The sweeping ‘living roof’ on the canopy outside the proposed new Huddersfield Bus Station came under scrutiny at a meeting of Kirklees Council.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Kirklees Council are currently drawing up £20 million plans to improve the rundown 1970s bus station.

The most controversial – and striking – feature is what is described as a ‘lattice structure, undulating canopy’ which will run the length of the bus station from Macauley Square to Upperhead Row. The roof will have grass growing on top and also have solar panels, which would provide power to the bus station.

Officers presented their proposals to a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Economy & Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Panel and faced a series of questions.

Deputy Tory leader Clr John Taylor (Kirkburton) asked about maintenance of the grass roof and who would be responsible for its upkeep.

“I love what’s being done about attempting to green the bus station but what’s in the budget for maintenance of those greened areas?” he asked.

“Invariably what happens is that after 12 months they are litter-strewn and no-one has accountability or ownership and very quickly what looked like a very attractive area becomes a very unattractive area.

“So I don’t think it’s worth investing a significant chunk to improve our bus stations if you aren’t going to put the money aside to ensure those greened areas are adequately maintained.”

Clr Taylor told how he often sent photographs of town centre grotspots to a council officer saying: “Is this really want we think of our town?”

He warned: “There will be loads of litter, you’ll get lots of stuff dumped so who’s taking ownership to make sure (the bus station) looks like these photographs and that after 12 months it doesn’t look tired and neglected?

“I can take you to places in this town where we done some wonderful schemes and put in green facilities but then they are not maintained and they look sad.”

Clr Taylor added: “Who is the accountable officer? Who can I go to when I see that these areas aren’t being well maintained?

“You look at that wonderful canopy across Huddersfield Bus Station but those green roofs need a lot of maintenance and attention. That’s not something we can put in our maintenance contract and once a month we go to do some cleaning or minor repairs.

“It’s about who is going to be the responsible person. It’s more than putting some money into the budget, it’s about having conversations internally about which department is going to take ownership.”

There are also plans for new bus stations in Dewsbury and Heckmondwike and Clr Taylor questioned reports which said they hoped to increase retail usage in the bus stations within five years.

Clr Taylor said that was “rather optimistic” at a time when there was too much retail space in town centres and retail space was being reduced.

The meeting was told that maintenance of the canopy would be the responsibility of Kirklees, as it was owned by the council, but the rest of the bus station was owned by the Combined Authority and that would come under the authority’s maintenance budget.

One of the reasons for investing in new bus stations in Kirklees was said to be getting more people to use buses.

Public consultation had been carried out mainly with bus users and Clr Taylor told officers: “I think you’ve missed a trick.

“If you want to increase bus patronage you need to speak to people who aren’t using buses, not people who are. You need to find out why they are not using buses. If your objective is to increase bus patronage you need to be talking people who don’t use the buses.

“You’d be better off spending your time in the car parks rather than the bus station. You are asking the wrong people.”

The meeting was told there could be some “game-changing” facilities at bus stations in Kirklees but Clr Taylor retorted: “You can promote all those game-changing changes all you like. It’s no good saying we have a bright, wonderful bus station but if it doesn’t meet the needs of people who don’t use buses, they ain’t going to use it.

“It’s not a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ If your stated objective is to increase bus patronage we need to find out why people don’t use buses.”

An outline business case has been drawn up for the new Huddersfield Bus Station and West Yorkshire Combined Authority is expected to give approval for a full business case – with detailed costings – to be drawn up when councillors meet on Friday October 21.

The bulk of the costs – £19 million – will come from the Combined Authority via the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund. The remaining £1 million will come from Kirklees Council.

Underneath the canopy there will be a cycle hub to accommodate 60 bikes and six e-bikes as well as seating and planters.

Inside there will be a new travel centre, new shopfronts, a ‘contemplation room’, a fully-accessible Changing Places toilet and baby change facilities. The sloping floor will be addressed and there will be new seating and signage. Henry Street will also get a new entrance.

A planning application could be submitted in summer 2023 with the full business case to follow in winter 2023. Work could start in summer 2024 and be completed by winter 2025.