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First City Centre Play Area Completed For Easter

Victoria Street attacked by big wooden creatures

Written by . Published on March 25th 2013.

First City Centre Play Area Completed For Easter

A NEW public space in Manchester city centre on Victoria Street next to Manchester Cathedral opens today (25 March 2013). 

This is another example of underused corners of the city being brought to life.

Alongside the temporary ‘pop-up’ Cathedral (click here), the green area represents the sixth, and most ambitious, Manchester Garden City scheme.

The space includes the city centre’s first children’s play area, complete with a sandpit and wooden play apparatus including a see-saw, snake balancing beam, rope climbing frame and stepping logs.  

Play areaPlay area

This scheme has been made possible through a collaboration between CityCo, Manchester’s city centre management company, Manchester Cathedral, Manchester City Council, Groundwork and architects BDP. 

Also on the site, CityCo have incorporated the allotment-style ‘Grow Boxes’ for residents and businesses to plant their own herbs and vegetables, an initiative already proving successful in Piccadilly Basin and Northern Quarter. 

The garden also includes shrub beds and ornamental flowers to add all-year-round colour and interest, artificial grass with new picnic benches  and a wooden chalet to cater for the Cathedral’s community events and children’s activities. The scheme also sees the introduction of a new cycle lane, connecting Victoria Street to Greengate. 

The temporary Cathedral building will be in place for 18 months. The 22m long wooden structure will host services and events whilst the floor of the main Cathedral is re-laid for a new heating system.

Play areaPlay area

Located just at the end of Deansgate, in the area that was controversially closed to traffic in March 2012, many of the materials are recycled from Chris Beardshaw’s Groundwork Garden at RHS Hampton Court show as well as wooden decking and chalets from last summer’s Canal Festival in Piccadilly Basin, and picnic benches donated by KRObar. 

This Manchester Garden City scheme, led by city centre management company CityCo, design agency BDP and Groundwork, is jointly funded by CityCo, Manchester City Council and Manchester Cathedral.  The Cathedral’s volunteering  groups will maintain the site. 

Cllr Pat Karney, Manchester City Council’s City Centre spokesperson, said: “I hope people think of the area like a European piazza-style square in Italy or Spain - a place to let time slip away, take a break from the busy city and relax. This is another example of underused corners of the city being brought to life, with a real family friendly atmosphere, urging people to make the most of the city centre.” 

Commenting on the scheme, landscape architect Darrell Wilson, said: “We are excited to see the plans for the scheme finally realised, turning what was a large sterile tarmac road, closed to traffic, into a fantastic community resource. Moreover, we wanted to create something different in the city centre that would be both exciting and fun for people, but also something that would be environmentally beneficial for the area. 

Confidential thinks that while Wilson is right about creating a new space in the city he's talking nonsense about transforming 'a large sterile tarmac road'. It was only sterile because it was closed as a road and so cars didn't use it anymore. That's a very odd statement indeed. Silly.

It is also interesting the Council is still hedging its bets over Victoria Street and beneath the skin-deep layer of landscaping the surface of the 'sterile tarmac' is intact. Perhaps the change here may not be permanent?

Still, the introduction of the play ground and gardens, small though they are, is a humanising, civilising and beautifying addition to the city centre. That's to be applauded and welcomed.

Naysayers will say it will be an area liable to vandal attack which is tantamount to saying we should never try to be creative in the city. Let's ignore those pessimists and killjoys. Small kids and families will benefit enormously from this area on city visits.

Generally, with the work over the river at Greengate in Salford, this part of the city centre is starting to look the part for when we get that inevitable sunny, hot, and long summer.


Play groundPlay ground


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

Kevin PeelMarch 25th 2013.

We're very excited about this - we've been campaigning for some time for more green space and family friendly facilities in the city centre. The play scheme is one of three which will open in the coming months and we hope to see many more green schemes brighten up our city centre this year.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.

Nice one. Now can you put a bigger park on the abandoned Origin site on Princess Street/Whitworth Street?

AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.

Yes, please do something about "Origins", it's a hideous eyesore and it hasn't changed for years! A park would be perfect.

Kevin PeelMarch 25th 2013.

Unfortunately no, I can't, because the council doesn't own that site and has no control over what the owners do with it. We're trying!

AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.

Try harder! Surely the planning permission expired months ago?

AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.

"This is another example of underused corners of the city being brought to life" - this wasn't an underused corner - it was a busy through road until the Council decided to deter people getting into to Manchester centre and close the road.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
bellel7March 25th 2013.


AnonymousMarch 25th 2013.


SuzanneMarch 27th 2013.

Couldn't agree more. It was a main road in to the city and the alternate route is ridiculous.

JamesMarch 25th 2013.

Is this the space near Hillquays apartments?if so i agree it needs changing!

1 Response: Reply To This...
James KayMarch 26th 2013.

Nope... it's the opposite end of Deansgate. You must be confusing Obsessions with the Catherdral.

mpedleyMarch 25th 2013.

I've just walked past it. Barely a playground... Where are swings? Where are slides etc? Also, that turf is going to get completely ruined when the heavy rain comes. It already backs up because the drains can't take it all...

KDMarch 25th 2013.

I haven't seen it yet but would imagine the isn't enough space for the more traditional swings and slides. I just think its nice that something positive has been done to get children outside and away from playing on electronic mind numbing anti social gadgets!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 26th 2013.

Says a man using an electronic gadget to comment on a website.

JoanMarch 26th 2013.

Kevin's right. Planning and development is surrounded by legislation. The council can suggest, bring parties together, encourage discussion and partnerships, but it can't dictate what landowners do. A park is an unlikely option as it wouldn't give the landowners a commercial return.

TigsMarch 27th 2013.

Great idea from small acorns bit oaks go. This recognition of providing at least something is at least a welcome but small step in the right direction.

Graham SmithMarch 27th 2013.

If this can be done here then there are other areas that would benefit too. I suggest Sackville Park, the Chinatown car park/square, St Peter's Square, Castlefield on Liverpool Road and Spinningfields.

shkMarch 27th 2013.

Another fait accompli! How are you (whoever you are) going to keep the area clean, ensuring no dog mess etc., apart from other health hazards?

Graham SmithMarch 27th 2013.

How is anything ever kept clean - by cleaning it. That's looked after. Would you rather nothing ever was achieved SHK?

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