From 1999 to 2002 Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens were completely remodelled in a stark Modernist style with an office building constructed on green space at the Portland Street end, and a concrete pavilion wall next to the bus stops and Metrolink stop.
When I first saw the plans in City Life magazine I was horrified. I couldn’t believe that they would wish to put buildings on a park including a stark concrete wall.
I wrote a letter to object to the plans along with a lot of other people but the objections were overruled and the plans went ahead.
Since then it has become clear that most people don’t like the new gardens. A survey in the Manchester Evening News confirmed this fact. The only people who don’t seem to realise the failure of the new gardens are those at Manchester City Council.
Whenever I go into the city centre, I prefer to avoid Piccadilly Gardens
I often visualise them as they used to be: a cheerful place where shoppers and workers strolled along pathways or sat on benches, enjoying the colour and scent of flowers.
Celebrated on post cards, painted by LS Lowry, used as a backdrop in family photos, including my own, it was a public park as big as one of the London squares, overlooked by classic facades on three sides and the futuristic Piccadilly Plaza on the fourth.
It was a place where greenery co-existed happily with buses.
And then in 1992, a new tram system was opened, a big step forward, yes, but the lines took away some of the space around the edge of the Piccdilly Gardens. Manchester City Council neglected the Gardens and allowed them to become run down. Because they were run down, the council said ‘environmental improvements’ were needed and they gave us what we see today.
In late 2014 a spokesperson for the Council admitted that the Gardens needed to be ‘spruced up’. In my opinion there is only one solution to the problem of the new Piccadilly Gardens and that is tear down the concrete wall and pavilion, demolish the office block and start again.
Many people are saying an apology is needed. After 15 years I can honestly say I hate what the planners at Manchester City Council did to Piccadilly Gardens and I know that a lot of people agree with me. P
I will continue to campaign against the council’s destructive policies and hope for change in the future.