DEVELOPERS are queuing up for the right to rebuild a much-maligned bus station.

Derwentside District Council this week unveiled a £1m design brief for the demolition of Stanley's 30-year-old bus station on the A693 and its replacement with a new station, plus a possible retail and leisure complex.

The document details outline proposals for the Mary Street site and aims to sell its potential to developers and retail giants. But bosses at the local authority, which owns the property, say there is already widespread interest in the project.

District council leader Alex Watson said: "There has certainly been interest expressed. It is a prime site and selling it will not be a problem. The problem, if any, will be deciding who we sell it to."

The proposals will see the new bus station built next door to the existing one, on what is presently a car park. The old station will then be knocked down to make way for a shopping mall-style complex.

But Coun Watson promised that car parking would not be an issue while the work is carried out.

"The bus station has got to be developed first, so the car parking facility will remain," he said.

"We have commissioned a car parking study of where parking needs to be to make it more accessible, but for the immediate future, Mary Street is not under threat."

The plans make room for a smaller car park between the old and new stations and room for a sculpture.

It also suggests knocking down up to five buildings in the town's main shopping area, to create a wider and safer pedestrian access from the bus station to Front Street.

These include the post office, an estate agent's, a bookmakers and a charity shop. Durham County Council and the district authority are already looking into compulsory purchase orders to move the businesses out.

The project will be financed by the sale of the existing station to a retail developer, with a further £300,000 earmarked from the Local Transport Plan.

Council bosses estimate the new station could be open by March 2004 - if plans win approval from Durham County Council's highways department, and the Government grants planning permission. The design brief was due to go before Thursday's district council's development control committee meeting.