Preston Central Bus Station and Car Park


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Central Bus Station and Car Park, Tithebarn Street, Preston, PR1 1YT


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Statutory Address:
Central Bus Station and Car Park, Tithebarn Street, Preston, PR1 1YT

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Preston (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A bus station with multi-storey car park above, also incorporating a taxi rank (but excluding the pedestrian links). Designed by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership, with E H Staziker, the Borough Engineer and Surveyor, and Ove Arup and Partners, consulting structural engineers. Opened in 1969.

Reasons for Designation

Preston bus station and car park is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Planning interest: the bus station and car park remains a little-altered and remarkably good example of integrated 1960s traffic planning that still functions as originally intended. As a 1960s 'megastructure' combining several functions it was designed to recreate a sense of the monumental within the British town scene; * External design interest: the curved concrete front to the car park decks are major architectural features of the design and focus attention on the building's great length whilst creating an elegant light and dark horizontal banding effect along the entire main east and west elevations; * Architectural innovation: the building displays an unusual blend of New Brutalist architecture (influenced by late Le Corbusier) that is mellowed by an inspired application of upturned curves to the main elevations, sweeping car park ramps and the curved ends of the former taxi rank; * Structural interest: by using techniques such as GRP pre-cast moulding it was possible to create a design which both serves the function of the building as well as contributing to its aesthetic power; * Integrated Design: it represents an important stage in the evolution of integrated design in England pioneered by Building Design Partnership with architecture, interior design, engineering, quantity surveying, landscaping, graphic and typographic design working to a common goal; * Fittings of note: the fitting out of the building as specified by BDP survives well with original features such as floor finishes, signage and barriers making an important contribution to its aesthetic impact.


Preston has long been the hub of a major bus network at local, regional and national level; the nation's first motorway was the Preston by-pass, opened in 1958, and the area was in the forefront of developments in road transport. During the 1960s Preston had four bus stations working simultaneously, together with numerous on-street bus stands for local services. In an attempt to rationalise the situation and create an integrated passenger exchange to resolve problems of congestion Preston Corporation in October 1960 commissioned the Building Design Partnership, with E H Staziker, the Borough Engineer and Surveyor, and Ove Arup & Partners, to design and build a new bus station, car park, and taxi rank. BDP was a local architectural practice which has subsequently become a leading firm; this is among their most prominent commissions. The job architects for the final design, made in 1965-6 were Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson, among the best-known and most successful designers in the practice. By then more parking was needed, and more bus stands to meet the needs of what in 1970 became the Central Lancashire New Town (a growth area combining Preston, Leyland and Chorley),

The building opened in October 1969 and was, at that time, Europe's largest bus station (now surpassed by Kamppi in Helsinki, built in 2002-5). Building on such an ambitious scale, and to such high design standards, has resulted in a structure more reminiscent of a post-war airport terminal than a mere bus station and car park. This was Keith Ingham’s stated aim at the time – to give ordinary people something of the luxury of air travel, which was then still out of many people’s price bracket. Its overall concept was anticipated by nearby Blackpool, which had previously built a bus station with integrated multi-storey car-park above on the eve of the Second World War in Talbot Square. Before the Second World War Blackpool, like Preston in the post-war period, was in the forefront of English towns seeking innovative solutions to increased levels of traffic. During the early 1970s an overhead pedestrian walkway was added to the south side of Preston’s building connecting the car park with the Guild Hall entertainment, shopping and office complex. The taxi rank and waiting area at the south side of the building has fallen into disuse in recent times. Numerous other minor alterations have been undertaken in order to provide users of the bus station with modern facilities and a safe environment. Nevertheless Preston bus station and car park remains an important example of a 'megastructure', a large-scale civic commission expressing the increasingly important role of motor traffic in later C20 life.

The construction of the building was undertaken by Laings who decided to establish a site factory for casting, taking advantage of the large site. In just under a year approximately 2,800 concrete elements were cast for the building. Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP) was used as a material for the moulds produced by Glasdon; its versatility and flexibility was able to cope with the compound curves of the shapes required and to provide a smooth surface finish. GRP was also chosen for signage and fittings because of its low maintenance requirements.


MATERIALS: reinforced and pre-cast concrete with partial white tile-cladding and glazing. Original signage and other fittings in Glaskon Glasfilme GRP, also used for telephone kiosks and timetable holders, steel and iroko hardwood timber.

PLAN: The building is rectangular, measures about 170m long by 40m wide, and sits within a broad rectangular apron that extends on both sides to allow bus movements. There are curving car park ramps at the north and south ends of the building and an island taxi rank at the south end of the bus station. The perimeter of the site, and access, is defined by raised areas of hard landscaping re-using granite setts.

EXTERIOR: The tall, double-height, ground floor (responding to the height of a double-decker bus) contains 40 bus stands on both the east and west sides above which is a multi-storey car park on a split-level design of four decks on the west and five decks on the east. Vehicular access to and from the car park is via curved concrete ramps at the north and south ends of the building while pedestrian access to the building is segregated via three subways and an elevated walkway (all four accesses are not included in the listing). A former island taxi rank with round-ended waiting platform with concrete roof of similar design above, and an 80 foot high lighting gantry, is situated at the south end of the bus station. The bus station has a glazed ground floor while the car park decks above have curved concrete fronts of T beam form. The north and south ends of the building are clad in vertically laid white tiles with wide joints and breaks in the grid pattern at each floor level. Supporting columns have a beach pebble aggregate that is exposed by grit blasting. Four rectangular lift shafts, each clad in white tiles, protrude above the upper deck of the car park.

INTERIOR: The bus station has a two-storey central spine of buildings that contain passenger facilities such as kiosks, cafeteria, information and booking offices on the ground floor of varying facade design, and staff offices and rest facilities on the upper floor. To either side there are waiting areas adjacent to the bus stands, each divided by metal and wood barriers. The passenger concourse is fully glazed and the lower half of the main facades is enclosed by a sliding door system, with two doors for each bus stand. Above the door heads a wooden and GRP perimeter destination board runs the entire length of the main elevations and contains original bus stand numbers and destinations. There are the access ramps to two pedestrian subways, with white tiled walls and black rubber-tiled floors. There are three public lifts and stairwells to the car park above. The floor of the bus station is of black rubber tiles while the central spine is clad in vertically laid white tiles to the ground floor with glazing to the offices above. A rich, brown, oiled iroko wood is used for seats, doors and barrier rails. The ceiling to the passenger concourse has its soffits of the pre-cast concrete floor units exposed. Other carefully designed and original features survive including purposely-designed signage and clocks in GRP and custom-made oiled timber handrails.

The north end of the car park has an entrance ramp to Level 1 and an exit ramp from Level 2, and there is a two-carriageway entrance and exit ramp from Level 1 at its south east corner. Ramps connect the parking levels towards the north and south ends of the building retaining their directional signage in the form of free-standing GRP arrows.

The pedestrian links, that is the three subways and the elevated walkway, are excluded from the listing, as less successful elements of the structure.


Books and journals
Calladine, T, Morrison, K, Road Transport Buildings, (1998), pp. 98 & 123
Henley, S, The Architecture of Parking, (2007), pp. 98-9
Morrison, K, Minnis, J, Carscapes: the Motor Car, Architecture, and Landscape in England, (2012)
'Architects Journal' in Building Study: Bus Station And Car Park, (6 May 1970), pp. 1129-48
'Architectural Review' in Manplan, (July 1970), pp. 33-4
Glancey, J, 'Guardian' in A Baroque Cathedral for Buses, (1 October 2007)
Jackson, L, 'Independent' in Obituary: Keith Ingham, (26 May 1995)
Powers, A, 'Independent' in Obituary: Keith Ingham, (3 May 1995)
Stephenson, R, 'Arup Journal' in Preston Bus Station And Car Park, (December 1969)
Pearman, Hugh et al., 61/11 BDP. Continuous Collective, (2011)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown in blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1(5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those in blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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