A public inquiry into the controversial closure of Library Walk between Manchester's Central Library and Town Hall Extension is due to be held this week.
Among the witnesses expected to speak against the night-time closure of the doors through the recently completed structure designed by Ian Simpson Architects that now occupies the space are Manchester School of Architecture and Manchester Modernist Society.
Manchester City Council is seeking special powers under a stopping-up order to lock the automatic doors between 10pm and 6am.
Opponents argue that it is a public right of way and should remain open at all times. Morag Rose, a member of Friends of Library Walk, said: "We are fundamentally opposed to the closure of public space. We believe everyone should have the right to enjoy our cities' streets. Library Walk is beautiful, and of significant architectural merit. We have testimonies from hundreds of people who love and cherish it and want to preserve the right of way for future generations. The council has only spurious arguments, we believe our evidence can successfully challenge every one of them. The closure sets a terrible precedent which blights the cityscape and wastes £3.5m which could have been used to significantly improve the public realm instead of stealing it."
Cllr Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Linking the Central Library and town hall extension as a single complex with integrated, improved services across both is at the heart of their transformation. It is estimated that up to a million visitors each year will use the Library Walk connection once it has opened and so it is important that we create a quick and easy access, but also a striking and ambitious architectural statement.
"We believe the link maintains the distinctive curve of Library Walk while complementing the historic buildings it will connect – transforming an underused shortcut, which many felt was unsafe outside peak times, in to a welcoming walkway, public space and a clear and visible entrance to the complex.
"Under our plans Library Walk will remain open to the public 16 hours a day, between 6am and 10pm. It was very rarely used and more often abused outside these hours. These plans will promote access to Library Walk rather than inhibiting it as it will be a much friendlier place to be."
Author and journalist Owen Hatherley has voiced support for campaigners against the council's decision. He said: "Library Walk is not only an extraordinary architectural space, an effortless transition between a classical library and a gothic town hall, it is also an extraordinary public space, free, atmospheric and wholly unique, in a city which has been lately intent on privatising and filling in all free spaces. In between these two masterpieces of public provision, to shove pointlessly this stunted black glass stub is inexplicable and inexcusable. A council that is – rightly – proud of these buildings should not be reversing the public-spiritedness that lay behind them in the first place."
Witnesses due to speak at the inquiry include representatives from The Open Spaces Society, Manchester and Warrington Quakers, The Twentieth Century Society, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester Disabled People's Access Group, Liverpool School of Architecture, Manchester Modernist Society and Friends of Library Walk as well as concerned citizens and experts in planning, architecture, Manchester history and urban space.
The public inquiry is listed to run for two days on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 October at Manchester Town Hall.