Senior councillors said they hoped the promise would put minds at rest amid speculation over the future of bus travel into the centre of Shrewsbury, but said the facility may not take the form of a traditional station.
The existing building on Smithfield Road is set to be knocked down as part of the major regeneration of the Riverside area of the town, which has been awarded £18.7 million in Government ‘Levelling Up’ funding.
Council leader Lezley Picton told a full council meeting on Thursday that a public transport interchange would be a key element of the scheme, but the specifics could not be confirmed until the completion of a movement strategy being drawn up as part of the Big Town Plan.
She also moved to quash speculation that the site of the current bus station had already been discounted as a possible location.
A motion put forward by the Green group of councillors, committing the authority to the retention of a bus facility, was backed by members in a move that has been welcomed by campaigners.
Proposing the motion, Councillor Julian Dean said he wanted the Conservative administration to place on record its commitment to retaining a bus station, following speculation that plans were already being made to replace the building with a series of bus stops near the railway station.
He said Bus Users Shropshire had looked into the idea and concluded that the current site was the best possible location.
Councillor Dean Carroll, cabinet member for growth, regeneration and housing, put forward an amendment to change the wording of the motion from “station” to “interchange”.
He said the council had always been clear in its commitment to retaining a facility in some form.
Councillor Carroll said: “My amendment is designed to reassure that the intention hasn’t changed to retain a bus interchange facility, but not prescribe exactly what that is.
“I have deliberately used ‘interchange’ not ‘station’ because a bus station is a certain kind of building and a certain kind of facility.
“It doesn’t need to be a building of the type that they perhaps were in the 70s and 80s.
“In terms of location I have said within the Smithfield Road redevelopment zone, because that’s the commitment this council has always made.
“We are reiterating this council’s commitment to providing a replacement bus interchange facility within the same approximate location.”
The amendment was supported by a majority of members, despite concerns being raised that an “interchange” could lack some of the necessary offerings of a “station”, such as toilets, waiting areas, refreshments and areas for drivers and staff to take their breaks in comfort.
Councillor Caroline Bagnall said: “We are also talking about people who travel through Shrewsbury, and for many of those people the bus station area will be their first experience of Shrewsbury.
“The impression it gives to visitors is important if we are to have pride in our town. I think it’s really important that care is taken to make sure that whatever is provided is something we can be proud of.”
The amended motion was voted through, with Councillor Dean saying: “I think this clarifies the uncertainty that has been around for some time.”
The vote was welcomed by Les Bell, chairman of Bus Users Shropshire.
He said: “I am pleased that the new interchange is going near the present bus station – the railway station forecourt was totally inadequate.
“Ideally we need a building, similar to the new Chester bus station, with toilets, driver facilities, information, and maybe a coffee bar.
“I totally agree with the councillor who said that people use bus stations for through journeys and need adequate waiting facilities. I also agree that a bus station can be a person’s first impression of the town.”