Hark hopeful of bus station deal

Talks are ongoing between Hark Group, owner of the Ashton Arcades shopping centre, and Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, over funding the relocation of the bus station as part of the expansion of the centre.

Rob Cossey, managing director Hark, said: "We are working hard with GMPTE to see if this can be an example of how infrastructure can drive retail. Works have started on the Metrolink line between Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester and the terminus is definitely coming to the site. Now we are talking to GMPTE and the council about moving the bus station at the same time and wrapping the retail around the new interchange."

Hark plans to relocate the existing bus station at the rear of Ashton Arcades into a combined bus and tram interchange and building retail on the land freed up by the bus station move.

Planning consent for the 180,000 sq ft extension and bus station was renewed last year to allow Hark more time for delivery.

Cossey added: "The interchange should deliver great footfall and with that amount of footfall we are confident we will get retailers to commit there."

Cossey said funding for the extension was not yet in place but with the anticipated pre-lets following the proposed transport links, the scheme would be viable and succeed in securing bank debt.

Ashton Arcades contains Next, New Look, HMV, WHSmith and Poundland. The former Woolworths store on the first floor remains vacant.

A spokesman for GMPTE said: "Work to deliver the new Metrolink line to Ashton is well underway and due for completion in winter 2013/2014. Private sector plans to redevelop Ashton Arcades shopping centre, which currently have outline planning approval, include proposals to relocate Ashton bus station to provide a new interchange between the town's new Metrolink services and existing bus services. We will continue to work with Tameside Council and private sector partners to consider how these proposals, and any other future opportunities, will enable us to capitalise on the arrival of Metrolink and further improve public transport in the town centre."

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