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Library Walk - The Council Response

Manchester dishes out a statement to our story last week

Published on June 11th 2012.

Library Walk - The Council Response

LAST week Confidential expressed it's concern over the imposition of a glass link building and gates on one of the most distinctive thoroughfares in the city, namely Library Walk.

Since the original plans were put forward, considerable thought has been given to how we can best achieve this and we have reached the conclusion that a link building is essential to enable direct, easy flow between the two buildings.

The response from readers was overwhelming.

People were shocked that seemingly from nowhere a planning application had been delivered that compromised a place of beauty in Manchester city centre. 

At the same time a facebook group has been active in campaigning against the scheme - indeed it was the organiser who alerted Manchester Confidential to the application.

You can read our article here, and find the facebook group here

We asked the council why had the application for the 'glass link' appeared so late given we're eighteen months into the project and the same timescale away from completion?

One of the main points of the proposals seen in the 2010 public exhibition was that the two buildings of the Town Hall Extension and Central Library would retain their present appearance externally but be linked by a wide undercroft beneath Library Walk. This would allow people to cross between the buildings in greater numbers and under cover.

We also asked why was the 'glass link' needed at all? If entrances were required then why not propose simply opening them out from the buildings without the need for the new blocking features?

We also asked when the planning committee would be sitting to approve (or not) these plans.

The answer to the latter is an unspecified date in July.

This is the official response we received to the other two questions.

'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. 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. 

'Since the original plans were put forward, considerable thought has been given to how we can best achieve this and we have reached the conclusion that a link building is essential to enable direct, easy flow between the two buildings.

'The principle of a link building was referred to in the public exhibition on the St Peter's Square international design competition but the detailed design was a separate commission which is why it is being brought forward now. The planning application will be considered later this summer and as always we welcome and will take into account the views of interested parties. 

'We believe the link will breathe new life into this space - transforming it from an underused shortcut into a welcoming public space while creating a new entrance linking Central Library and the town hall extension. The new structure will complement the historic buildings it connects while maintaining the distinctive curved form of Library Walk and creating a new Manchester landmark. Views along the length of Library Walk would be retained, 

'Library Walk will remain open to the public 16 hours a day, between 6am and 10pm, and it was very rarely used outside these hours. These proposals will promote access to Library Walk rather than inhibiting it.'

Library Walk 2

Does that answer the questions?


A bit.

Confidential wishes that the council would stop calling Library Walk 'underused' - it makes no sense. It was used all the time, and relentlessly, by people moving between St Peter's Square and Mount Street. And by tour guides, architectural students and lovers of fine things. 

We've decided to ask two more questions.

How much will all the works in the planning application for the 'glass link' cost? That's the glass feature itself, the gates, the long ramps to the new entrance and so on.

Also we've asked how much did HOK International 'earn' from their selective and partial Heritage Statement?

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

Andrea TimoneyJune 11th 2012.

Once again, a selective response from MCC which addresses none of the actual issues raised. And, I wish they'd stop referring to one of my favourite streets in the city as an 'underused shortcut'!

moragJune 11th 2012.

Agreed Andrea. The Save Library Walk meeting last week was very well attended and the facebook group has over 500 members in just a few days, so it is clear there are many people who do cherish this space which is very far from an accident. The campaign has been working on some really creative ideas, however we really need help now

Urgent Action is Required: we were advised we had 8 weeks to object to the plans, we now learn we only have 3 - which means comments have to be in by tomorrow (insert rant about less than transparent planning proceedures here)

Please log in and register your objection here: pa.manchester.gov.uk/…/applicationDetails.do…

and if possible also please cc your letter to the people and places mentioned here:
099352/VO/2012/C1 | CITY COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT Erection of a glazed link between Central Lib

Any support much appreciated, I am gutted that the period to rally support is so short.

AnonymousJune 11th 2012.

Not sure I would have gone with those questions as a follow up. Confidential's demolition of HOK's Heritage Statement raises questions about partiality and value for money, but carping about consultancy fees alone will not actually address the nub of the issue which is the rationale for the design and the principle of the intervention.

The point about there being a more integrated service offer and a million visitors moving between the two buildings does, in fact, provide a great deal of justification for a link building in my opinion. Those million people will need a comfortable, sheltered and convenient route.

That being the case the questions should focus on the basis for these projections and how the chosen design solution was arrived at. Specifically:

How was the figure of a million joint visits calculated.

How many are additional over and above existing joint visits.

What alternative design solutions to a building were considered including for example, a roof or nothing at all?

How were the different design solutions appraised?

What criteria were used?

How were the different criteria weighted?

Given the importance of the two buildings being linked, and given they were both the result of a design competition, was a design competition considered for the link building; if not, why not?

What are the disbenefits of the chosen design solution, including potential reduction in use of Library Walk out-of-hours, increased risk to public safety as a result of creating a dead end out-of-hours? Impact on future potential grade 1 listing?

What risks are associated with the creation of the link building? How will these risks be mitigated?

What were the disbenefits and risks associated with the alternative design solutions? How do they compare with the chosen design?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
UrbanefoxJune 12th 2012.

Completely agree with your comment. While I think Confidential's stance in challenging the closure of Library walk is admirable, they're asking the wrong questions.

I also think that questioning the professionalism of a consultant for providing a Heritage Statement that does not reflect your own views is churlish in the extreme.

That said, the Council's assertion that Library Walk is underused does strike me as being ill concieved and would require evidence. Was a pedestrian footfall survey carried out? If so, when and how often?

Furthermore, as Albert Square is regularly used for civic events that generate high footfall in the surrounding area, such as the Christmas Markets, has this been considered in the resultant design solution?

Personally, I can see the benefit in the provision of some partial glazing to Library Walk, but I don't see why this should provide any impediment at street level. Was a partially glazed design considered, does Confidential has a view on this?

Confidential is usually pretty good at providing insightful opinions into development issue. It's a shame they seem to be going for 'soft targets' in this instance.

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

These might be grounds for consultation Anon But it is a planning application)

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

Urbanfox, if the partial glazing a covering fifty feet up and provided shelter from the rain when walking through there then yes I can also see the benefit of this but this is nothing more than a land grab really linking the council offices to the library.

If anybody thinks that the public will still walk down there (during opening hours only mind) and will walk into teh glass building and out the other side well more fool them.

Most will just think 'oh it's blocked off and will walk round the outside instead.

Maybe a mass walkthrough every lunchtime like the Kinder mass trespass would help!

£170m too!

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

'We believe the link will breathe new life into this space - transforming it from an underused shortcut into a welcoming public space


Firstly it looks a mess and nobody could argue that it looks better with the link than without.

A public space is what it already is and by blocking it off it is no longer a public space. Sure you can walk through it during ceratin times of day but to all intents it is a wall linking the Town Hall to the Libray except it is made of glass. Will people really walk through it? It is like saying that you can walk through the front door of the Town Hall and then turn right and walk out of the side entrance as oppose to walking around. A public space is an open space not a cordoned off area linking the Town Hall to the Library.

Would Albert Square become a 'welcoming public space' if it was glassed over?

As for the rest of the plans it is really jsut a Metrolink Station but somehow is described as a 'world class public square'. I didn't realise the cenotaph was to be moved and then I read that it would be in a more contemplative space! What next to two trams stops?

Anyway, it waill all go ahead regardless.

Calum McGJune 12th 2012.

Why will it? Jackson's Wharf did not?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

because their are probably no conservation area grounds...Ask the sec of the Conservation area advisory committee. and English Heritage or check what they say in the documentation. Again I mentioned this in a post a week ago. We lost the Civic Soc

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

Ditto on the underused comments. I used it all the time and I dragged visitors across the city centre just so I could show it to them.

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

Like the Government of the day, the City Council are an elected dictatorship. As the client and Authority who will be granting planning permission for this project, there is no doubt in my mind that this will go ahead despite the opposition. Look at the amount of design time that has been spent on it to reach this stage.

It is an unwelcome addition to the city centre environment that will destroy this unique, and possibly only planned thoroughfare in the city centre and well as adversly affecting the integrity of both the Library and Town Hall Extention.

As a proud mancunian it saddens me to say that cities such as Liverpool and Sheffield are and have implemented improvements to their city centres far more successfully than Manchester. The quality of design and finish of the public spaces around Sheffield's Town Hall and Crucible Theatre are excellent and they have a real 'Winter Garden' which we were promised as part of the rebuilding of the Arndale Centre - not a tree in sight!

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

There is one general ground for asking for a postponement since the proposal has not apparently had a period for consultation. This is not necessary but desirable in this area. It won't change anything unless people can come up with usage figures an argument that it is inappropriate.

Opposing Jackson Walk and opposing Origin took many hours, a lot of voluntary expert advice, and with Origin developing alternative proposals. This was possible because there was consultation. The Council admits there was not in this case.

Peter CastreeJune 12th 2012.

There is already a side entrance door from the library onto Library Walk. By opening up as a doorway one of the deep windows in the New Town Hall opposite, people would be able to cross easily from one to the other. No need for any glass obstruction to the thoroughfare. How did we get from one to the other before? By walking out of the library's front entrance and strolling along a few paces to the other building! This method, in addition to the underground link already proposed, should take care of the anticipated hordes of visitors moving to and fro, I would have thought.

Ian ChristieJune 12th 2012.

Surely Phil Griffin's 2008 (?) idea of a glazed roof high up at roof level is the best solution. The walkway would be covered for easy comfortable access between both buildings in all weathers; there could be no doors at each end or glass automatic doors at each end open 24/7; there could be heating if necessary; and the entrances off such an arcade to the Library and Town Hall Extension could be open or closed as required.

AnonJune 12th 2012.

Dark, shaded, and dodgy passageway which smelt of piss most of the time...oh and wasn't someone raped here a few years ago...yeah let's keep it as it is!!!...get real people!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

Dark, shaded and smelling of piss describes almost any alley in Manchester city centre at night time. Do you think gating them off is the best solution? How about better lighting? And better public conveniences for our council tax? And regular street cleaning maybe?

Should every street where someone is raped or attacked be closed off? You'd hardly be able to get around town. This will make no difference to women's safety in Manchester. Without meaning to diminish what happened to that woman, searching the MEN website doesn't reveal any other assaults or violent incidents in LW in the last 10 years. Do you not think women should feel safe to go anywhere in the city centre at night?

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

Not to imply that all streets in Manchester city centre are unsafe places to walk down - just that Library Walk is no more dangerous than any other small alleyway.

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

For the City Council to refer to Library walk as an 'underused shortcut' does seem almost disingenuous.

Perhaps I was misguided too, but I also thought the original plan a few years ago made use of upgraded basement level links between Central Library and the Town Hall Extension.

Or, and I concede that this is rather pie in the sky, why not build a bridge over one end of Library Walk to connect the two buildings above ground level in a way that mirrors the solution used in the 1930s to connect the older Town Hall with the Town Hall Extension across Lloyd Street?

Of course it is important for users of Council services, and staff, to move easily and quickly between the revamped Library and the rest of the Town Hall complex. But the functional benefits of this weird and incongruous glasshouse do seem to me to be very marginal indeed. The Council, as owners and occupiers of this part of Manchester's cultural heritage, also have an obligation to protect the aesthetic integrity of Library Walk for future generations. This situation feels like a conflict of interest, and one which should in an ideal world should perhaps be taken out of the City Council's hands.

The two objectives are not necessarily incompatible, although forcing through such a hasty and contentious solution for Library Walk risks overshadowing the excellent result that the project as a whole, at great expense and effort, has the potential to achieve.

Dave MartinJune 12th 2012.

Picadilly Gardens mk 2

Geoffrey EntwistleJune 13th 2012.

I was going to suggest a pedestrian bridge but Anon beat me. A bridge would be an elegant solution and elegant in appearance if designed well.

AnonymousJune 13th 2012.

i really hate our new picadilly 'gardens' it was much better before - whos fault was that mess ?

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

The Council again...Don't maintain them then say they need they are in need of a radical overhaul and sell part of the land to pay for a sub-standard replacement with a fountain that never works.

CharlieJune 13th 2012.

A simple question ...why does it need to be changed......it works now and has for a long time.......if its not broken don't fix it".....

GimboidJune 14th 2012.

There's now a petition online about the plans.
Please sign, and encourage anyone you think might be interested to sign as well - especially anyone who wasn't able to submit comments through the official channel in time.

GimboidJune 14th 2012.

Weirdly the site wouldn't let me post if I included the link in the above comment.


Don AllwrightJune 14th 2012.

'Anonymous' posts should be disregarded!

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

Irrelevant posts should be deleted!

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.

HulmePixJune 21st 2012.

So, on one side we have peeps describing this as "Dark, shaded, and dodgy passageway which smelt of piss most of the time" and Confidential describing it as "a place of beauty". My vote goes to the first one. Cover it up!

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