The Tithebarn project is a project is a project of great significance to me. It is a plan to develop the city centre of Preston the city in which i live (around). I personally am opposed to it for a number of reasons but may think it is a great idea.
The plan is to knock down Preston bus station (a dump but is very widely considered an building of architectural significance, it has been in may books of buildings to see before you die and TV programs) and build a smaller bus station further away from town... and build a huge new shopping complex. It is designed to rejuvenate Preston's economy however i argue that it will only hurt the economy by attracting huge monopolies to wipe out smaller shops and retail is not what the city needs.
I felt so strongly about it that i posted a wall post on the Preston City Councils facebook page and what followed was a heated debate, in which i used everything in my economic and political armoury and they responded in kind! It makes a great reading (if I don't say so my self) if you have time to read a young student spar with the city councils facebook page administrator!
Putting it to the city council via facebook
(1st of September 2010)
Jon @ preston council: I have you seen the number of people in this group? if you so up for finding out what people want and being on Facebook then pay attention to this.
Preston council (Proud Prestonian): As part of the Tithebarn scheme, the bus station is due to be demolished to make way for £700m regeneration of the city centre. The bus station is not fit for purpose, it is too big and costs too much money to upkeep and inside it is run down. It is essentially a huge car park and the space can be made better use of. The minister for local government agreed that it wasnt worthy of listing and we are now awaiting the outcome of the Tithebarn public enquiry which is due any day now.
Also, there is obviously support for saving the bus station but there is just as much support for not saving it and for regenerating the city centre which is in need of investment. Without demolishing the bus station the scheme would be over and we would lose all that investment for the sake of a bus station which is not fit for purpose and which is a drain on ratepayers money
Jon:Thanks for the response, I appreciate it.
The city centre does need regenerating, granted. But I disagree that demolishing the bus station is key to that. The fact that it does have large parking facilitaties is surely an advantage if you are attempting to attract further people into the area. Why remove parking spaces if you intend to bring more people into the area? Its is not normally empty it is certainly in use. It is run down but why to use renovate it? Its iconic architecture could be used to help the cities economy. The minister for local government saw it not fit for listing surely that is a conflict of interest if he wishes to see this project go forward? There are to my knowledge a number of empty shops in the city, if we are not at full capacity for what space we have now why do we need to build more shops? Also why is it assumed that bringing in huge department stores will help the area, could it not just shift business away from other shops? Given the economic circumstances it would surely not be wise to risk the start of such are large project until we are confident we are clear of a double dip recession nationally. What if investors pull out?
I have talked to many people about this project just generally since the time I heard about it, and the best response I’ve found is at best scepticism. These are from different people of the city in different professions and age ranges. I am young, I have lived her all my life and I care deeply about this city. It seems to me your are not looking at the needs of the people and making an assumption that there is a quick fix – building a huge John Lewis. There is no quick fix.
Please point me in the direction of groups of local residence, that are protesting to tear down the bus station... there are no as i am aware.. although i may be wrong
Preston council: The project would not be complete for a number of years and so the threat of a double dip recession this year is irrelevant, the developer has the money available for the work to go ahead. There is no guarantee that the economy would be back to where it was when the project is finished, but we cannot just sit around and do nothing and let Preston fall into a poor state whilst all our neighbouring towns improve and regenerate leaving us behind.
Some of the buildings in the city centre are in a poor state, the redevelopment will encourage investment in the city which has been on hold for many years. The city needs to move forward, we cannot be held back because some people object to change. We receive complaints about how there is no regeneration happening in Preston, there is no way we can please everyone. It is not a conflict of interest for the Minister to decide, that is their job! It would be if we gave ourselves permission! Building a huge John Lewis is not the whole of the project and it cannot be referred to as that. I am not aware of any Facebook groups around demolishing the bus station but from looking at forums including your own page, there are plenty of people who do not want the bus station to stay. Not everyone will agree on this issue but we must await the outcome of the Tithebarn enquiry and then go from there.
Jon: I agree that development is need, peoples complaints for redevelopment can't be seen as a vote for the project.. they are telling you to come up with a solution not telling you they agree with the solution. Only time will tell if they do.
"some people object to change" is not strictly true, i certainly don't object to change. I just disagree with this proposed change. Sometimes we are so for change we don't look at what we have. Something does need to change in Preston. On the point of it being a conflict of interest, the point I'm addressing concern to is that the Minister for local government and the city counsel and the tithebarn enquiry are all the same thing.. are they all not just local government? Are they not all open to influence by the same people? Please do correct me if I'm wrong, I'm merely enquiring not slandering. The building of the John Lewis is the main bulk of the project.. it is marked on your vision for the project and named. Yes it says other shopping developments but these are not named, also headlines in local new papers have centred on the John Lewis. Yes we can't be left behind, but if all these other towns and cites are developing should we be doing the same as them exactly? We should not be copying shopping developments on the assumption it will save the city. If all the towns build huge shopping centres then they will have no effect because you have to take customers from elsewhere. An example: You take custom from blackpool with the tithebarn, so they build a huge shopping complex and then take it back.. why not try something different to just building shops and hoping for the best. We could just make preston into an other cone city of britain with endless chain stores, which could just move out if they wanted. People always have conflicting views on projects like this, but can blame me for expressing mine to you? I just hope that we will get whats best and what everyone wants.
Preston Council:Preston has always been known as a good shopping destination, people come from neighbouring towns like Blackpool for shopping, whereas people go to Blackpool for its tourism.
You mentioned car parking, the scheme will see the creation of more parking spaces than we currently have. No the minister for local government is a cabinet minister in central government and considers the application for the building to be listed. The enquiry is completely independent and hears the arguments for and against from ourselves and those opposing it, Blackpool and Blackburn. Then it makes a decision based on the evidence submitted. This is not linked to gevernment in any way, but the minister will usually go with their decision. Preston has suffered from a lack of investment in the last decade as investors wait to see what happens with Tithebarn. If you look at cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool whose universities and jobs have helped them expand hugely in the last 10 years. despite the growth in our university that hasnt quite happened in Preston. No city centre apartments have been built, no new shops or offices in that time either. This would be the springboard for the city being redeveloped. We lose a lot of our talented garduates because they dont want to stay in Preston when they leave as the jobs and opportunities and even culture that a city should provide is not neccessarily here for them. The Tithebarn project is not just about John Lewis, it is about transforming the city and bringing it into line with 21st century cities in the north. The bus station simply does not fit into that. Why does Preston need the biggest bus station in Europe? It doesnt! Its too big, it costs too much to upkeep and its not in the right location.
Jon: I was merely using Blackpool as an example. I agree with you that Preston is used as a shopping area from people around Blackpool, Lytham way, considering that it does make sense to regenerate that sector. But could the development just take business away from the market? The tithebarn would have to bring in a lot more people or you would just shift customers around from existing business to the new huge stores. Which would hurt the economy because actually the new stores would simply drain money out of the local economy to their head offices.
If the minister for local government is totally independent from the counsel in every way then i apologise. Yes the bus station is not prefect for the job but it is more than a mere bus station, its one of a kind and it just seems a shame to loose something that is unique to something that will be near identical to Manchester or Liverpool.
Preston Council: There is more than enough trade for Preston to sustain this size of retail complex, that is why it has been designed in this way after careful planning by the council and the developers, who would not put £700m if they thought it wasn’t sustainable. You must remember that a lot of people go shopping to the Trafford Centre or to Liverpool One and we would like to keep that trade in Preston but at the moment we don’t have the capacity to compete.
We simply cannot keep the bus station because it is unique, it is a drain on finances, to bring it up to standard would cost £4 million alone! People often the quote the £700 million investment here but that isnt our money, its the developers money and they wouldn’t pay £4 million to clean up the bus station i'm afraid. Obviously people have different opinions on everything and we are aware that some people really want the bus station to stay but this is about moving forward and our elected councillors are doing what they genuinely believe is the best thing for Preston. The best person to speak to about this would be the Leader of Preston City Council, Cllr Ken Hudson, his office is here in the town hall if you would like to write to him. I think I have told you all I can tell you and at the end of the day he is the person in charge and I am sure he can answer your concerns better than I can.
Jon: ok, well thank you anyway. We shall see what the enquiry comes up with. Have a good day.
Preston Council And you!
What do you think? Good or bad? Disagree with any of my points or the councils? Please comment.