SkyscraperCity Forum banner

Open Space in Central Manchester

7129 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.
61 - 80 of 83 Posts
The problem I have with Piccadilly Gardens, and it's a point I remember raising before, is that it's too messy. The roads around the gardens are chaotic, there are the bus and tram stations on one side which the "pavilion" doesn't completely mask and then you've got the overhead tram wires. While Hulme Park is in a busy, built up area, it's large enough and has enough mature trees for this not to encroach too seriously on the park space.

The only way Piccadilly Gardens could become a pleasant public space (imo) is for the roads, buses and tramlines to be rerouted. While that *is* in the realm of the council, it would also be prohibitively expensive and a logistical nightmare. It's a pity that Piccadilly Gardens is the square most people see when in Manchester while St Ann's Square, Parsonage Gardens, St John's Gardens and the like often go unnoticed to visitors.
That sounds good Griff. It doesn't sound prohibitively expensive to me. OK I don't know all the details and maybe they couldn't do everything, but they could do something.
No I totally agree - the council should do what they feasibly can to improve it, although it might raise a few issues.

They would need to overcome the political embarrassment of changing something they spend 12 million quid getting so badly wrong. I agree that they should nevertheless swallow their pride and do it - should funds be identified that can in some significant way enhance the landscaping treatment.

Regarding the built environment they can put into effect a long term strategy to deal with this. They have power and influence over strategic issues - including design. There is nothing stopping them putting into place, alongside the private sector and the general public a long term aspirational vision for the gardens and the wider Piccadilly area - what they should be aesthetically, economically and functionally. With this in place they are in a position to steer development along these lines. But first they need to actually have a vision - something to aim for and focus minds otherwise we will continue to see peacemeal, poor quality, unco-ordinated development. Im not sure the Piccadilly Partnership has such a long term strategic vision - particularly for the gardens themselves.
Let me rephrase the point I've been making in case you missed it:

The council don't own the buildings and they don't have the money to do anything about them. So they can't get them right. Whilst they might encourage change, this would take time, so in the meantime should they plant screening trees? Like on your Hulme Park picture? Should they try to do what they can with the landscaping? Should they try to get it right? Or should they do nothing to the flat bleak concrete wasteland they created out of Piccadilly Gardens because surrounding buildings don't "properly define the space" ?
Sounds good. Thank you for that response SleepyOne.
If only they moved all the Oxford Road buses down Yourk Street or somewhere else similar instead.
This was is in the Citylife magazine today. Citylife is going to stop being printed next week on 7/12/05 because lack of sales. Anyway

Look around you. Construction of identi-kit apartments in the city shows no sign of overheating and the prices are falling. So who exactly are they building for, ask Phil Hamer.

No one seems to better express the pros and cons of living at the moment in the city centre Manchester than hotel workers Joao and Naomi. They both bought apartments a year ago in the Northern Quarter. For Joao, who is Portugesse, has had all his expectations fulfilled:
"For a while, i lived in Ardwick and i was burgled a lot so i didn't feel safe. I do now and i'm also within easy walking distance of my work. I also believe that the area where i live around Oldham Street is on the way up and it helps the city if people make thier homes in it. This apartment living is happening all over Europe and i've visited friends in Porto and Barcelona who have flats as i do. At my age," Joao is 23, "living like this suits me perfectly."
Naomi admits that she wished she'd been more careful shelling out her £125,000: "i did't realise how stifling it was going to be inside my flat in the summer we've just had. Friends envy me because i'm so close to clubs and bars and they say how convenient it is for my work, but in a way it's too easy because I opt to work longer or more shifts. I feel like a guinea pig and may flat's my treadmill. I get off it and go to work. I want to seel it now. One of my friends bought a decodent terraced house near Bury for the same amount I paid for for my place and she's really happy. She can relax in her garden on a nice day. Manchester has too few convenient green spaces."
She is also convinced that 40 is probably the cut-off age for city living. She says that she doesn't see families wanting these flats because at the moment there are hardly any doctors surgeries and schools and creches in the city centre.
Manchester is currently infatuated with apartment construction. The population of the city centre is set to expand from the current 15,000 to 45,000 in the next 10 years and the relevant local authorities in Manchester, Trafford and Salford are proud of this proposed expansion. it's when you realise that the city centre lacks a mature, well-established social infrastructure that misgivings arise. One experienced property developer said he feared a national economic downturn in a few years time could usher in a public spending slashing Tory government that would plunge city centre expansion of any type into chaos.
"For many, city centre apartments offer a major share in a lifestyle dream," says 70s folk singing icon, writer and actor, Mike Harding, who currently hosts a successful Radio 2 folk music programme. "I bought into that vision myself, if you like, 11 years ago when I was impressed by the way bookmaker Jim Ramsbottom developed the old warehouses near Dukes Quay much along the lines of the brilliant saltaire development near Bradford.
Harding bought a flat in the attractive and well planned Catle Quays complex.
"I wouldn't choose to by now", he says as he fires himself up to totally condemn the city counsil's fostering of apartment building. "Money dominates and every patch of green is developed. Flats mean revenue from people.
Never mind that there are no schools or health facilities -that's the council's attitude. We have the least amount of green spaces than any European city. Did you know that a third of Berlin is parks? I've found this out because I travel to many of these other cities.
I'm afraid this is all i can fit on the thread sorry!!!
I totally agree about the lack of green space in Manchester.

Aside from Piccadilly Gardens, I think St Peter's Square could do with a complete rethink. St Peter's Square could be awesome. On the west side, you've got four of the best buildings in the whole of the city (Midland Hotel, Central Library, Town Hall and Town Hall Extension) and it's crying out for a nice wide expanse of park with a couple of open air cafes so that people can properly appreciate these architectural gems. Instead, it's another open space that's flooded with buses, trams and other traffic.

Sorting out this and Piccadilly Gardens would knock the "lack of green space" argument completely on the head.
I've got it. Get rid of the buses, trams and roads from Piccadilly Gardens, then swap en masse the buildings in Piccadilly Gardens for those in St Peter's Square (like a larger scale version of the moving of Sinclair's and the Wellington). Bingo. A fabulous public space that would be one of the first things visitors would see upon entering the city! And you'd have the Britannia Hotel to throw into the mix.

I'm in the wrong job.
Spot on with St Peters Sq Cantagriph.
It's a tram stop and a walk through tis all. And such views like you pointed out.
High time this thread was resurrected.

From the Metrolink thread, Liam's post.....

I think the quality of tarmac/paving on roads and pavements is vitally important to the appearance of a city. Let's be honest, the road surfaces in Manchester City Centre are mostly appalling. The rough, patched up roads look very bad in the rain.

I couldn't agree more. This is an extension of previous points made about the complete obsolecense of those tiny roads you see where you have 1m of useless and poorly surfaced raised pavement area, double yellow lines either side and little more than a car's width of roadway.

Why not extend the shared roadway / pavement homezone concept...? Why do we put up with those awful tarmaced pavements? Why not follow the continental model of paving which utilitses attractive quasi-ceramic or coloured concrete tiles which have the advantage of being easily pulled up and repositioned for the inevitable sub-surface utility works and are which are one hell of a lot more attractive solution than relaid tarmac.

Small details such as these make such big difference and in turn make the city a more liveable place.
Absolutely. It improves the quality of driving apparently too.
I agree too. Though, to be fair, the quality of a lot of the paving in the city centre is pretty good.

Last time I was in Liverpool I really noticed the difference. All the great buildings in Liverpool city centre are let down by the pavements and pedestrianised areas being surfaced with tarmac and/or cheap looking flags.
You should be aware that all the pavements in Liverpool are being resurfaced at the moment. Until it's finished they're a horrible mishmash of bricks, broken flags and tarmac.
Fair enough! I heard something on the news about a massive overhaul of the city centre, so that would explain it.

The point remains, though, that I'd never really thought about something as trivial seeming as what the pavement is made of, but it really makes a big difference.
havaska said:
You should be aware that all the pavements in Liverpool are being resurfaced at the moment. Until it's finished they're a horrible mishmash of bricks, broken flags and tarmac.
Definitely, I think this is one of the areas that Manchester City Council need to improve dramatically. It's all well and good allowing numerous high rise projects but it's important to look after the city at street level as well, as I think this is where Manchester is at its best. The council needs to be far more imaginative when it comes to paving. We want to be a world class city, we want to attract tourists from across the globe, and not just visitors to Old Trafford. This is all part of it. Like you say, the use of coloured tiles would be far more practical as well as more presentable. The amount of patching up of roads and pavements around the centre is a disgrace. As was mentioned previously, Mosley Street is a prime example- the road surface is shocking, and they haven't even bothered to re-paint the white and yellow lines which are fading and give a appearance of decay and neglect. If they're going to continue using so much tarmac, they should regularly resurface rather than constantly patching up.
SleepyOne said:
I couldn't agree more. This is an extension of previous points made about the complete obsolecense of those tiny roads you see where you have 1m of useless and poorly surfaced raised pavement area, double yellow lines either side and little more than a car's width of roadway.

Why not extend the shared roadway / pavement homezone concept...? Why do we put up with those awful tarmaced pavements? Why not follow the continental model of paving which utilitses attractive quasi-ceramic or coloured concrete tiles which have the advantage of being easily pulled up and repositioned for the inevitable sub-surface utility works and are which are one hell of a lot more attractive solution than relaid tarmac.

Small details such as these make such big difference and in turn make the city a more liveable place.
We can learn a lot from our Brummy friends.
Their public realm is excellent and very high quality.
There seems to be a more than one nano second of thought put into it (unlike in Manchester) and it has paid dividends.
That city was improved 10 fold just by improving the public realm even before they did up the old buildings and started building decent new ones.
You get back soooooo much more than you invest if you get the public realm right.
Bristol aint bad either!
This is one I took when I was in Houston - it looks like one of b4mmy's artistic impressions but it's for real...

I can't help thinking that too much emphasis is being put on the quality of paving and roads here.......you have to ask the question - how much does it really matter? Of course, it matters a great deal to a load of aesthetes, planners and SSC contributors, but in the general scheme of things, Manchester's surfaces ain't that bad.

Take Piccadilly for an example. Yesterday afternoon it was full of life and buzzing with the market, hoards of people and buskers, fountains working as planned and a lot more people sitting down and using the space that you ever saw in the old sunken gardens. It's become a real usable space and the quality of the road and pedestrian areas are fine, considering the constant hammering they're getting.

Compare and contrast with Leicester Sq. Now that it a disgusting rank public space.

Houston. I've always been under the impression that there are practically no pedestrians in downtown Houston or Dallas, partly because of the humidity and also because walking isn't the done thing in much of the US.
The quality of Manchesters paving in the main public areas such as exchange sq, annes sq etc is actually quite good with limestone effect slabs. What I hate is the overuse of that herringbone pattern reb brick paving that you see in almost every town/city centre in the uk and the inevitable accompanying black and gold street furniture WHY? At least the red herringbone brick isn't overdone in Manc.
^^ Glad to see the back of that brickwork on Market street...the cobbles were a massive improvement. I'd like to see more cobbling in fact - it's fits in perfectly with Manchester City Cente, though I'm sure this is very expensive.
61 - 80 of 83 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top