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Stop the demolition of the Concert Hall steps

As you may or may not have heard, the city council plan to demolish the steps at the top of Buchanan Street (a much-used and enjoyed public space in the heart of our busy city), and replace them with a glass atrium. If you oppose this idea, please join our campaign to act quickly: the deadline for public objections to the demolition is TOMORROW, Friday the 5th of December (see below for template letter to save you time). If you are very pressed for time, 38 Degrees have ready-made option for you here:

Then on Saturday the 6th at 2pm there will be a demo at the steps. We’d love to have you along to show the council just how much the steps mean to Glasgow. We anticipate a wide range of community and campaign groups (as well as a speech from Patrick Harvie and music from local buskers). You are actively encouraged to bring teeshirts, banners or placards from your own movement, as well as some declaring your support for the steps. 

Otherwise, we are very grateful for your help in sharing the two above action points (ie. objection messages — with the 38 Degrees link — by Friday, and the demo) far and wide.

With many thanks for all and any efforts you are able to make to save this brilliant civic space,
Save The Steps campaign 

Objection e-mails should be sent to, stating that you are writing about Reference: 14/02569/DC – ie. the demolition of the steps.

And here’s a template letter, which you can prefix with your own ideas and opinions:

4th December 2014 

To whom it may concern, 

I am writing in objection of Glasgow City Council’s current planning application: 

-14/02554/DC: | Mixed use development comprising extensions to shopping centre (comparison and convenience retail floor space), Class 11, Class 3, Class 2, Class 4 and public house uses, erection of entrance atrium, demolition of existing car park, erection of new car park, landscaping, public realm and ancillary works, new vehicle access and servicing arrangements. | Buchanan Galleries 220 Buchanan Street City Centre Glasgow 

I am in opposition of these plans for a number of reasons that clash with Glasgow City Council’s “City Plan 2”. 

In planning application: 14/02554/DC: 

- In “Planning Statement Final”, in Section 3.10, it states: 

“People’s behaviour in many urban areas was often seen to be dictated, either positively or negatively, by the physical fabric within it. If negative, it can influence perceptions of a place, prevent social interaction and dissuade people from walking or being active. Meeting local needs within walking distance of their homes, providing access to good quality greenspace and designing communities to encourage interaction and pedestrian movement are all principles of design that are widely endorsed within best practice guidance documents.” 

Demolishing the steps and replacing them with a glass atrium clashes with the Development Strategy on page 30 of City Plan 2, which states that the Development Strategy seeks to: 

“promote social renewal by enriching the environment of the City and creating attractive living and working environments, improving quality of life.” 

The steps have been a community meeting place for social interaction and encourages people to be active in using the steps to enter to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 

- In Part 2 (Development Strategy Priorities and Proposals) of City Plan 2, it states on page 26, under Urban Design, that: 

“The Plan seeks to secure the highest possible quality of environment and to encourage imaginative and innovative design that respects its context, contributes to sustainability and enhances the City to create safe, successful and inclusive places (see policies DES 1: Development Design Principles and DES 2: Sustainable Design and Construction).” 

This clashes with the article published by respected Glasgow architect magazine, Urban Realm, that highlights how campaigners believe that the proposed glass rotunda is “generic and underwhelming”. The details of this planning application do not explain what will happen with the iconic statue of Donald Dewar, with the article stating that it may be removed and “will be replaced with a circular array of ‘art stones”. 

- In Page 14 of “Planning Statement” (Prepared by GVA James Barr November 2014), in states in point 3.29: 

“The development layout creates a pleasant positive sense of place which is welcoming, promotes visual equality, encourages social interaction, connectivity and considers the place before vehicle movement.” 

However, demolishing the steps, a popular and appreciated meeting area with Glasgow’s citizens would clash with the above Subject Policy and the Development Strategy on page 30 of City Plan 2, which states that the Development Strategy seeks to: 

“promote social renewal by enriching the environment of the City and creating attractive living and working environments, improving quality of life.” 

On top of the above planning applications clashing with the policies outlined in City Plan 2, there are a number of other reasons why the demolition of these steps would be extremely unpopular with Glasgow residents. 

The decision would be undemocratic. At present, this is a key forum for free speech within the city and the removal of the steps would represent the privatisation of a public space. 

The decision to remove the steps and build a glass atrium remains relatively unknown amongst Glasgow residents. There has been a lack of public consultation regarding this. Over 12,000 people have signed an online petition to keep the steps ( and Glasgow City Council have not responded to growing public opinion. 

The decision would affect the character of Glasgow City Centre. Apart from George Square, which is surrounded by continual noise pollution from traffic, there are very few places for resident to meet socially. Glasgow may be known for it’s choice of retail options, but the city loses out to Edinburgh for iconic architecture and cultural areas. 

The decision about the possible removal of Donald Dewar, a key figure in Scotland’s political history, as part of the development, would disappoint and upset residents of the city. 

I sincerely hope you take these key reasons seriously as to why these iconic steps should not be demolished.

George Square Planning Document


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.

A guest blog by Paul McGarry

As a politician I am aware of the need to progress. We are always looking for ways to progress, be it community projects, complex policy negotiations or community development. Progress is a good thing and voters like it when we say we have progressed. Progress is often seen by politicians and voters alike as having a shiny new wrapper. Be it new services, new schools or new hospitals. We like it when we get new things.

When I look at George Square it is clear we need to invest in the development of this space. In my view George Square is not designed for the purpose it is intended to serve 300 days of the year. Its design aids commercial projects and not to provide the tranquil Eden inside a bustling city that it once provided to the generations of Glasweigans before us.

Instead George Square is somewhat reminiscent of a school playground (minus a football). Often groups are huddled with little regard for their surrounding or passing through at a rate of knots on course for their next destination. This is where I think George Square has lost its way. It is not a place to aid reflection and would certainly not be described as tranquil. A contrast to the many small squares of London that provide just this, somewhere you can go to enjoy your pieces.

I have a picture in my home that I am particularly proud of; it is a montage of my wedding. The question is where do I put it? I could put it in the shed, or perhaps I could put it pride of place in my living room. You can make your own guesses as to where I have actually put it.

The same argument extends to George Square, this is a place once held in the highest regard. It is where we have placed our most important monuments and statues. These are not placed here to be kept out of the way but instead as a place to celebrate and honour those who have walked before us. The current set up of George Square does not offer much to celebrate these and it currently doesn’t seem to be in Gordon’s plans. We should have a space that truly celebrates those who our city has chosen to honour. A place that Glasweigans can be proud of, and tourists are in awe of. How does the current set up in George Square reflect this?

So we come back around to the idea of progress, the council and its leader is keen to see progress made in our city. I support them in this. Next year our city will be on the world stage as we host the Commonwealth games. The council is rightly keen to demonstrate the city we have become and how we have transcended through generations of change in our city. We will have new arenas, renewed transport links and new housing, all in time for the Games. My challenge is that progress does not have to disregard the past. We can look to the past for inspiration. I believe that in looking at the problem of what to do with George Square it is the past that holds the answers. This is why I believe that restoration of George Square provides the key to demonstrating our progress as a city.


Please get in touch if you would like to submit an article for this blog.

Six finalists have been chosen in the competition to redevelop Glasgow’s iconic George Square.

 The £15m project fired the imagination of the international design community with Glasgow City Council receiving 35 submissions from as far afield as Australia, the USA and Sweden.

 The six short-listed submissions are:

• Agence Ter (France)
• Burns + Nice (UK)
• Gustafson Porter (UK)
• James Corner Field Operations (USA)
• jmarchitects (UK)
• John McAslan & Partners (UK)

The design competition winner will have the prestigious task of redeveloping the square to further enhance Glasgow’s reputation as an international city.

Each bidder had to answer a pre-qualification questionnaire with a technical panel evaluating entries through seven questions addressing:

• Previous experience in successful design and technical delivery of major public realm work
• Experience of delivering work of a similar scale, value and complexity
• Experience of balancing innovative design and practical solutions
• A history of designing and delivering major event spaces
• A track record of ensuring cost control and delivering value for money in similar projects
• Clear know-how in programming, co-ordination and completing on time projects of a similar size and scale
• Experience of team working and consortium experience of working together

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “George Square’s redevelopment is a hugely exciting moment in the growth of the city as we continue to drive Glasgow forward to meet its future challenges.

“The calibre of the companies competing to redevelop George Square clearly outlines just how iconic it is around the world.

“Each bidder has a wealth of international experience and all six have delivered a number of eye-catching civic spaces acclaimed by their peers and public alike.

“The city attracts thousands of tourists and conference delegates every year, who generate millions of pounds for Glasgow’s economy, and we need to invest in our city if we want that to continue.

“This means it is absolutely essential we choose the very best designer led team to create a new George Square fit for the 21st Century. I look forward to working with the winning design team and the people and businesses of Glasgow to give the city the George Square it deserves.”

The six designs will be displayed in the Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, in early January.

Given the scale of the proposed transformation, statues and monuments – except the Cenotaph – will be removed, at least on a temporary basis, in order that the design and construction can be efficiently carried out. This will also allow a comprehensive conservation plan of statues to be implemented in partnership with Historic Scotland.

It is anticipated that redevelopment work will be carried out in two stages, with the first stage being completed before the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Funding of up to £5m from the overall investment programme will enable early delivery of phase one of the George Square redevelopment with an additional £10m assumed within the Buchanan Quarter TIF Business Case.

Click here for details of the six finalists


Click to read

Courtesy of the Skyscrapercity forum.

There is no doubt that George Square would benefit from a sympathetic revamp (“T in the Park promoter will help choose square’s design”, The Herald, October 6 & Letters, October 1 and 4).

Replacement of the dreadful red surface with quality paving – preferably impervious to chewing gum – and extending between the Cenotaph and the City Chambers would certainly enhance the square. Parking spaces should be removed and the little-used Hanover Street made a dedicated drop-off point for coaches, allowing visitors safe and direct access to shops, restaurants, the Information Centre and George Square. The reinstatement of the lost lawns, trees, and benches is surely worthy of consideration.

There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking within the City Chambers. George Square is so often marred by tents and other paraphernalia. Most events could be more suitably housed elsewhere, such as Glasgow Green for funfairs and pop concerts, and McLellan Galleries for art shows such as the Royal Glasgow Institute. The cost of refurbishment would be a fraction of the proposed George Square work. Surely this substantial amount of money would be better spent elsewhere.

It seems a decision has already been made to remove the statues. If this happens, I have severe doubts they will ever be returned. No other civic space in Britain contains so many statues, and while some may appear to have only tenuous links to Glasgow’s past, all represent a period in the history of the city which is admired by visitors. As for Sir Walter Scott, whose influence on Scottish tourism is widely recognised, it seems that, as a tourist guide, I will be denied the chance to repeat with pride – as I always do when introducing the city – it shows the big-hearted warmth and generosity of Glasgow that a son of Edinburgh is in this most prominent position.

Fionna Eden-Bushell

Gerry Braiden

The promoter of Scotland’s biggest annual music festival, the Scot behind Barcelona’s Olympic village and a top modernist architect are to help decide who will redevelop Glasgow’s George Square.

T in the Park’s Geoff Ellis; David Mackay of MBM Architects, who co-ordinated the development of the 1992 Olympic village; and Professor Andy McMillan, a former head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, will sift through hundreds of applications over the coming months..

Others involved in the tendering process include David Harding, a Glasgow School of Art academic, and the leader of the city council, Gordon Matheson.

More than 100 notifications of interest have been registered with Glasgow City Council in the week since the design contest was advertised internationally by the UK Government’s tendering service.

It came after pollsters Mori found an even split between members of the public who want to see George Square transformed into a green space with increased grass areas and trees and those who see it as a place for events and meetings.

But campaigners have questioned the role of Mr Ellis in the selection process, claiming his involvement suggests a decision has already been made to transform the square into a large-scale commercial events space.

The panel includes Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, as an observer. Mr Baxter was the architect behind the ill-fated plans for a nightclub in the city’s Botanics Gardens.

Details of the selection process come amid an attempt by several opposition councillors to have the square redevelopment plans reconsidered. They claimed there was little time for politicians to consider them before a decision was taken and that too few people have been involved in the process. However, a specially convened committee yesterday disagreed.

The first phase of the square’s redevelopment will be in place for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, creating a blank canvas on which the main redevelopment will take place.

As part of this, all 12 of the statues in the square, some almost 200 years old, will be removed at least on a temporary basis, during which time they will undergo restoration.

Some, if not all, could later be relocated elsewhere in the city.

The panel of experts will make the decision, which will be based on anonymous submissions to avoid accusation of favouritism.

The design brief states: “It is crucial that George Square is considered in the wider urban context. Consideration of the movement of pedestrians, cycles and vehicles on its periphery, and in particular in relation to Queen Street and Buchanan Street, will be central to its success as an urban place.

“Whilst it might not be possible to achieve all aspects of the wider urban re-design for the Commonwealth Games commencing July 2014, it is essential to deliver a practically complete and fully functioning square by no later than June 2014.”

Campaign group Restore George Square said: “The decision to include Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts on the George Square competition jury is worrying, although not altogether surprising.

“This ‘re-imagining’ of George Square should be the central issue and not the deliberate distractions of statues, water features and design competitions.”

A council spokesman said: “No-one is seriously suggesting there shouldn’t be events in George Square. Everyone is clear that these should be of high-quality that reflects the status of Glasgow as a world city and the desires of the people of the city.

“Geoff Ellis knows more about world-class events of large and small scale than almost anyone else in Scotland and including him is the right decision.”

Council sources claim it wants fewer but higher-quality events in the square.