station, which has been fiercely defended by campaigners. Michael Foote, director of corporate services at the city council, said, "The development is nothing like what we initially envisaged, because commercial factors have driven away two detailed proposals, the retail base and the cinema. It's a very difficult site to develop because of the highways, parking requirements and the tying in of Westfield's development of the Eagle Centre."


Bus StationCouncillors have discovered that the redevelopment of the bus station cannot proceed due to a "wrangle" over a small piece of land. Although city council officers were aware of the piece of land, no-one in the ruling Lib Dem/Tory cabinet, or the previous Labour administration, had apparently been informed of its existence. Developer MetroHolst has been told it cannot get funding until it has resolved talks with a third party landowner and needs the land in order to alter the road layout around the Cockpit car park.

Council leader Maurice Burgess at first claimed that the council had known about the land issue for some years, but later admitted, "It took me by surprise. It had not occurred to me how material this land would be. There's a wrangle at the moment." Labour group leader Chris Williamson, who was council leader for a year before Mr Burgess took over in 2003 said, "A bit of a bombshell has been dropped. It's the first I have ever heard of it. I've never been made aware that a third party landowner was involved. The whole project has now been put in jeopardy."


An estimate to build a 30s art deco bus station like ours at the Morledge is in the order of 34m at today's costs. To beautify and make the one we have function to 21st-century requirements would cost as little as 1.5m. Derby bus station, as we all can see, was built by skilled craftsmen, masters in the art of creating a building of enormous durability and presence, to serve the public for generations, not just decades; easy of access for arrivals and departures. It is just crying out for maintenance!

How much would a glass and steel replacement cost? Some estimate 40m, others say it is impossible to be accurate, as we all know costs can soar like a barrage balloon if an economic slump hits us. An international financial crisis would have worse effects than hurricane Katrina. We would regret being profligate, by destroying an acknowledged heritage for descendants. So, let's be prudent, refurbish the bus station to such a high standard that it is a three-star attraction.

Make it an example of how an action group campaigned for 10 years and persuaded our local council to hold on to what's good - and give Metro Holst their marching orders! Cancel all contracts and refuse to pay indemnities, and demand of any future consortium of foreign or UK companies that they live for 30 years in Derby before insisting they know what Derby citizens' needs are. They would have to listen to the public.

We love our old pubs, churches, guildhalls and civic buildings as icons, talismans of continuity and identity, from one generation to the next. Save our Morledge and stop any plans that will desecrate our lovely River Derwent. Be warned, Riverlights will become River Blights when safety nets are put up to help prevent drunks from being swept along into the Derwent. Remember, 14,000 citizens signed against development. Very many more thousands are with us all the way. G Broady


Now it all becomes clear exactly to what the 'Make Poverty History' banner that was hanging outside the Council House was referring. It was not so much the Third World, rather, it was the occupants of the said building, making their own poverty history by closing down the bus station for as long as possible. Council leader, Chris Williamson remarks that "Even if we wanted to reopen the bus station we couldn't. Responsibility is with Metro- Holst."

Mr Williamson also refers to the "prohibitive" costs of reconnecting utilities and handling asbestos discovered on the site. First of all, it is amazing that at such a late stage in proceedings and after so many years they had not tracked down any records referring to the asbestos without having to resort to more invasive means of discovery. Secondly, has the council not considered the even more prohibitive costs, in the long term, of maintaining the overloaded highways immediately surrounding Riverlights, should it ever be built?

In that context, the comparatively minor costs of reconnection should be regarded as an investment rather than a burden and, in any case, it is a mess of Metro-Holst's making on what now appears to be property for which they are responsible as things stand, so natural justice should dictate that they bear the costs of clearing it up. Christopher Bentley

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