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Open Space in Central Manchester

7140 Views 82 Replies 34 Participants Last post by  SleepyOne
A common complaint is the lack of high quality open space, particularly green open space in Manchester City Centre. Whilst the city does boast many well designed spaces there appears to be a general feeling that there is not nearly enough - especially given the dense and intensive way the city is developing.

The problem is exacerbated by the characteristically narrower streets in Manchester and the tightly packed central core. Added to this the extremely poor design solution afforded to Piccadilly Gardens and planning blunders such as the Arndale Centre extension which has grossly extended a much loathed shopping centre rather than persuing a streets-and-squares strategy.







Here is the council's response to the problem, prompted by a question posed by a member of the public on their website.......

I think we all agree that open space in a city is very important. The problem is that the tight grain of the City's historic street and development pattern coupled with high land values makes it impossible for the City Council to create new areas of open space in isolation.

However, particularly through our regeneration initiatives, we take every opportunity to add to open space provision in the City Centre and this has made a huge contribution to Manchester's renaissance.. The works in the City Centre Renewal Area, particularly Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens, the Piccadilly Regeneration Initiative, Spinningfields, Great Northern and Castlefield have added considerably to open space provision in the City Centre. We will aim to ensure that future regeneration strategies at Southern Gateway and within the 'Arc of Opportunity' as part of Manchester: Knowledge Capital, make similar contributions.

In addition to this we have upgraded existing schemes and, through pedestrianisation, created areas such as St.Ann's Square, Albert Square, the Peace Gardens, Market St, King St, and Brazennose St. We also have a programme to upgrade existing green areas of the City Centre at Parsonage Gardens, Sackville Park and St. Johns Gardens. We take every opportunity to plant new street trees in the City Centre and attempt to accommodate them in new developments and to create walkways along our rivers and canals.

There are a number of large parks which are within easy walking/ travelling distance of the City Centre such as Hulme Park, Phillips Park, Alexandra Park, and Heaton Park, all of which provide quality resources for City Centre residents.

I think that the way we use the available space in our city is very important. We are attempting to reduce the amount of vehicles in the City Centre by encouraging modal shift to other forms of transport such as buses, walking, cycling and of course, Metrolink. If we are successful in these initiatives we should have a win/win outcome - a thriving, vibrant city but with more of our street space available for use as social space.

27 January 2005





What are people's ideas and aspirations in relation to this problem? Personally I would have liked the council, for once to take an intelligent, long term and strategic view and create a large edge-of-city-centre park like they have at Eastside in Birmingham. Unfortunately with projects like Eastgate set to send land values in Picc Basin skyrocketing and the failure of the council to undertake any kind of long term planning for the area, this opportunity may have passed us by forever. It would also be nice if they took more care with planning decisions which has meant our largest and most important piece of open space - Piccadilly Gardens is aflicted by the worst design solution in the city. Ill conceived and poorly excecuted. Clearly there is plenty of hard, careful work to be done.


So! Thoughts, ideas, opportunities please! We all want an uplifting, liveable city to be proud of. Urban design considerations and particularly the issue of quality open spaces urgently needs to be addressed if Manchester is to continue to attract people and prosper.
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To continue my point.....

I think that a lot of small changes could make a big difference. How many tiny alleyways are there in town? How many dont go anywhere and are little used by vehicles??
The answer is lots.
Look at what has been done elsewhere, especially regeneration schemes in Spain, Girona is a fantastic example.
Pedestrainise these alleyways. If a car/van desperately needs to go down it then they can just like the 'road' infront of the triangle which is used occasionally but is 'invisible' other than the bollards that mark it out.
This would have little impact at each place but would overall make big improvements to the feel of the city.
When your walking around in manchester there are just too many unnecessary junctions. Remove them and you have more time to enjoy your walk and admire the buildings.
Walk up Princess st from Whitworth st to Deansgate on the canal st side. Count how many times you cross tiny roads and think about how many of those roads perform no function whatsoever because they are all parallel to the next one 10m up the road. Ok so the odd van may need to park there to deliver something but removing nearly all of those junctions would make such a differene to the urban environment.
It would be a start. And then we should pedestrainise China Town sqaure and Corporation st but there we are...
And again...

I think the council should start with their own backyard. What is the point of that road inbetween town hall and town hall extension. You cant use it because its got a barrier at one end taking up a lot of space that could be pedestrainised and, bizarrely there is a signalised junction at the other end. What a waste. Delaying traffic flow for no reason. Obviously the pedestrain crossing should be there but the junction is pointless.
We need commitment to pedestrian priority to improve the urban environment in central manchester and soon...
And finally,

heres a good example. Think how dangerous it is to cross from Mosely st to Piccadilly Bus station, infact that whole area is dangerous.
The council is redesigning the road but surely it would have been better to pedestrainise the end of mosley st and send busses down york st and along portland st (where there is already a bus lane). Council would say, cant delay busses as public transport is a priority etc etc... bollocks.
I say, you remove 2 junctions which wil speed up busses and have a time neutral overall effect whilst improving the urban environment and pedestrian saftey, but thats just me.
I think we all agree that open space in a city is very important. The problem is that the tight grain of the City's historic street and development pattern coupled with high land values makes it impossible for the City Council to create new areas of open space in isolation.
I think that a lot of small changes could make a big difference. How many tiny alleyways are there in town? How many dont go anywhere and are little used by vehicles??
The answer is lots.
Look at what has been done elsewhere, especially regeneration schemes in Spain, Girona is a fantastic example.
To illustrate the point:
Look at the quality of paving, the distinct lack of bollards and barriers, the fact the pavement and road are the same and the height difference is minimal








compare that to the crap we have. Take infront of GMex for example. Although its pedestrain friendly in design theres loads of bollards for no reason./ The road and paved area are different heights and the road is a different coloured brick. Its just over designed as so much of what we have is. theres loads of double yellow lines too in paint that is coming of. I;ve seen double yellow lines done in brick before. That was smart.
This sqaure isnt too bad. Its not that it needs grass IMO, more that it needs to be linked in better with the surrounding pavements. ITs basically a traffic island on three sides.
What annoys me most about this area is not the sqaure being 'isolated' as such but the link between the excellent Caltrava bridge and the manchester side.
On the Salford side its wide and opens out to form a nice public area. On the Manchester side its a nice wide path and then it almost apologetically narrows and shifts to the left to make way for a couple of parking spaces.
Compulsary purchase comes to mind.
This is what i've been saying for a while. The Council needs a strong commitment to qaulity public space with the cash to back it up.

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