Many people have their doubts about the regeneration of Hanley, the East West Precinct and the much spoken about bus station. Many people still don’t think that it will happen any time in the near future.
If you go back to early 2009 you will no doubt remember the news around planning permission for this exciting new development, the passing of the death sentence for the Coachmakers Arms, the grand plans and even the stars shopping in the new precinct.
One word was on every-bodies lips while they were talking of these exciting things, not Manchester, not Birmingham nor Leeds, no the word on every bodies lips was Barnsley.
Barnsley and it’s award winning bus station.
Barnsley Transport Interchange to give it its full title, was designed by Jefferson Sheard Architects and won the Award for Excellence at the Institute of Civil Engineers’ Yorkshire and Humber Awards ceremony in 2008.
Since the planning permission was granted for the Hanley regeneration it seems that Barnsley Interchange has been in the limelight again collected the Highly Commended Award for Civic Building of the Year at SCALA’s 2009 Conference.
Barnsley Interchange was recommended to Stoke-on-Trent City Council for visiting by CABE, they are the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space, as it is seen as a well designed and implemented public space.
If you look back through the planning documents & reports from the City Council task group you will see them littered with quotes like:
We visited the brand new £24.5M bus station at Barnsley. We were very impressed by what we saw, it really makes a statement in the centre of Barnsley about its future and the importance of public transport and good design. We were impressed by the use of glass to provide natural light and recommend that our new facility uses glass as part of the design to provide natural light.
That’s just what we want we want something to make a statement, to show people Stoke-on-Trent means business. Don’t forget the natural light, that must tick a few green boxes as well.
We recommend a layout similar to the existing bus station and at Barnsley. We do not recommend the Sheffield layout promoted by First.
Passengers & drivers are used to the layout of the current bus station, so keeping the new bus station laid out in a similar way can only be good. Another tick in the box.
It is a key part of the “Remaking Barnsley” Initiative, a 30 year masterplan. A new £235M Markets Development (1249 Regeneration Partnership) will be developed next to the interchange.
Another tick in the box, a city with a similar sized population has gone and stated publicly, by building a new Transport Interchange, that they mean business and this is the start of their master plan.
Barnsley Interchange is a safe and secure environment, and provides up to the minute information, including:
– Real time passenger information display screens
– Electronic passenger information kiosks
– Help points
– Clear signage for passengers and staff
– Public announcement system
– Vehicle activated doors
– Full accessibility for all users including those with mobility, hearing and visual impairments.
Tick tick tick, this ticks so many boxes for what a forward thinking city like Stoke-on-Trent could ask for in a bus station (we can’t call it an interchange in Stoke as the railway station is still about 1.5 miles away).
With all this in mind I found it a bit strange when I heard that Jefferson Sheard Architects who designed Barnsley Transport Interchange have failed to pass the PQQ stage for tendering for the design of our new bus station.
For those of you who don’t know, a PQQ (Pre-Qualification Questionnaire) is the first stage when you want to tender for work with a large organisation such as the City Council. It covers things like levels of insurance, green policies, sustainability and ethical purchase of goods & services from overseas. It is a quick way for an organisation to reduce the long-list to the short-list of who will be allowed to go forward to the tendering process, where cost, benefit & value are some of the deciding factors.
Given that Jefferson Sheard have worked for a metropolitan council at Barnsley, and you would expect PQQs to be roughly the same across most councils, that they have designed health centres, education facilities, award winning transport interchanges and a host of other transport related projects across the UK you wouldn’t expect them to fall at the first hurdle of PQQ.
As far as I am aware feedback on the PQQs has not yet been sent out to the unsuccessful applicants but maybe this will shed some more light on the situation if the feedback is made public.
Now it could be that given the recent press coverage of the tendering process in Stoke-on-Trent City Council & NSRP that they are hyper sensitive and are going through things with a fine tooth comb.
On the other hand do
High quality materials look better, are easier to maintain and better respected by people resulting in less vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
Good design and build quality reduces anti-social behaviour as it commands more respect.
about Barnsley Interchange
and from the task group report:
We recommend that the bus and coach station is build [sic] to a high quality and meets the modern day needs of passengers. The development could be used as a catalyst for future well designed developments in the city centre.
have something to do with it?
High quality materials & good design cost money, could it be that Barnsley Transport Interchange cost around £24.5m to build back in 2007 and the developer of the East West Precinct in Hanley is only willing to invest £3-4m leaving a short fall of around £20m has something to do with it?
If you go back and read the ‘Improving the design quality of the built environment in Stoke-on-Trent-on-Trent’ report written by councillors back in 2005.
It is not a coincidence that the places with the best quality urban environments are best able to attract people to live, work and invest.
Good design is a fundamental element in delivering robust and sustainable regeneration in maximising the City’s economic development potential, and in places where people positively choose to live, work and spend leisure
time. Good design is simply good economics.
The City Centre Prospectus, states that where the City Council has a controlling interest in a site, it will only allow development with high quality design rather than the minimum standard necessary to secure planning permission.
You will see that there was a desire to build good quality urban environments and that the City Council will only allow development with high quality design where it has a controlling interest.
If you read the recommendation from the task group
We recommend that the Council’s Executive and the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership (NSRP) take the responsibility for procuring a replacement bus and coach station.
you will see that the task group recommended that the council had a controlling interest in this development, from what I remember this was agreed and is backed up by the fact that the architects didn’t pass the councils PQQ.
So we can expect a high quality development for Hanley bus station or can we?
I’m sure a full and proper tender process will be adhered to where the bus station is concerned, but I along with many others will watch with interest as the offers to tender are sent out and returned, the successful tender is announced and as the plans are drawn up and displayed.
Is it too much to ask that we don’t do this on the cheap and that we invest in the City with good quality designs and high quality buildings that the people of Stoke-on-Trent deserve.
That we do it openly and transparently allowing the best company to carry out the work and not give it to someone because they may have known that they needed to have a policy on the ethical sourcing of H3 pencils.
There is no inference of any wrong doing by any persons or organisations mentioned or alluded to in this article.