Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Don't let Council block off Library Walk

How Library Walk looked before
 the Council's £170m refurbishment
 Manchester City Council have submitted plans to block off Library Walk between Central Library and the Town Hall Extension. This is something that I am completely opposed to. I do not think it is right for the Council to be blocking off one of our City's most impressive roads. You can see my representation below.

You can view the Council plans at: http://pa.manchester.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=M40NFJBC6K000. Please let me know if you need a hard copy. I understand that this application will not go to the Planning Committee until the late Summer/September so there is still time to submit a late representation (in support or opposition) to Ms Emily Greaves (e.greaves@manchester.gov.uk). Please feel free to contact me on (07947383740; cllr.v.chamberlain@manchester.gov.uk) if you wish to discuss the application and please also send me a copy of any representation you make. This is the representation I sent to the Planning Department: 

The Council's Vision

I wish to object to the above planning application. I have received numerous representations from constituents about this application and not a single one has been in support of blocking Library Walk off.

Library Walk is a nationally significant example of outstanding urban design. The unusual and unique shape of the space following the curve of the library slowly reveals views of the Cenotaph in one direction and the Friends Meeting House. This is not accidental as described in the supporting documents of the planning application. It is a considered piece of outstanding urban design by Vincent Harris. This well thought out urban design would be destroyed if the above planning application is approved.

One representation I received said:
"Closing the walk is vandalism. It will have a detrimental effect on the Library, the Town Hall Extension and the surrounding conservation area. The views will be lost and the proportions of the space will be changed. Both these Grade II* listed buildings by E.Vincent Harris are widely recognised as being important, with the Town Hall Extension being considered his finest work. Library Walk is not just a gap between the buildings but part of the architectural composition which contributes to the success of this renowned building. We should be learning from this nationally important example rather than destroying it."

The suggested Memorial Gates blocking Library Walk are not an appropriate way of commemorating the Peterloo Massacre. They are not in a prominent location and seem to have been tacked onto the Transformation work as an after thought. Gates closing off one of the best parts of the city to public use and extinguishing a public right of way is an uncomfortable metaphor for a memorial commemorating the massacre of people standing up peacefully for democracy.

Blocking off Library Walk will also create a pedestrian flow problems as it will force pedestrians to walk round a very large 'urban block'. This is currently demonstrated by the closure due to the building works. Permeability of the block is recognised as a critical element in successful urban design. This problem is not solved by allowing pedestrians to cross through the space during office hours.

The Plans are also part of the unacceptable privatisation of public space. There have been suggestions that blocking off Library Walk will improve safety. More accessibility not less makes the city a safer place for women, men and children.

The closure of Library Walk is unnecessary. The design of the refurbishment of the library and town hall extension includes be a strong connection between the two buildings at the lower level. A further connection at street level is not necessary to the success of the scheme but it is detrimental to the city.

I encourage the Planning Committee to reject this application.

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