It's another disappointment for Manchester's most-maligned public space. We say get rid of the lot.
A £10 million pound overhaul of Piccadilly Gardens has been scrapped, the City Council has announced.
Proposals revealed in 2016 by LGIM Real Assets, a subsidiary of financial giant Legal & General, have been withdrawn due to 'financial unviability'.
For all those arriving into the city via bus and train, it is just about the shittiest welcome to Manchester you could imagine
The plans included removing the square's much-maligned concrete wall, more greenery, lighting and seating, as well as new restaurants and a coffee shop.
The council say they will now fund improvements to Manchester's busiest (and most criticised) public square and are in the process of commissioning landscape architects to draw up new designs.
In a statement, Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We know that people have strong views about the need for improvements to Piccadilly Gardens. Indeed after begging the Gardens was the issue which was most raised in last year’s city centre review.
“We are determined to deliver those changes. While the scheme which was previously envisaged has not proved possible in its current form, it is not a case of back to square one. The work which was done on that scheme, and the public consultation which established broad support for the principles behind it, will help shape the revised scheme and give us a sound basis to move forwards.
"As part of the Council's proposals for the Gardens we are looking to see the appearance of the concrete wall to the pavilion improved and softened. The Council's ambition (is) to see it transformed into a green 'living wall' facing the bus and tram stations. We also propose to remove the free-standing part of the wall, which sits within our ownership."
It is the latest in the long saga of the square, which has drawn fierce criticism in recent years - not least from this publication. As we wrote in this article last year:
'Confidential has been despairing over the state of Piccadilly Gardens for over a decade now. We’ve published numerous articles, met with councillors and business leaders, and constantly campaigned for change.
And for what, you might ask? Many years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money later, Manchester’s busiest square is in a worse state than ever: the pavements are filthy, the fountain is perennially broken, drug dealers go unchallenged, spice users slump in doorways and the grass, well, that’s just an utter embarrassment.'
For all those arriving into the city via bus and train, it is just about the shittiest welcome to Manchester you could imagine.'
Part of the issue for the council now is that although they own the gardens, Legal & General have a 250-year lease on the pavilion and most of the concrete wall - meaning the council can't simply level it and start again. Hence the 'softening'.
What Confidential has argued for consistently is that Piccadilly Square should be hard-surfaced, creating a grand civic space that would be the envy of the other British cities, a space with power and gravitas with very few places for dealers to hide behind (those tall planters were an excellent idea weren't they?). Retain some of the trees and a few of the benches but get rid of everything else.
Not only would this make us look more modern and contemporary, but it would also be much cheaper to maintain and easier to police. There’d be no expensive returfing, no fixing the sodding fountain every few months, and very few places to do dodgy deals out of sight.
For anyone (and there are quite a few) nostalgically tied to the notion of the 'gardens' we say, look at it, just look at it, now go and take a look at St Peter's Square... see?