Plans for bigger and better Albert Square submitted

A planning application detailing proposals which would make Manchester’s Albert Square one of the finest civic spaces in Europe has now been submitted.

The plans would see the square enlarged by around 20 per cent to significantly enhance its role as a major events venue and the city’s most important public square. The extra space would be created by pedestrianising the roads around the square with only the Princess Street side remaining open to traffic.

The improvements to Albert Square and surrounding public realm are an integral part of the Our Town Hall project to protect and enhance Manchester’s iconic town hall building and its setting.

A gentle slope will enable inclusive access to the town hall’s main entrance for the first time, underlining the council’s long-standing commitment to accessibility. It will be designed to ensure it complements the building and its surrounds.

The plans for the reconfigured square will also enhance its safety (removing the need for the current concrete barrier), open up views, reduce clutter, improve lighting and create a new tranquil space around the fountain to enable people to sit and enjoy the square. It will also provide better infrastructure for events.

Its expanded area will also give neighbouring food and drink businesses the opportunity to set up continental-style outdoor seating areas.

The square will be resurfaced with beautiful granite sett paving, removing trip hazards while referencing the traditional cobbles, with yorkstone paving providing a route around it.

Albert Square is a much-loved public space which already hosts a wide range of popular events. This year it will once again be one of the venues for Manchester’s Christmas Markets, with work scheduled to begin on its transformation next year.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, lead member for the Our Town Hall project, said: “Albert Square is in many ways the heart of Manchester – somewhere people gather for celebrations, commemorations and other communal events.

“We believe these plans will put it among the very finest international public spaces, combining Victorian grandeur with modern facilities and accessibility standards in a welcoming, car-free environment.

“Our approach has been to accentuate the things which people love about the square while addressing some of the things which currently don’t work as well.

“Inclusive entrances to the Albert Square and Cooper Street entrances will ensure a dignified entrance for everyone – with no one needing to use a side entrance. This will complement other plans to improve accessibility inside the town hall, with new lifts part of the wider plans.”

The plans are expected to be considered by the Council’s Planning Committee later this year.

The public realm proposals have been developed by Planit-IE’s co-located studio at Manchester Town Hall, on behalf of the Council.  

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