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Extraordinary Cost Of Library Walk Revealed

Confidential finds out the controversial blockage will cost £3.5m

Published on June 13th 2012.

Extraordinary Cost Of Library Walk Revealed

CONFIDENTIAL isn't a fan of the proposed 'glass link' on Library Walk. 

The arguments against are here.

An update was made here.

Today we learn that the work to build a ramp, put in the glass features, and the steel canopy will cost in the region of £3.5m. That's without the commemorative gates at the Mount Street end of Library Walk.

If they didn't put the 'glass link' in then £3.5m would be saved. 

The council are keen to stress that this figure is contained within the £150m plus costs of the whole Town Hall Extension and Central Library project. 

But that means if they didn't put the 'glass link' in then £3.5m would be saved. That's a very, very tidy sum.

Indeed the cost of £3.5m is hard to believe for this extra feature. 

The council have released a further rationale for the project today. This comes from the boss.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "The transformation of Central Library and the Town Hall Extension is preserving both buildings for future generations while enabling them to deliver radically improved services.

"One crucial aspect of this is the vision of the two buildings as a single complex, with services more integrated across them. Not withstanding the outstanding architectural merits of the Town Hall extension, it has always suffered from a clearly defined entrance, leading to thousands of residents wandering around looking for the way in.

"It is estimated that up to a million visitors a year will cross between the buildings once they have re-opened and we need to make this movement as quick and simple as possible for them."

Confidential thinks the current entrances should remain the only ones. That huge new passage beneath Library Walk - as originally envisaged - should be given time to carry the burden of the extra visitors. We like Library Walk as it is. We think saving £3.5m is also a good idea.

Maybe the money could be diverted into something that is imaginative and beautiful - perhaps turning the disused Castlefield Viaduct into a Promenade Plantee?

By the way that biased report from HOK we dissected in the original article cost £8,400.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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37 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Morag RoseJune 13th 2012.

How very strange, i've never spotted thousands of lost residents around the town hall - but i have seen many people enjoy the glorious library walk! also, if it was integral to the design why have details only been released now and not included in consultations on either st peter's square or the town hall/ library refurbishment?

Simon BeltJune 13th 2012.

For £3.5m, they could surely retain the thoroughfare and have an elevated glass roof with dramatic suspended palm trees to give the walkway some added presence. As is, it's a way to frustrate people using the public space out of hours and degrading in function. Degrading in function you may ask, but what is the real connection between rent rebates and the library? It is that the elitist snobs who want to stop us using the streets more freely think that we have to be forced into the library after sorting our rent rebate? After all, they wouldn't want us in the rent rebate section after coming from the library. £3.5m of contempt for those on rent rebate, and those using the streets after hours in my view.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SmittyJune 13th 2012.

Think that comment shows you up Simon, and is completely unnecessary, as well as undermining your argument against this scheme. I was raised in an honest down-to-earth working class home and I'm pleased to say that I was surrounded by books as a child We don't need your type to stick up for us, thank you very much. Take your contempt elsewhere.

the Whalley RangerJune 13th 2012.

The funds required to design and construct a top-class glass porch do not surprise me in the slightest. The 3d visuals would make me expect an Apple-store-type entrance or similar:


But is this justified?

I have to disagree with Sir Richard Leese when he says:

'...the Town Hall extension, it has always suffered from a clearly defined entrance...'

Two of its sides face two of the biggest public spaces in Manchester. Of which other building could that be said?

As my alter ego Lord Rogers of Riverside put it:

'Every building in the history of mankind (apart from the pyramids) have one thing in common: they have an entrance.

Both historic and modern day buildings are designed with porticos, ground floor recesses, scaled double height markers and other features to denote 'this is my entrance'.

It's rule number one for anyone trained in architecture: draw an outline of a building and you will instinctively find the entrance due to its inherent configuration.


Adding a half-hearted extra to an existing configuration always makes me cringe, it rarely works well.

But in this instance, it does not stop there. By closing off what is effectively the unique selling point of the town hall extension and the library's configuration, the nature of this unique space will change beyond recognition. No reasoning whatsoever behind this decision will successfully better that fact.'

If the council are concerned about wayfinding, why not strengthen the existing entrances rather than weaken them by an odd addition?

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 13th 2012.

Richard Leese comments that the glass structure will be a link to essentially create one building as opposed to two separate ones as they are now. However, I read elsewhere that the idea is to create a more more welcoming public space. Which is it?

How about £3.5m on a glass Apple store type structure from the Town Hall to the Metrolink stop?

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Anon, why can't it be both? Don't get me wrong, I think this is hideous, but I don't get what you mean by it being either functional or lovely. Something can be both beautiful and useful. Examples would include Central Library itself and an iPhone. This bit of yuk is neither though!

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Looks like a misquote?

From the LACK of a clearly defined entrance??

It's the city, duffusJune 16th 2012.

Anon 1, if Leese were serious that would imply the current grand, totally appropriate library entrance would no longer be the main entrance?

What an absolute total space planning f@ckup that would be.

AnonymousJune 13th 2012.


We are being told that services are being cut to people in poor areas due to the coalition's 'savage cuts' yet this Labour council can find £3.5m for some glass obstruction. I brought the £170m being spent on the Town Hall with a Labour voting friend of mine who said the £170m was for 'essential rennivation'!


AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Neil McInnes, Head of Libraries has always wanted that area sectioned off and glassed in, as he's a big fan of the concept of Third Space. Doesn't sound like he has quite got that vision, but the idea of a glassed in Library Walk was being mentioned at the staff conference in 2010 when the library first closed.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Mate, they've been talking about glazing Library Walk since at least 2008 (when there was an article on Mancon) and it's not been a secret. That plan seems to have mutated into creating a glass entrance rather than a glazed arcade. I know what I'd prefer.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Why is everyone calling it a glass link? The roof's steel. Stainless steel.

Peter CastreeJune 14th 2012.

I am completely in agreement with the comments made by Jonathan above. This latest revelation about the £3.5m cost is nothing less than astonishing. At a time of austerity, here is one very easy way we can save unnecessary expenditure. To propose the spending of such a monumental sum on the needless disfigurement of a much valued space is a scandal. It indicates to me (along with various other such projects) that the city fathers have absolutely no appreciation of what is appropriate for the enhancement of the public environment. I think the determination with which this is being pursued indicates that the contracts have probably already been signed. If it is true that an extra ground level link is likely to be needed (and this is very debatable), the Library's existing side entrance could be opened up and a similar new entrance to the town hall created by opening up one of the windows opposite and adding a simple ramp/staircase to it. No obstruction of Library Walk required. If the City Art Gallery can manage with its current restricted entrance (and I assume visitor numbers were planned for in that case, too), then I am sure the Library and Town Hall will also be able to cope.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Good post.

It beggars belief when it is being put out that 'savage government cuts' are harming local services yet millions are being spent on this piece of glass.

As for easier access and proper entrances well it is easy to decipher where the entrance to the Town Hall is and easy to suss out the entance to teh Library. They are hardly tiny doorways hidden away are they?

You have teh Town Hall, the Town Hall Extension and now the Library which is now possibly a Town Hall Extension- Extension.

MnCon should obtain a breakdown of all costs and ask the council just justify them whilst banging on about cuts and their effects on local people.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

The thing is that with local government financing you can't just say "well, we'll not spend that £3.5m on the link, instead we'll spend it on keeping such and such a service going". That's because there are two funding mechanisms for local government - capital and revenue budgets. Captial is essentially building things, revenue is on running costs for ongoing things.

Councils are legally forbidden from spending capital funds on revenue items and vice versa.

The funding for this programme was all agreed long before all the cuts came in, but even if the council said "nah, we're not going to spend £160m on this (or whatever) we'll spend it on sure start instead". Just can't be done.

But, what this project (I mean overall, not the glass link) will do is improve services and drive efficiency, thereby saving money in the long run. For example, the extension is going to have loads of people working there that otherwise would be in costly rented accommodation elsewhere in the city centre.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

OK but who decides how much goes into capital funding and how much goes into revenue funding?

In other words say you have £1bn is there a maximum of say 10% that can go into capital finding or can somebody say well stick £700m into capital funding and spend £300m on the people?

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

There is always a distinction between capital and revenue costs. Building schools or buying text books and paying teachers for example. It is revenue that has the greatest pinch by far. Capital costs are recovered from future revenues which in this case will include some partner rents as well as the annual accommodation budget for the relevant MCC staff.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

But isn't it a little bit insensitive to splash millions now whilst cutting services? Why not just do the neccesary work and shelve the rest?

My wife lost her job and we have cut back on things that we don't need. She wants to spend more on food, clothes, holidays and but I have told her there is no money in the pot whatsoever and I have blamed the economoy for our predicament.

However, I am adding on an extension to our house to build a games room for when me and the lads get together. She doesn't understand as she thought we were skint. I have explained that it is a capital costs so has nothing to do with cutbacks. That said she aksed why our £87,000 savings couldn't have been used to help buy food rather than the extension.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Interesting analogy Anon2, butit doesn't really stack up the council CAN'T spend the money on services and HAS to spend it on capital. Which may sound a bit mad, but welcome to the world of local government financing. For which you can blame the primary legislature - ie central government - as they are the ones who have set the rules.

Setting aside the glass monstrosity, not quite sure what you mean by "do the necessary work". Both buildings - Grade II listed remember - are currently building sites and have been since before the scale of the cuts came in. Do you just abandon two of our finest buildings or do you make them the assets they deserve to be?

DavidJune 14th 2012.

Manchester council can do whatever it likes,and knows it,because it's citizens will vote for it no matter what it does.Manchester Confidential itself seemed overjoyed at the domination of Labour in the last local elections and that one of its writers was elected as Labour candidate.
Now you are all complaining?.Well why don't you try bothering to vote and not for the Labour Party.Lets face it when Manchester was a truly rich city and most of these historic buildings were built,it was not under one party Labour rule.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Its not really an issue of who the ruleing party is all about the lack of an efective oposition, ie one that can reasonably suggest it might win the next election. Without opposition councils and governments will always do as they please.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

What a load of rot David. First of all, democracy works by people voting and if people choose to vote for a party that you don't like well, tough. Try and persuade us. Plus the councillors are smart enough to realise that actually they shouldn't take their electorate for granted. So for example, the baths in Levenshulme were going to be closed. The local people kicked off, the council listened and are now going to build a new swimming pool. The other result of that is that there's now only one, last solitary Lib Dem in Levenshulme where it used to be a stronghold for them. Maybe that's what's got you sore?

Another example, the council was going to cut funding to the jazz festival. Festival fans organised themselves, and did a proper campaign to get funding. Result? The council listened. Other events weren't so fortunate.

In other words, organising a campaign can work.

But simply whining that the council does what it likes is an obtuse position to take. That's maybe why the Lib Dems have done so badly in the city over the past couple of years. No solutions, just whining.

Calum McGJune 14th 2012.

I think you'll find Marc Ramsbottom (Lib Dem) did an awful lot, actually. (And I am not normally a LD voter. Just saying!)

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Ali, I honestly think you would struggle to find too many people - whatever their political views - in Manchester City Council who have had to work with the Manchester Liberal Democrats who would agree with you. They are horrendous and deliver next to nothing. I think that city centre residents who have had issues to raise with the council will have found that the new labour ones have been a lot more responsive than their Lib Dem predecessors.

AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

ANON, therein lies the problem. People don't vote.

Take the election result in the city centre. Out of a population of 18,000 on 1,800 voted so a ten per cent turn out. The winner got 704 votes. Do the math.

Ancoats 23% turnout, Ardwick 18%, Baguley 21% etc.


AnonymousJune 14th 2012.

Why not build a bridge across at higher level, like the one between the town hall and extension?

URBANEFOXJune 14th 2012.

I, personally, like the idea of investing in Library Walk to provide a better functioning public space. I also think providing a ground floor linkage between the Library and the Town Hall extension is worthwhile. Library Walk has significant potential and making something safer and easier / more enjoyable to use strikes me as a good investment. If the Council wishes to invest £3.5million to achieve this in the best possible way, then great!

What is being proposed by the Council is however an absolutely terrible idea. I can't see any possible reason for the impediment of Library Walk at a street level. I don't see why the Council's aims for this space could not be achieved with partial glazing and better lighting. It might even be cheaper too (although that's not really my point).

Library Walk deserves the best possible design solution and to do that the Council should have consulted the public.

Dan PJune 15th 2012.

An outrageous proposal. This is an architecturally outstanding space; granted - it needs some attention to paving and street furniture, but it's a fantastic place to admire two of the most significant buildings our city has to offer. To go ahead with this abomination would be a huge mistake - open the Town Hall extension on to the Library Walk, but don't close this unique aspect to residents and tourists alike by destroying the space with glass and steel gates.

If the council have £3.5M to spend on public realm improvements, let's use it on other spaces - I suggest Piccadilly gardens - an embarrassing welcome to our fine city.

AnonymousJune 15th 2012.

If the problem is the lack of a clearly defined entrance, why not put up some signs? Sure you could get a lot of sign for £3.5m

AnonymousJune 15th 2012.

...and to my eyes, that glass 'thing' doesn't look like a clearly defined entrance either in any case!

Don AllwrightJune 15th 2012.

As I've said before - Anonymous posts should be ignored!

Poster BoyJune 15th 2012.

why does this Council think it acceptable to appropriate 'public' thoroughfares for it's own 'private' use? First Lloyd Street and now Library Walk...

Poster BoyJune 15th 2012.

...and how Simpson can believe this is an appropriate architectural response tells it's own truth...

Manc GuyJune 18th 2012.

Who are these people that require 'direct, easy flow between the two buildings'? One's a council office and one's a library. Why on earth does anyone feel the need to 'unite' the buildings with a spacious glass structure. They're not adding anything to the designs of both buildings, because they're glorious just as they are.

1 Response: Reply To This...
CobbydalerJune 18th 2012.

Well said. I think it's just an excuse to gate off an area that they can't be bothered to maintain to a decent standard.

FridaJune 19th 2012.

Keep this precious space unencumbered

Ghostly TomJuly 20th 2012.

I fail to see why it's needed. Isn't the entrance on St. Peter's Square big and impressive enough? And aren't the two buildings going to be linked under Library Walk anyway?

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