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Brutal Ethics (Part 2): Duty or Demolition? February 24, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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Following on from the last post (Brutal Ethics Pt.1: The Virtues of Preston Bus Station), the second group offered their views based on a system of deontological ethics or decision-making based on rules or duties (further explanation of this…here). Here’s their transcript….

“The bus station’s focus is as an interchange for people going from London to Glasgow, for people from Manchester, so it is an interchange as well as for people using local bus routes. There’s 3,000 [CORRECTION: average of 56,000 ]people going in and out of the bus station on a weekday, not a weekend, a weekday. So, the duty of Preston Council is – could they make sure those voices been heard, because they want to replace the bus station with a smaller interchange near the train station, so it could be that it affects the amount of people coming in through Preston. It could affect the economy even though they could maybe refurbish the bus station and refurbish the area around the bus station, instead of having all the pound shops which are ruining the bus station area.

So, our main thoughts about it were regarding the national planning policy framework that has just been changed this year. One of the policies was about conserving and enhancing the historic environment and including heritage assets most at risk from neglect and decay, which the Preston Bus Station is. It also said to take into account the wider social, cultural and economic benefits of the conservation.

The desirability of new development can make a positive contribution to the local community and the character and distinctiveness. There are opportunities to draw a contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place.

A lot of the new planning policy framework, it mentions over and over again about building a strong competitive community and trying to revitalise town centres. Now, the question is in terms of our decision is, are you enhancing that by knocking it down and rebuilding something or, if it was developed, or even just leaving it how it is, are you achieving those goals set in the framework? There’s figures that have been talked about, about how leaving the bus station would cost considerably more than just levelling it and starting again. But something that has also been mentioned in the framework is sustainability and nothing s talked about the embodied energy difference associated with the new build or a redevelopment of what’s already there.

Preston Council have actually changed the cost of what it will cost to have the bus station refurbished or rebuilt since 2010. Originally, they said the cost of refurbishment would cost about £4million and now, in 2013, they’ve changed the report to say it’s going to cost about 17 million, so it’s quite a big jump in the 3 years that they said where they said to knock it down and have it rebuilt it would cost 17-23 million and now on the website, they’ve changed it to say the refurbishment would cost 17-23 million so it seems a bit like they’re being a bit shady with the dealings, changing the figures to try and get people to say ‘oh, it’s going to cost more than it looks.’ They’re saying that it costs taxpayers £3,000 [CORRECTION: £300,000] a year to run the place as well. But they don’t mention the amount of people who are going through the bus station every day. And there’s shops in there that could be changed, and empty spaces. It just seems like they’re using people as a means to get a new bus station out of it – tricking people with the figures. So they don’t seem to be following the rules that they had set out themselves.

Again the framework mentions quite a few times about communities and aspects of bringing the community together. It could be said that even though a building isn’t used by the whole of the community, it still doesn’t holds a strong community value and is important to the people. The figures that are mentioned to do with how many people in Preston use it – I say, that’s irrelevant. Just because it’s not used by the whole of the community doesn’t mean it’s not iconic or of importance to the community.

If it’s a sustainable development option to retain it, if according to the new planning policy, it should be retained, so why did Preston councillors decide last December to demolish it?
I think the new planning policy guidelines, because they used to be thousands of pages long and now they’ve been changed to something like 60 pages, everything is written in a way that can be adapted to any situation and I think depending on the way that you want to read them, you could make the point either way. You could say, that in demolishing it and having a new building, it’s going to attract more people, and it would be possibly a better design and that will be better for the economy and revitalise the town or you could look at it as the other way that it’s important to the community and it would be a better option to work with what’s already there.

Also, they’d already planned to demolish it. It’s been planned for almost 10years, they’ve been wanting to demolish it. And when the Tithebarn fell through, that was going to be a £700million shopping and living space. And that was going to be where the bus station is, but they’ve kept it as being demolished and building a smaller one. I’m assuming that won’t cost as much money for them.

And that’s the main reason it wasn’t listed, because it was part of the Tithebarn project and they refused to list it because obviously it would impede the new development. And now, that hasn’t happened potentially it could be relisted.

Well, they applied for it in 2000 to be listed which was when I think the Tithebarn development was meant to have started and then they tried again in 2010 and 2011 and the Council opposed it, each and every time.

And they’ve just resubmitted it.

Now people are more aware of the situation and how immediate it could be, that it could be knocked down, there could be a few more people for keeping it and lobbying to keep it. It’s interesting the national policy framework. It goes on a lot about communal values. There needs to be some kind of community consultation about it. It shouldn’t just be up to the councillors. We should have a choice because that’s what builds a sustainable community, isn’t it. It’s the community involvement.

When they knock it down, all it’s going to be is a flat car park. And it’s got a multi-storey car park there. What’s the point of knocking down a car park to leave a car park?

That’s the issue with the figures isn’t it. What they’re proposing to build – the rebuild costs – is that like for like? Are you going to get the same level of income from a flat car park than you are from the existing car park? You’re not going to match the number of spaces for your £17million or whatever it is. So, are they comparing costs like for like?

Well, they’re going to reduce the size of the bus station

So the refurb costs, what you get for your money there, you’re getting more for your money than you would in the rebuild.

I suppose with the car park, they could lower the fees on the car park to get more use out of it, it’s not used as much as they’d like. They’re pretty expensive in the town centre.
It’s all well and good talking about it all, but it would be really nice to see something on paper, an actual design. I’d like the provision for greenspace. If they’re proposing to knock it down and replace it with something that’s useful – connects the rest of the town together. It’s only connected at the moment with subways and a road and the massive bus apron. It’d be nice if they were to knock it down and put some greenspace there and maybe some more retail units and parking. They’re affecting the skyline if they’re knocking it down. Preston doesn’t have the greatest skyline. It’s got a very mixed architecture and it’s not a massively built place. I like Preston skyline as it is.

Do you know what those figures actually relate to? Are they just numbers? Is it a scheme that they’ve actually costed?

No, they’ve just said that they’d originally done a figure without plans that cost £14-17million. When they’ve produced plans that aren’t detailed at all, it’s come to £17-23million.

Do you think those figures are manipulated?

It seems like they are. The refurbishments changed from £4million in 2010 to £17million in 2013 so it’s a big jump.

Who publishes these figures?

It’s the City Council.

But when you say Council, there’s the City Council and there’s the County Council. And one is necessarily supporting the other at the moment because Preston City Council are wanting to knock down the bus station but they’re relying on the County Council for the funds to rebuild the new one. Now there’s not actually been any integration there – no agreement on what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. So, potentially, the bus station could be knocked down and a big pile of rubble sits there for 5 years before anyone decides to build or do anything with the site.

Another thing with the communal value – we’ve already said that enough people come from London and Glasgow, and there’s enough value there for people who use it as an interchange but apparently it was publicly funded when it was built. So, it could be that they consider that when they knock it down. Consider the duty to the people who paid for it originally.

You talked about the listing process. As a rule based system that’s there to protect our built heritage, do you think that this is working?

It’s been seen to work on other buildings, but my view with Preston Bus Station is that its an iconic piece of Brutalist architecture, but other people may not see it the same way. Whether it’s because of money, enabling the development preventing it from being listed or they plain don’t like it and just want to knock it down.

It seems that if a building gets its heritage status, then it’s well protected. In that way it’s managed well but in terms of the process of deciding which buildings are to be judged as important, I’m not quite sure.

It seems to be subjective and political here. Nobody’s actually saying whether we need to preserve a Brutalist icon. What we’re discussing is that they’re protecting it only if it serves a political purpose. Not simply, purely for the simple value that it’s a good building. It’s becoming a political system rather than a simple function of conservation.

Are you yes or no as a group?

We are pro for it to stay. It should not be demolished

Please note that the comments here are based on an unedited record of student presentation. I have not verified the accuracy of their facts and figures except where corrections are shown.

The 3rd and final part to follow soon……In the meantime, feel free to post your comments.