Yeovil unites in battle to save bus station

Yeovil Bus Station, a lifeline for the town and its surrounding communities, faces an uncertain future. With the toilets set to close on May 31 and the potential demolition of Glovers Walk, the community, spearheaded by the Somerset Bus Partnership and the Yeovil Bus Users Group, has united, voicing its concerns and battling to safeguard the regional transport hub.

Somerset Council has been making improvements to Yeovil town centre as part of a regeneration programme and plans to redevelop the Glovers Walk shopping centre on Middle Street. In April it said it would spend up to £1m on demolishing the vacant site, with reports indicating the land would be taken into public ownership ahead of a major redevelopment.

The council has now confirmed it is in discussions to buy the site and has promised to protect the bus station which it called a “key transport hub”. But the bus station’s future has been a cause for concern since the council passed its annual budget in February, which included cutting funding for the waiting room and public toilets.

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Over 1,000 signatures were collected in a petition presented to the town’s county councillor at a protest on Friday, May 17. Numerous campaign groups had called on Somerset Council to reverse the decision, with the Wells Bus User Group describing the toilets as “indispensable” and the Somerset Bus Partnership holding a rally outside the bus station on Friday.

Peter Travis, co-chair of Somerset Bus Partnership, said: “Despite the reassurances in the recent press statement from Somerset Council, the toilets at Yeovil Bus Station are still set to close on May 31. In the short term, essential features like toilets must be kept available for the users of Yeovil bus station. In the longer term, bus users need a cast iron guarantee that in the redevelopment of Yeovil, there will still be a bus station in the centre of Yeovil.”

Linda Snelling, lead of the Yeovil Bus User Group and also part of the management team of Somerset Bus Partnership, presented the petition to Councillor Adam Dance. She said: “The turnout to the protest has been tremendous and positive.

“There are a lot of people that need toilet facilities and the reassurance that there are toilets there for people with disabilities, medical conditions and the elderly.

“I hope Somerset Council realise that Yeovil Bus Station needs toilets in its structure going forward. Over 1,000 people have signed the petition, which gives us a strong sense of what is needed.”

In response, Adam Dance, the lead member for public health, equality and diversity, and also Lib Dem candidate for the election, acknowledged the importance of the petition and the bus station to the community. He said, “If we don’t have a bus station, we don’t have facilities, that once again isolates people in the communities, especially in the rural communities who don’t get out. We saw this build-up within Covid. I will take this petition forward and lobby Somerset Council to see what we can do.”

He added, "We’ve worked with First Group to save the waiting room, and we now need to look for a solution to save the toilets or get another form of toilets here on the site. As you know, we are looking at the moment of purchasing Glover’s Walk to secure the future of this area for the town. There are discussions of what will happen with that future, but we will keep you updated as this goes on.”

Councillor Richard Wilkins, the lead member for transport and digital at Somerset Council, said: “I have put a statement out to express Somerset Council's desire to keep Yeovil Bus Station going. We've got no plans to close it. There's a lot of work in the area, and of course, we try to do our best to facilitate bus usage across the county.

“There's been a lot of work with the Bus Partnership and First Group. We always look to facilitate that. Our parliamentary candidate, Adam Dance, has done a lot of work to ensure that the waiting room will remain open for the foreseeable future. Yeovil has such a future, and it must remain a big part at Somerset.”

The future of Yeovil Bus Station remains uncertain. However, the community’s fight to save it continues.

David Ridgeway, a Somerset Bus Advisory Board member and the Dorset Buses Forum, said: “This is a regional bus station. This bus station carries passengers into Dorset, from Blandford in one direction to Wells and for Bristol in the other direction, to Wincanton, Taunton. It’s got coach services to London from here, connections at Taunton to South West England, and the South West Peninsula Transport Board is looking to provide more coach services here.

“It’s a regional centre, and it’s got rail link buses, also to Yeovil Junction and Yeovil Pen Mill, so it’s not a minor bus station; it’s a major regional hub for South West England, and we need to invest in it, and we shouldn’t be closing passenger facilities, waiting rooms or toilets. We should be reopening the café here and providing more.”