I have quite a few fond memories of Hanley bus station.
There used to be a bakery in the underpass where my nan would buy warm, crusty bloomer loaves to take home to Bentilee.
I loved the smell and they were a real treat for someone who had been weaned on supermarket own-brand sliced bread.
Chico’s nightclub, part of the bus station complex, was also a regular haunt of me and my sixth-form college buddies.
It was here, at the age of 17, where the girl I’d been besotted with through high school first acknowledged my existence.
Hanley bus station was also the place that I returned to on a coach in the early hours of August 20, 1989, drunk with happiness having seen my first live rock concert – Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl.
Having said all of that, it’s still a dump. It’s an embarrassing eyesore – and has been for as long as I can remember.
It is little wonder that a national newspaper chose to use a picture of Hanley bus station to illustrate the infamous “Stoke-on-Trent is the worst place to live in England and Wales” story a few years back.
The story itself may have been nonsense, but who could argue with the image they used to illustrate the point?
Indeed, anyone who arrives in the Potteries on a bus could be forgiven for asking the driver to keep the doors closed and continue his journey.
The dirty great concrete behemoth is hardly a great advert for our city, located as it is just a stone’s throw away from The Victoria Hall.
Twenty years ago, I recall writing stories about plans to revamp the area around the bus station.
Numerous council administrations have come and gone since then and yet the city’s worst carbuncle remains.
Tom Macartney, managing director of the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership (NSRP), is pleading that his organisation be given more time to complete projects such as the bus station.
I’m sorry Tom, but we’ve heard it all before.
The thing is, your average taxpayer in Stoke-on-Trent doesn’t differentiate between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the NSRP.
Many don’t have a clue what the NSRP is, or that it even exists.
They don’t care who is charged with delivering change to the city’s tired infrastructure.
They just want something – anything – to change.
It’s not that anyone begrudges you your £150,000 a year salary, Tom.
It’s just most people are so jaundiced, so fed up, so disillusioned with the lack of progress in the last two decades (and the grand designs that never materialise) that they have accepted the status quo.
I believe Stoke-on-Trent stands at a crossroads and, irrespective of the financial climate, now is the time to think big.
RENEW North Staffordshire has achieved, not without problems, significant regeneration of the housing stock on some of the city’s most deprived estates.
However, since the refurbishment of The Regent Theatre and The Victoria Hall more than a decade ago, little has changed to make more visitors want to go up ’Anley.
The Staffordshire Hoard presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to market and rebrand our city and give our city centre a much-needed makeover.
I’m a huge supporter of The Regent Theatre and The Victoria Hall, but these two venues and a few chairs and tables outside eateries in Piccadilly do not constitute a “Cultural Quarter”.
If we have any pretensions of being a city worth the name then I would suggest the area around Hanley bus station has to be regenerated as soon as possible to take advantage of the huge benefits that could come our way via the Staffordshire Hoard.
It is vital that people arriving in the city centre are confronted by clean, modern facilities, top-brand stores and dining opportunities that the people of Manchester and Birmingham take for granted.
At the moment, many theatre-goers must leave Hanley thinking “that was a great show, but what a dump Stoke-on-Trent is”.
My beloved nan isn’t with us anymore.
The sad truth is, however, that if Ethel Tideswell circa 1990, of Sundorne Place, Bentilee, arrived at Hanley bus station in June 2010 I doubt she’d spot any difference (other than, perhaps, the lack of crusty bloomer loaves).
The time for excuses really has passed.
I’m not that fussed about the new design, but surely we deserve a bus station that doesn’t look like the backdrop for an episode of Life On Mars.