Submitted ahead of the Public Inquiry 21 October 2014
7 August 2014
STATEMENT OF CASE REGARDING THE CITY OF MANCHESTER LIBRARY WALK FOOTPATH, MANCHESTER CITY CENTRE PUBLIC PATH STOPPING UP ORDER 2014
I wish to object to the closure of Library Walk, as a Manchester resident and library user for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe its proposed closure represents a loss to the public realm of the city. Secondly, the manner in which it is being carried through sets a very bad precedent for the protection of public space. Lastly, the link which has been constructed across the right of way damages the architectural integrity of one of the finest ensembles of twentieth century urban design in Manchester.
Having reviewed the statement produced on behalf of Manchester City Council I have the following points to make.
Improving Access to, Interconnectivity between, the Central Library and Town Hall Extension
In the Council’s statement (4.1.1) the original Library entrance is referred to as a ‘bottleneck’. Bearing in mind that the security of the Library collection is a significant factor in controlling the exit points the new link is itself likely to produce more ‘bottlenecks’. Presumably there will have to be security barriers from the Library building, and there will be users pausing to decide whether the services they require are located in the Library or Town Hall Extension, interrupting the proposed flow between the two buildings. There will also be the continuance of pedestrians and mobility impaired persons exercising their right of way along Library Walk while negotiating two sets of doors. This situation would appear to be the definition of a bottleneck, especially as the Council’s statement anticipates increased use of Library Walk during opening hours.
Visible New Entrance
While the statement makes the claim that the new link will improve access to the Library and the Town Hall Extension it would appear to be a contradiction that the new link is described (4.4) as ‘unlikely to have any visual impact’. Given the importance placed on the siting of the new tram stops and the importance of visibility from them, the present entrance to the Town Hall Extension and the magnificent portico of the Library will remain the more visible entrances to both buildings.
Retaining Library Walk’s Architectural Heritage
The premature construction of the glazed link has allowed some chance to assess the damage done to the seamless experience of Library Walk enjoyed by Mancunians and visitors for several decades. Broadly the link is darker and heavier than pre-construction images indicated. The intrusive ceiling of the link blocks a key view of the sky, and the reflections in the curved glass walls create a degree of distracting visual disturbance which introduces an alien element into the prospect from St. Peter’s Square. It is reassuring that the effects of this unfortunate construction can be reversed as described under 4.4.
Crime and Disorder
The potential risk of crime and anti-social behaviour which is cited as a reason to close Library Walk between 10.00pm and 6.00am every night will surely be minimised by the 24 hour Greater Manchester Police presence in the new facility within the Town Hall Extension itself, on the corner of Mount Street and Lloyd Street (4.6). If incidents occur the police response should therefore be speedier and it might be assumed that the GMP presence on site will itself have a deterrent effect.
Because the planning proposals to construct the Library Walk Link were published sometime after the footpath was closed for the building works related to the listed buildings, the route was already effectively closed meaning that the full impact the proposed arrangements would have was obscured. The premature construction of the link has alerted many individuals to a potential loss of their rights of way.
It is unclear what the situation will be regarding the opening of Library Walk on Sundays and Bank Holidays when the Library and Town Hall Extension are both closed. It would be useful if this could be clarified during the Inquiry.
Eamonn Canniffe MA Dip. Arch. (Cantab)
photograph: Rebecca King