Fears new railway station in Preston would become ‘muggers paradise’ without staffed ticket office

Some councillors also said the proposed Cottam Parkway stop must not be allowed to cause parking problems

What the proposed Cottam Parkway stop could look like

A new railway station set to be built in a Preston suburb should have a staffed ticket office – and must not be allowed to cause parking problems on surrounding streets.

They were amongst calls from members of Preston City Council’s planning committee as the authority formulated its response to a consultation into the proposed Cottam Parkway stop.

A planning application for the facility, off Sidgreaves Lane, was submitted to Lancashire County Council in October – and now the city council has signalled its support for the long-awaited transport boost.

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Planning committee members resolved to offer no objection to the £24m scheme – but they did make several suggestions.

Cllr Carol Henshaw wanted pressure applied to ensure that in-person ticket-buying assistance was available for passengers, so that they were not “just relying on machines”.

When the plans for the station were first unveiled, they did indicate that it would boast a staffed booking and information office – as well as toilets, a waiting area and vending machines.

However, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) claimed in October that the former Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps – who held the post throughout Boris Johnson’s government – wanted to pull the shutters down on every ticket office on the rail network, casting doubt on whether one would ever be opened at Cottam.

At the time, the Department for Transport and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – which represents train-operating companies – said that no decision had been taken on the future of such facilities.

However, the RDG did point to the fact that just 13 percent of tickets are now bought at an office – compared to 82 percent when the railway was privatised in the mid-1990s.

A spokesperson for the group said that it was “looking at how we can move staff from behind glass windows in ticket offices to provide face-to-face assistance elsewhere on the station, where they are closer to customers and better placed to help them”.

But the RMT said in May that the railway would become a “muggers’ paradise” without ticket office staff.

Preston City Council planning officer Robert Major told Cllr Henshaw that that station staffing was not a planning matter – and that it was a decision that the city authority would be unlikely to be able to influence.

Meanwhile, fellow committee member John Potter said that lessons should be learned from the parking chaos that sometimes envelopes Buckshaw Parkway station in Chorley – a facility based on the same park-and-ride principle as that proposed for Cottam.

“We need to be…conscious that we don’t want to turn that site and beyond [it] into a huge car park that [causes difficulties for] people getting in and out. We want it to be used, but we also don’t want it to have a detrimental effect on the local area by having cars here, there and everywhere,” Cllr Potter said.

Cottam Parkway would have a 250-space free-to-use car park, but the possibility will be left open of adding a further 55 spaces at ground level or creating an additional 134 parking spots by constructing a single-decked multi storey.

Cycle storage facilities and motorbike spaces would also be included and the new stop would be served by local buses.

However, one objection submitted via the city council claimed that most people would be “a good bus ride away” from the station and that it would only really benefit “people with the nice, big new houses in Cottam”.

But the proposal was welcomed by another respondent who said that while the facility should have been built before the thousands of new properties in the area, it would nevertheless bring better connectivity to the rail network than any other Preston suburb has enjoyed for over 60 years.

Sited in an area designated as open countryside, the major development would be contrary to Preston planning policy. But Robert Major said it was considered that the “significant social, economic and environmental benefits” of the scheme outweighed that conflict.

David Borrow, Preston City Council’s cabinet member for planning and regulation – and also a planning committee member – said that the station would be “another brick in the development of North West Preston by [providing] a public transport link which will…[give] people an alternative to the car”.

Twenty-four individual trees out of 101 in the vicinity, along with five groups of trees out of 41 and six hedgerows out of 25 would all have to be removed as part of the scheme However, the boundaries of the new station would be strengthened with native tree-planting, while a 10 percent increase in biodiversity levels would be generated for the plot.

Lancashire County Council’s own, independent, cross-party development control committee will make a final decision on the plans next year. If they get the go-ahead, the new station should be open in the second half of 2024.

  • 05:45, 12 DEC 2022

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