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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 05:30 GMT 06:30 UK
Pulling out the stops to keep shoppers
by Andrew Segal
BBC News South West

Bretonside Bus Station
Bretonside Station: Seen as a "shameful" entry to Plymouth
Local business leaders and traders in Plymouth say more needs to be done to brighten up the main routes and stops in the city, despite the new Drake Circus development.

The new 200m shopping centre is being seen by many as a centrepiece for getting more people into Plymouth.

But some are concerned that those coming in by public transport may be dissuaded from returning because of the state of the areas around the ferry port, railway station, and particularly the bus station.

Tim Jones of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council said Plymouth had its best opportunity in 15 years for becoming a leading centre for retailing in the South West.

But he added: "If we're looking to attract another 300,000 shoppers a week, we need make sure they get as good a welcome possible to get them to come and keep coming."

It's not nice for people coming into Plymouth
Margaret Dann

Building has already started on the first phase of plan to regenerate the Millbay area, which houses the city's continental ferry port.

Plymouth's railway station deals with more than 1.4m people a year. But, complete with its adjoining office block, it looks very much like the 1960s building it is.

Network Rail - which owns the station, although it is managed by First Great Western - said it had no redevelopment plans for Plymouth at the moment, but added that that it would be willing to look at any proposals that were put forward and consider feasibility studies.

But it is Bretonside bus station, right bedside the new shopping centre, which causes the most concern.

Many people who work in its shops and kiosks go so far as to say they are ashamed it is the first view of Plymouth city centre many people see.

Bus station woes

"It needs knocked down and rebuilding," according to Kevin Butt, who has run the News Kiosk in the station for 22 years with his wife, Sue.

He said: "The council has left it to wrack and ruin. They don't even clean it.

"We get complained at by people about the state of it."

Sue Butt added: "For the coaches that come in, what's the first thing they see? A load of drunks," she said, referring to how the station is often used by the homeless not only to sleep in, but also to stay during the day.

Plymouth Railway Station
Network Rail said it would consider any plans for Plymouth Station
Margaret Dann, manager of Tramps cafe, has worked in the station for 24 years. She agrees that problems are caused by neglect, a lack of cleanliness, and the fact that many homeless people seemed to have nowhere else to go.

She said: "It's not nice for people coming into Plymouth.

"You can see it from, say, the cleaners' point of view that there can be an undue amount of mess, but it does make me ashamed to be a Plymouthian."

Plymouth City Council said it was "actively seeking" a new company to redevelop the station after talks stalled with its last developers.

The council said: "The type of redevelopment we can see at Bretonside will be commercially driven by market forces because whoever takes the site on, subject to planning approval, will need to get a return for the significant investment they will be making."

Bretonside Bus Station and Drake's Circus
New Neighbours: The bus station is right beside the shopping centre
It added that it was consulting with interested parties and hoped to give a progress report by Christmas.

In terms of homelessness, the council said it had a duty to investigate cases of homelessness and, depending upon circumstances, help with re-housing or providing advice and assistance.

Tim Jones said that Drake Circus could be crucial in kick-starting improvements, but that they would still take time.

He said: "In a perfect world, it would have been great to have all points of entry fully covered and integrated within the refresh of city centre, and there have been some explainable reasons.

"Drake Circus is the real catalyst for millions of pounds to make sure delivery of Bretonside is much easier. Piggybacking is what will drive it forward.

"But major projects are needed, not a quick fix."


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