A multi-million-pound scheme could turn a historic city’s “embarrassment” into a thriving hub for businesses and visitors to the region.
Durham boasts its own World Heritage Site, which attracts thousands of visitors to the county with the shrine of St Cuthbert and Durham Castle.
But when passengers step off the train to make their way into the city or arrive from out of town by bus it is the bus station and North Road that greets them.
Largely unchanged since the 1970s, the area is felt by many to be much in need of a redevelopment.
Coun David Freeman, representing the areas of Gilesgate and Elvet in Durham, said: “Over the years there have been consultations with businesses about plans and for the past two years I have been asking the council to look at the redevelopment of North Road. There has been talk of plans for so many years now.
“Durham desperately needs a new bus station. North Road and the station are the gateway to the county, with people heading there from the railway station. Sometimes as they near North Road or get off the bus, they wonder if they are in fact in a cathedral city. It is an embarrassment at the moment and is crying out for redevelopment.”
With Durham County Council preparing to set its budget next week, changes to the station could now be afoot, with officers asking for £5m over the next two years to be set aside for the Durham Bus Station and North Road Development plan.
Problems with the current bus station flagged up by officers include its poor connection with the city’s main shopping area and the railway station, creating traffic problems.
A report on funding for the possible redevelopment, going before the cabinet on February 12, adds: “As a result of the inefficient public transport connectivity and accessibility, car use and therefore congestion across the city is high.”
Coun Freeman added: “The area needs a kick start, there is a lot of poor 1960s architecture there. There are also some outstanding buildings such as the former miners’ hall, but most are not quality and could be demolished and redeveloped.”
In the past decade work at the station has seen automatic doors installed along with heating, new seating, new toilets and security cameras.
Over the years the station and North Road has faced criticism from some who believe they give a poor first impression of the famous city. A county council spokesman said there was an intention to carry out work in the area, but funding needed to be allocated in the budget.