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Gazette bid to see bus station closure agreement is rejected
5:00pm Thursday 20th September 2012 in Colchester
COUNCIL bosses have refused to publish a legal agreement that will reveal why Colchester’s bus station has to close.
The temporary bus station in Queen Street is due to shut at the end of the year.
Campaigners are unhappy with the £2million replacement station being built in Osborne Street.
It has been claimed a legal agreement signed in 2006 to build the Firstsite arts centre includes a clause insisting the temporary facility must close by the end of the year.
Colchester Council has rejected two Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Gazette to view the agreement.
Firstsite, which opened last year, is partly built on the Queen Street bus station and the playing fields at St Thomas More’s Primary School.
Anne Turrell, leader of Colchester Council, said the Department for Education insisted the school received part of the remaining bus station site in return.
She said legal experts had told her the agreement gave bosses at Essex County Council and Colchester Council until the close of 2012 to find an alternative site.
Both Freedom of Information requests, First for the entire legal agreement and secondly just for the sections relating to the bus station closure, were rejected.
The authority said the public interest in publishing the information was outweighed by the potential damage disclosure could cause to the commercial interests of the parties involved.
Peter Simpson, a trustee of Age UK Colchester, said he could see no reason why the council should not be more open.
Opposition to its closure has grown as attempts to find a replacement grew more and more protracted.
Mr Simpson said: “The whole thing stinks. I think they should be more open.
“The arrangement at Osborne Street will have benefits, but it will not replace the bus station.
“There’s no way all the bus movements can be accommodated in Osborne Street.”
Mrs Turrell said since becoming council leader in 2008 she had made every possible effort to save the existing bus station, but without success.
She said: “I think we’re at the point of no return now.
“We have tried to get this changed, but none of us has been able to because it is tied up in this legal agreement.
“We have to accept what our lawyers tell us.”