Manchester City Council

Piccadilly Gardens

I'm going to risk a bit more controversy but getting my defence in first, let me say that I would be the first to acknowledge that, as city centre Councillor Kevin Peel put it at the last meeting of the Economy Scrutiny Committee, Piccadilly Gardens is in desperate need of some tlc. I do though still find this week's Manchester Evening News petition on the subject somewhat curious.

Their coverage of their own petition talks about the City Council now having to debate the issue. That seems to imply that the City Council needs to be forced to discuss Piccadilly Gardens thus ignoring the fact, which I'm sure that the M.E.N is aware of, that this was discussed by Councillors just a week and a half ago, in public, as part of the Economy Scrutiny Committee's consideration of the City Centre Strategic Plan ( still available to view on the Council website ). As a consequence it will already be before the next Council meeting and open for further discussion.

The M.E.N also called for the gardens to be restored to their former glory. Now I can't go back to the fifties as I only moved to Manchester in 1979. The gardens then occupied a smaller area with traffic on all four sides. The north side had some dire toilets and the A6 running past. On the west side there was a parks department depot. There was no screening from the traffic which would have been even more polluting than it is now and, as the photos show, there never seemed to be many people in the sunken garden - even before the drunks took over.

There are of course things in the 2002 makeover that haven't worked out as intended. The raised beds have never provided the floral colour we expected. The maintenance hasn't been up to scratch, it's taken far too long to repair the fountains, and even those of us that like the Ando pavilion have to admit this is a view that is not universally shared. However, as Councillor Pat Karney said in the discussion at Economy Scrutiny, although the gardens do need investment, if anything, since 2002 they have been a victim of their own success. An unused space has become an overused space. The reason the paper can show pictures of bare earth where there should be grass is that the gardens are now phenomenally well used.

Lastly, I can't help but think there is a slightly cynical element in the petition. As Councillor Karney has said, the Council has heard the complaints and criticism and fully intends to respond positively to them. The M.E.N know the Council has been working for some time with the new owner of the pavilion to develop an improvement plan for the gardens. They know that sooner rather than later that planning work will lead to firm proposals and then my guess is that they will want to claim the credit for what would have happened anyway.

There are 15 responses to “Piccadilly Gardens”

  1. Anon Says:

    As someone involved in 2002 redesign I fully agree with these points. The M.E.N. Is running a clickbait story for its own survival. But that isn't to deny that lessons cannot be learnt. Looking back, it is clear that grass and high volume footfall don't mix. A visit to the Mirror Pool in Bradford on a warm day shows hundreds of families out with picnics and rugs, children running through the jets and shallows. But no grass. Starting over, lets think about far more trees, a bigger water area, but more paved area. The 'big wheel' firms of this world won't like tree cover, but those firms were not an asset as we found out to our cost.found

  2. Joanne Ramdewor Says:

    After reading this and previous articles surrounding Piccadilly ‘Gardens’ does it not make sense to try and use the great concrete eyesore and create something green and positive for the city in the form a of a green wall/vertical gardens. This would also help the air quality around the bus station which, at times can be extremely unpleasant.

    Does the council not have an objective to be one of the greenest cities in Europe? I think we are a long way away when looking at other European Cities which prioritise greenspace and have civic spaces to be proud of.

    Whilst I appreciate the reason for redeveloping the gardens in 2002, it saddens me that the Council seem so short sighted when it comes to the lack of imagination when redeveloping greenspace.

    Birmingham New St expansion and redevelopment has just created the biggest green wall in Europe and Oldham Council seem to use each pocket of land to it’s full potential by creating award winning landscaping schemes for the local town to be proud of.

    Could the wall or ‘gardens’ loosely termed not be developed into a space which promotes the historic use of the space, advocates the horticultural skills of the City Council (using apprentices), whilst providing opportunities for biodiversity and reducing harmful air quality levels? Interpretation could also be installed for Mancunians to champion what can be achieved for both people and wildlife in our growing concrete conurbation???

    We do not need more shops and bars but, a common sense approach to managing the little space we have left.
    Joanne Ramdewor.

  3. Andrew Rose Says:

    A major problem is the pile of house bricks (Office No 1 Picc) dumped where there were previously dozens of Cherry trees etc that would now be in blossom. That building is totally incongruous - even the 60's concrete ones were designed to fit in with the classic stone buildings. We need more grass - not less. There are loads of grassed areas in say Barcelona eg Placa de Catalonia which is much more heavily used. Mcr City Council also seems to have a phobia against trees, witness countless tree removal schemes, the latest being the congestion causing works along Oxford Rd whereby trees are being replaced by unsightly bus shelters - again ! No other City on the planet would replace such green city centre spaces with concrete, also including St Peters Sq, now a horrendous ugly concrete tram station either ! That would be away from such a historic area elsewhere. All of this amounts to vandalism of Manchester's heritage in my opinion.

  4. Manchester Resident Says:

    I used to live in Nottingham. Until about 7/8 years ago Market Square was a similarly unloved central spot - notorious for crime and a poor public face for the city. Market Sq is very similar to Piccadilly Gardens both in size and in use (Market Square also houses a major tram stop and is surrounded by bus stops to the north and western sides). The work there has transformed it into a safe, well used, smart public space. There isn't any grass but there is space for events and markets, a modern functioning water feature and spaces on all sides for people to sit and have lunch. The many events provide an income for the city to enable maintenance. It no longer hosts drug dealers because (unlike Piccadilly Gardens) it is open and bright. Manchester needs to take a proper look at several key areas. In the city the Piccadilly > Piccadilly Gardens > Market Street stretch is frankly an embarrassment to the city and needs an overall regeneration plan. Looking at what has been achieved at Nottingham Market Square would be a good start. Whilst clearly sorting Piccadilly is important for visitors and tourists, many other local areas outside of the city are starting to look very neglected and would also benefit from close examination. For example Didsbury Village - what should be a showcase area for the city is a mish mash of poor pavements and an ever increasing number of empty shops. Similar could be said for Chorlton, Prestwich. Where is the local management of these areas?

  5. M25 Says:

    @Andrew Rose. I agree that Plaza de Catalunya is one to look at with any redesign of Piccadilly Gardens, however I don't recall any green spaces?

  6. Anon Says:

    I have lived in Manchester for 15 years and think the gardens are a total embarrassment to the city. The area is uninspiring, ugly, smelly, dirty and crime ridden. The Council lack ambition and imagination and are more concerned with defending themselves and arguing with the MEN than engaging fully with the public about how they are going to resolve the mess they have created. In my home city of Newcastle the Council were voted out, in part because of their failed, very expensive public art/space projects. I hope Manchester’s arrogant leaders take this on board. We could have a low crime city and some safe, functional and beautiful public areas. Other countries have managed it. Why are Manchester Council so incapable of achieving the same?

  7. Eilleen Ovenden Says:

    Manchester is visited by a lot of tourists and expats and other non residents as a large commercial city. It's a vibrant wonderful place. I must say I cringe sometimes taking people into the City Centre who have never been there before.
    I'm an expat and visit Manchester about every 18 months and have done so for over 45 years.
    Each time Piccadilly seems to be in a worse state that it was on my previous visit. It used to be so attractive.
    I don't know why it's considered there's a cynical element to this petition. Piccadilly is a disgrace that becomes worse all the time.
    I don’t think I have been anywhere where the centre of a city is as bad as Manchester’s and I have travelled considerably over the years around the world.
    I don’t know why the petition didn't make provision for overseas/non-resident people to sign.
    they should really be able to comment on what they see. Maybe wake the powers that be up a bit, so that things can improve in the short term rather than taking years.
    Sunshine Coast

  8. Julie Frost Says:

    Unlike Richard Leese, I was born and brought up in Manchester and very regularly visited the gardens both with my mother and, later, during my lunch break/after work. I don't go near the place now, it's horrendous! As for saying there were never any people in the gardens - really? It was always packed on a sunny day, it was difficult to find a seat and was the place workers/shoppers gravitated to on their lunch break or for a brief rest. Yes, it had it problems during the evening but it's now dreadful 24 hours a day! Richard Leese is evidently a fan of the wall and considers it a marvelous piece of architecture - what utter claptrap, how is a slab of plain concrete 'architecture'?!

  9. Steve Oke Says:

    I like Piccadilly Gardens but have always hated the big, grey, concrete wall. Is it possible to take it down and replace it with the old town hall colonnade which is currently situated in a comparatively unvisited part of Heaton Park (controversial, I know)? I love Heaton Park but the colonnade seems so hidden away there.

  10. Chris Speck Says:

    I completely agree about Nottingham getting an almost identical public space right and Manchester getting it so wrong. I come from Nottingham but Manchester has been my home for the last 25 year. Manchester has lots going for it. But the arrogant administration is the problem. Once they get a hair brained idea it's full steam ahead. Despite the public speaking up about how foolhardy the plans are and as users of the area the public know the issues all too well. There was loads of feedback on the plans for the wall and gardens generally when 'consulted' in 2000 - but we were all ignored. Now look at the mess and mourn the waste of money and loss of part of the gardens in the process to that terrible office block. Then we find MCC have sold on the pavilion hoping to off load the problem. Yet more backhanded sales of public space. Disgraceful.

  11. Haji Says:

    How strange that the leader doesen't mention how packed the gardens were before 79. Has he thought about asking a mancunian what it was like during good weather.

    In the late 70's the council neglected the gadens and that's when it went into decline.

  12. seasoned observer Says:

    I think the problem is you have a chief executive who is obsessed with property development at almost any cost regardless of quality, appropriateness or wider public benefits and too many senior councillors who are illiterate in matters of design and just think "oh it will do" and cant be bothered to scrutinise things properly. No wonder people are so annoyed about how the city is developing.

    Having said that, a silver lining could be providing by the new St Peters Square and the new housing design standards. Well done on those at least.

  13. irene Patten Says:

    just sack all city council that are supposed to be invovled in piccadilly gardens why we still call it that is an utter joke it should be called concreat jungle i am a manc and i am utterly ashamed of our city centre all so just look below your feet the paverments are disgusting the first thing we had to do when you worked in a shop was sweep and clean your own front come on all you people of manchester bombard the councill and get our beautifull city cleaned up

  14. MancResident Says:

    Fixing the gardens is one thing, but there are bigger issues than just the physical space. The people occupying it. Walking from Piccadilly Station, through the gardens and down Market St. in rush hour is the most horrendous experience in Manchester. There are too many people, in too small a space, with too many problems - countless homeless people in doorways, muggers, 'chuggers' and terrible buskers! I will not walk through this space with my young family as it is intimidating and not safe. Sort the gardens - yes, but please please please sort out the other issues at the same time. As an international city, and this being the gateway into it - it demands so much more.

  15. Bernadette phillips Says:

    It is an absolute travesty that the council can even be considering spending ANY money on a VANITY project whilst imposing cuts on any front line services, let alone the consideration of how TEN MILLION pounds would make a considerable difference to the councils claim to be "Ending homelessness". (sic). Ten million could build a hostel, that might reduce the number of homeless people we have both living and DYING on our streets.



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