A PUBLIC exhibition will give people a chance to see - and give their views on - detailed multi-million pound plans to improve Piccadilly Gardens, so runs a press release sent to Confidential. It goes on to say...
'Earlier this month Legal & General Investment Management Real Assets (L&G), in partnership with Manchester City Council, released proposals including £2m worth of investment in improvements to the Gardens to make them a more attractive and welcoming community environment, while deterring anti-social behaviour.
'The regeneration is part of a wider £10m investment by L&G which also includes plans to redevelop the Pavilion building, create a new covered area of public realm - and the removal of the 'wall'.
'People will now have a chance to view detailed plans and provide feedback on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 December between 10am and 4pm in the area next to the Media Lounge on the ground floor of the Town Hall Extension.
'The joint public consultation is being held by the Council and L&G. The proposals come after Manchester City Council and L&G have been in discussions about creating an improved, safer and more attractive community environment at Piccadilly Gardens. During these discussions, the Council and L&G have taken into account public opinion and identified that the removal of the 'wall' and carefully targeted garden improvements would significantly improve the Gardens.
'Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Piccadilly Gardens is an incredibly well-used public space which more than 16 million people a year pass through or spend time in.
'"We know that many people have strong opinions about it and recognise that there is scope for significant improvements. We believe the proposed scheme, which takes into account public feedback, provides viable and sustainable change for the better which is compatible with the Gardens' role as a major thoroughfare used by hundreds of thousands of people a week as well as a destination in its own right.
'"Different people will have different views of what works in Piccadilly Gardens and we value their feedback which will help shape the final plans. Those who can't make it along to the exhibition will also be able to view the plans and comment online."
'Bill Hughes, Head of Real Assets, Legal & General Investment Management, said: "Under the proposal L&G will dedicate £2m worth of investment in improvements to Piccadilly Gardens to make them more attractive and welcoming to families while deterring anti-social behaviour.
'"The proposed Pavilion design will bring a new vibrancy and economy to Piccadilly Gardens which we hope residents can be proud of and visitors to Manchester will see as a destination in its own right.
'"L&G has a longstanding track record of working with progressive local authorities to bring forward regeneration and improvements to social infrastructure projects. We see Piccadilly Gardens as a prime example of this kind of collaboration in action."
Confidential wonders whether these consultations are just an exercise in pretence. An empty display of egalitarianism, something for the developer and the council to endure. If we troop along and say what we think, if we write editorials in magazines and get in touch with councillors does anything ever change? The recent consultations over St Michael's (click here) show that in the end the deals and compromises between council and developer are what matters, us little people are a million miles from influence.
In fact the consultation seems to have already occurred through newspaper pages in a campaign started almost ten years ago by Manchester Confidential and taken up by the Manchester Evening News. And guess what? The popular voice has spoken, had its gut reaction, rather than intelligent and considered independent thought. So we're back to a non-Gardens, with grass that wears out, a fountain that will break and from the CGI image it seems we've retained those huge planters on the north side; the druggies fave hangout. From the CGI too it seems we've suddenly got a tropical climate. Far better would have been if the city and L&G had gone for a hard surface, seats and trees as with the marvellous St Peter's Square.
Meanwhile more commercial space has imposed itself on the land that was given to the city. But that's where we are you see? Forget the civic notion when as a council you're broke, get the commercial partner in and give a little tickle of an incentive. If the plan turns out as in the computer modelling we'll still have many of the same problems. Here's a notion, save some money and deal with the anti-social behaviour by having two coppers walking round and round the 'Gardens' 24/7.
£10m seems way short of the amount needed as well. The initial changes fifteen years ago cost £10m. Are costs the same?
Anyway, we'll be along to the consultation and we'll have our say but the CGI you see on this page is what we'll get, unless there's a problem then they'll cut some of the good bits halfway through without telling us. Hey, though, you never know we might be wrong.