George Square Planning Document

Glasgow City Centre Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18

13/01067/DC

Scope of works:

Phase 1 of the George Square re-development includes the resurfacing of the square, the re-introduction of two flush grass beds (one to the NW, and the other to the SW of the square), and cleaning of the statues.
The boundary of the square will be hoarded to contain the works, with no public access to the square within the duration of the works, which is expected to commence in July 2013.

Design Intention

George Square is the most important urban space within Glasgow and is the heart of the city. It is a focal point where the general public meet, gather, rest and play, both informally and formally. Many important events have their setting here: Remembrance Day, Christmas celebrations and trade fairs. Some of Glasgow’s most important historical events have been played out within the square and as testimony to this; it has become one of the most defining aspects of Glasgow’s public image.

Existing condition

At present, the existing red Tarmac has faded and shows signs of weathering. The surface is uneven with areas where water pools; this looks unsightly and is a slipping hazard in freezing weather conditions. There is general surface wear and tear after years of vehicular and events usage. The statues and their bases are suffering from Algal greening and are in need of a routine clean.

Reason for change

George Square needs a programme of improvement. However, a major refurbishment of the square is unfeasible at the moment due to the short timescale before the 2014 Commonwealth Games begin.
Glasgow will be featured internationally during the games, therefore it is important than an intermediate facelift of the square goes ahead, in order to promote a welcoming and impressive image of the city globally.
Given the timescale and in order to minimise disruption to use of the public realm, the most appropriate option is to resurface the square, re-instate the two grass beds and clean the statues.
This preliminary stage will allow the square to have an appealing surface, which is more complimentary to the buildings surrounding the square. The re-introduction of the grass beds provides much more useable green space within the heart of the City, and as part of the facelift, this will be a suitable time for the statues to undergo cleaning and have their illumination reviewed.

Re-surface

The existing Tarmac will be skimmed back and topped off with a new coating of pigmented epoxy resin binder, dressed with natural or pigmented aggregates, a variety of colours are being considered. This change is to create a more appealing surface treatment and compliment the built environment surrounding George Square.
Where the new surface meets edges like existing kerbstones, imperial measurements, plaques, and grass beds, the appearance will be flush due to the skimming of the existing Tarmac. The new surface will meet the statues with a clean edge but will not be flush due to the raised bases and natural fall in height across the square.
The new surface is durable and suitable for the occasional weight of vehicles and events. Where there are existing inspection covers, these will be surfaced in the same material and be flush with the surface of the square.

New grass beds

The locations of the new beds will allow sufficient pedestrian access between their kerbs and statues on the West side of the square. Their position relative to the perimeter kerb of the square has been defined so that they match closely the positions of the existing beds. The dimensions of the new grass areas are designed to work harmoniously with the proportions of the existing beds. This allows the statue of Robert Burns to be located in a similar position within the grass, mirroring the statue of Thomas Campbell in the existing SE bed.
A new conservation kerb will be used around the perimeter of the proposed grass areas and sit flush with the new surface.
Each of the new areas have been located within existing service and furniture boundaries, e.g. hatches, lampposts, underground ducting, cabling. This will constitute a simpler and more efficient programme of works. All hatch covers within the new grass beds will be turfed on the top surface in order to blend in with the surrounding grass. Each proposed grass area will be connected to existing drainage gullies to prevent waterlogged ground.

Statue Cleaning

The proposal includes a programme of statue cleaning (to be defined), this will happen on-site. No statues will be moved or re-located as part of this process. In parallel to this there will be a review and refurbishment of statue lighting where required.

Access

The impact on the movement of vehicles and flow of pedestrians will be unaltered after the work is completed. The mobility of visually impaired people will be improved due to the new surface, and quality of visual contrast, as per DDA requirements.
During the works there will be no access for the public to the square. The site will be hoarded just outside the perimeter kerb, including parking bays, these areas will be used for the storage of materials and equipment.
There will be no impact on vehicular traffic around George Square. Pedestrian routes on pavements adjoining the buildings surrounding the square will only be disturbed minimally. This will include fencing around button paving to prevent visually impaired people from crossing over to the hoarded site. Pedestrian crossings facing the square will have their pedestrian traffic light signals taped up to prevent access.

Duration of works

The works are expected to commence in July and be completed by the end of September 2013.

BuchananGalleriesExtensionReport

Glasgow Bids to be ‘European Green Capital 2015′

Bailie Liz Cameron on the bid:

“Of course we need our own people to be fully engaged. And to know how much the city is committed to greenness and sustainability. We need them to be working on this in their own community – to be green activists. And to help change the spaces and places so they can be given back, truly sustainable to the people.”

If Glasgow is serious about being a green city, perhaps Liz Cameron should be questioning why her current administration:

• Continues to allow the city’s most famous greenspace, George Square, to be coveted by big business;

• Is currently trying to turn turn North Kelvin Meadow – Glasgow’s largest, non-park, community greenspace – into flats;

• Allows listed buildings like Springburn Public Halls to be demolished whilst supporting the ‘supermall’ development in the Buchanan Quarter;

• Signs the city into partnership agreements with the city’s business lobby, the Chamber of Commerce, who have questionable green credentials – “We don’t want to go down the path of driving the private car out of the city centre”.

Some of the language used on the bid’s website also sound worryingly familiar:

“Glasgow never stands still for long. From the birth of the Industrial Revolution, to its cultural reinvention in the 1990s, our city has continually transformed itself.”

Gordon Matheson, Scotland on Sunday 12 January 2013 justifying his intention to remove the statues from George Square:

“I’m nostalgic. I get emotional about Glasgow’s history. But Glasgow has always reinvented itself, and it ­always must.”

Presumably this same language was used to justify demolishing swathes of the city for the M8 and flattening St Enoch Station to make way for the St Enoch Centre.

Events still the priority for Glasgow City Council as RIAS look to blame Matheson

Hot on the heels of yesterday afternoon’s document outlining Glasgow City Council’s revised plans for George Square, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland released a devastating criticism of Gordon Matheson’s role in the botched competition process.

The document focusses almost entirely on Matheson and is unsurprisingly uncritical of the RIAS’ own role or the wider City Council. The document, which outlines some of the fees involved – including £19,500 for themselves, even compliments the Council’s handling of the process:

“This was a well run-competition. While the hiccup of the PQQ process was unfortunate, the competition brief and the process were correct and sufficient.”

The document further illuminates Matheson’s bizarre behaviour during the judging process (first described in Tom Gordon’s piece, Sunday Herald 27 Jan). Maybe the most damning new being confirmation that the much publicised ‘wider public consultation’ was to be ignored by the judges:

“He [Matheson] proceeded to re-emphasise the importance of the competition for Glasgow and as key to his own agenda as leader and pointed out that, although there had been much public comment on the submissions … this should not influence the judging process.”

“… it appears that, for whatever reason, Councillor Matheson had selected his own winner at the outset and reasoning by a very experienced group of judges did not persuade him otherwise.”

Matheson (with almost humorous timing) was quoted today in the Evening Times:

“The people of Glasgow were very vocal throughout the design competition that they did not want a radical redesign of the square.”

“They wanted the statues to remain, the grass to stay and the red Tarmac to go. We listened to their views and have responded.”

While the RIAS look to lay the blame for this botched competition at the door of Gordon Matheson perhaps they and Glasgow City Council should also be questioning why it was decided, from the outset and without ‘robust‘ consultation, to use public money to realise the commercial vision of a George Square designed primarily for marquees, portaloos and crush barriers. The latest committee document appears to confirm Glasgow City Council are still relentlessly pursuing this agenda.

GeorgeSquare21March

Yesterday’s Facebook link to the Evening Times’ story about SPT’s bid to block the Buchanan Galleries ‘supermall’ project prompted Councillor Nina Baker to make the following comment:

“This news story is actually more significant than you are giving credit for. The SPT board is Labour-led, ie the same folks who promoted the BG expansion and the TIF as “Good things for Glasgow” and, hence by extension, for the square. So, if they are speaking out against the BG expansion this means there must be a change of heart in the depths of the administration…”

The Labour Councillors at the heart of SPT include George Redmond and Jim Coleman – involved in a scandal of their own over the £500,000 payoff of ‘poverty charity boss’ Ronnie Saez.

What the implications these latest developments have for George Square, Glasgow Labour, and the city as a whole it is uncertain. However, with the Scottish Labour Conference in April looming it is expected events in Glasgow over the last year will form a large part of the discussions.

This article is by Richard Waite and appears in the Architects Journal

The controversy surrounding Glasgow’s George Square overhaul has ignited again, this time over the timescale for any future revamp

Last month the city council decided to scrap a high-profile international competition to mastermind a £15 million overhaul of the square for a scaled-back, in-house refurbishment which could be delivered in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

However, according to The Herald, sources within the local authority claimed there was ‘an increasing likelihood of little, if anything, changing in Glasgow’s main civic space by next summer amid concerns of the durability of a new surface, timescales and engineering headaches thrown up by the square’s slope’.

In response the council insisted some work would be carried out over the next year. A spokesman said: ‘We are currently examining options to establish a design for the refurbished George Square. However, it is clear that the red tarmac will be replaced before Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.’

Meanwhile John McAslan, who won the original contest before the plug was pulled, met with local people yesterday morning (18 February) to discuss any future development of the square, promising to pass on the findings to council leader Gordon Matheson.

McAslan will be meeting Matheson, who effectively spelled the end for the contest after disagreeing with the other judges (AJ 28.01.2013), in the coming weeks.

McAslan said: ‘What I want now to happen for something positive to emerge for George Square. I can’t think of any other way of achieving this than by keeping the dialogue going.

‘If people forget about it, that’s when nothing happens.’

‘The people in Glasgow are a vociferous bunch – they have a view on everything.  That’s what makes it exciting.’

He added: ‘We are not looking to persuade anyone our scheme is the right solution. What is important is keeping the process alive.  We didn’t refer to our design.

‘The world is littered with competitions that go awry – this situation is not unique to Glasgow. But I’m trying to keep the process going. I wouldn’t be doing it unless I felt strongly about it. I from Glasgow and at a point in my career where I can take the initiative and hopefully something positive can emerge.’

‘There was a wide range of views but everyone there agreed something musty happen with the square.  There was a general opinion that the extent of the landscaping should be returned to the region of that in 1870s.

‘Almost everybody agreed that the pink tarmac should be replaced but not one felt that all the sculptures had to be retained.

‘There was however a strong feeling that it should be kept a civic rather than a commercial space.’

‘We agreed to circulate what was discussed to see if it accrutately reflected what was said then we will take ti to councillor Matheson.

Would it be an underestimation to suggest the George Square fiasco has shone a light on a general malaise in local Glasgow politics?

The Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games were shrouded in controversy and with just over 500 days until the games come to Glasgow, it is difficult to feel any confidence in those running our local government and some of the key organisations which help form their decisions.

Tom Gordon’s piece in the Herald (with unnamed council sources) may have accurately reflected Gordon Matheson’s worrying personality traits or represented more political power-plays and infighting within the current council administration. Either way it is immensely embarrassing for the city:

“a f***ing disaster… It was all vanity stuff. Matheson probably wanted his name in George Square somewhere. It’s like Carry On Council sometimes. You couldn’t make it up.”

“Cllr Matheson had an idea, included it in his manifesto, and then decided that it was his way or not at all. It’s a flagrant waste of public money.”

At the 15th State of the City Economy Conference at the end of last year Matheson told the audience:

“You may recall that I ended my speech in 2011 by saying that I’ll see you all next year. Well here I am. Following a decisive election victory in May, which has secured a very stable 5-year majority for my administration.”

Gordon Matheson won his seat in the Anderston/City ward with barely over 1 in 20 of the electorate voting for him. The turnout reflected very poorly on all parties, with a turnout of just 23.6% (apologies for the wiki source, GCC have yet to update their website…). These diabolical figures barely improved in other wards with an overall turnout of just 33%.

Since their election victory in May the Glasgow Labour website appears to have disappeared completely. The @glasgowlabour twitter account has not been updated since September.

According to one follower of facebook.com/restoregeorgesquare, Councillor Archie Graham has been justifying prioritising George Square’s use as an events space:

“Although 4,000 people may have signed a petition to restore the square, the Council had to ‘bear in mind’ that 78,000 people applied for tickets to the Christmas light switch on last year, thus proving the existence of a clear preference amongst the people to see George Square maximised as an events space, per the administration’s agenda, as opposed to seeing the square restored.”

This sentiment is echoed by Jane Laiolo of Development and Regeneration Services, Glasgow City Council, who sits on the George Square Project Board:

“I would suggest that many thousands of Glaswegians do in fact care about George Square being used as an event space. Events like the Christmas Lights switch on are oversubscribed each year by many thousand.”

The Christmas Light switch on referred to here is now a largely commercial affair with those being directly involved including: Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow Life, Buchanan Galleries, St Enoch Centre, Argyll Arcade, Frasers, Hamleys, John Lewis and Princes Square. (More on GCMB and GCoC here)

The fact our councillors and members of of the George Square Project Board are now using ticket demand numbers for a one-off free Christmas retail-led event to justify ignoring public consultation and public petitions is the clearest indication yet that George Square is no longer considered a public space by those who have been entrusted with its care. It also lends weight to the theory expressed by council sources in the above Herald article that the reprieve for the statues was nothing to do with public pressure and everything to do with petty egos and party politics.

When we put our concerns to Jane Laiolo about the flaws in the argument of using retrospective usage/footfall figures to justify controversial developments and demolitions we were told:

“With regard to the M8 and St Enoch parallels you draw, I would only point out that not everyone in this city would agree with you.”

The natural progression of the prevailing ideology being employed by our councillors and influential organisations suggests that greenspaces and other public spaces and amenities are now in immediate threat. Heritage and greenspace, etc, do not convert easily into cash or footfall figures for businesses so are effectively worthless (unknown, lifeless relics, from a bygone era) to our councillors and the commercial interests they represent.

Email your councillor here