Picc Gardens
Calls for improvements to the gardens have been ongoing for years

Manchester invites Piccadilly Gardens input

Neil Tague

A long-awaited public consultation has opened to help shape future design proposals for the much-criticised public square and surrounding areas.

The eight-week consultation covers an area centred around Piccadilly Gardens but also including Piccadilly, Mosley Street, the Parker Street bus interchange area and Market Street in the city centre. Manchester City Council had initially hoped the consultation would launch before the end of last year.

In pre-Covid times, more than 150,000 people per day passed through Piccadilly Gardens. But the area has been neglected in recent times and become a hotspot for crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour. The council has been working with landscape architect LDA for more than 12 months to look at the different functions the area serves and how it might be improved.

The council is now inviting people to share their thoughts and aspirations for the area as it seeks to meet its goals including “designing out” crime and other issues and bringing in more of the elements that people want from a city centre public space.

Along with asking for ideas on the type of features and events the area should house, the questionnaire accompanying a virtual exhibition floats the possibility of reducing the volume of bus services on either side of the gardens, both at Parker Street and stops around the foot of Oldham Street.

The survey is now open and runs until Sunday 21 March.

The consultation process, heavily trailed at various points in 2020 following the January appointment of LDA, follows the demolition of the freestanding part of Tadao Ando-designed wall in November last year – the first stage of the Piccadilly Gardens improvement process. 

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The Piccadilly area is an important part of the city that has enormous potential and attracts strong opinions. We know it can be better and we are committed to bringing forward improvements.

“The plans we ultimately will bring forward will be about creating a modern Piccadilly area that includes a friendly, lively and welcoming public space designed to balance the different functions it serves.”

Leese said there is not a “completely blank canvas,” and outlined that the project will have to work around tramlines and statues and the pavilion building owned by LGIM Real Estate. He concluded: “We can and will be imaginative and seek to deliver a public space set in a vastly improved streetscape.”

Speaking to Place North West, LDA Design director Mark Graham said the firm would focus on creating a “welcoming, enhanced space” and hopes the period of public consultation will inform the design brief ahead of the submission of concept designs later this year.

Your Comments

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Get rid of the water feature in the gardens, the children jump into it and the paedophiles with their cameras take pictures of young children. Parents oblivious to it all, otherwise you need security guards around to stop it. Sad to write this but its happening.

By Marie Dunn

Something iconic needs to happen here

By Anonymous

Move the bus stop. Very simple.

How many other cities have a bus stop in their main town square?

By Brian

Put gardens back as they were in the 70s

By Anonymous

It would be good to get rid of the bus station but it isn’t so much about the design it’s the people who frequent the area. Until the police and the council sort out the problem of rough sleepers, criminal and antisocial behaviour any redesign will be a waste of time and money.

By Anonymous

Think big. Pretend you are Elon Musk. Knock down that office block on the eastern edge (for the common good). Make it a proper public square. A proper place. And Brian is right: that bus station should be moved. Turn that square into a park. Is there a bus station in Hyde Park?

By James Yates

Bring back the old Piccadilly garden with the flower gardens

By Estelke Beninson

They need to stop building on it for starters.
Short term the bus station needs to go, long term the tram tracks need to go underground.

By Good luck

You could make it the nicest looking town square in the world it won’t stop the problem which is the antisocial behaviour and rough sleepers. A constant police presence should be required, people breaking the law should be removed and rough sleepers moved to suitable accommodation!

In terms of design, I think the bus stations should be moved and ‘the wall’ & betting shops replaced with high end bars/restaurants to spruce up the area and help continue Manchester’s push to become a modern, developed and wealthy city that can compete with London. In an ideal world the metrolink should be in an underground tunnel but I understand this is a fair few years off.

By M

In an ideal world the bus stops would go (they always attract asb) get rid of Piccadilly Plaza and hotel and plant more tree’s. I know they cant get rid of the other part of the concrete wall which is a shame.

By Jon P

This looks a lot nicer than what is there currently. As someone mentioned though the issue with this area is really the night time crowd.

I think reinstating the old gardens would be best.

By Chris

It’s the people that are the problem, and Manchester’s woke police force

By PDM

First of all make sure it has a police presence with a dedicated police station, manned 24 hours aswell.

By Pete Foster

Its almost comical how unpleasant this area is – this scheme would be a marginal improvement at best.

Area suffers from multi-faceted problems that design alone cannot address, although a good design is a necessary part of the solution. Agree with other comments to think radical – aspiration needs either be (1) a pleasant public square or (2) a hidden oasis – what we have is an unfocussed mesh of (1) and (2), with a dashing of (3) – infill development.

For what its worth, Option (1) is more realistic. Option (2) is pretty much what we had with the “old” gardens, which brought their own troubles.

By In Phil Developer

It needs a multifaceted approach but they could follow the NYC example of putting a police base right in the centre of it; I believe Times Square used to be a lot worse than Picc Gardens but they largely sorted it.

By NYC

Agree that the problems of any area are usually due entirely to the people who use it rather than the design. That’s the main issue here.
But whatever any new design is, you should never go back in time to something long gone. That’s an attitude that is the cause of many problems in the UK and usually made by elderly people who will be dead soon so not around to use the place anyway. We’re always looking backwards instead of forwards to the future. It’s 2021 so time for a quality, contemporay design that will set the standards for the 21st century. Ask the young people in high schools, design colleges and Universities want they want. They are the future for Manchester and the UK so they should be listened to. More trees, not flower beds where maintenance is unaffordable, use of sustainable and recycled materials. Keep the design simple and easy to maintain, with sharply defined edges between materials and colours which show up well when dry as well as wet. And a top notch innovative lighting scheme.

By Mike

It is currently trying to be too many things at once and therefore failing miserably as a public space – Bus stations, tram lines and stop, fountains, grass, playground, concrete cafes, an office which should never have been built – we’re left with actually relatively little ‘square’ for the level of footfall this area sees on a daily basis. How can we expect decent commercial/leisure business at the foot of City Tower if they’re facing buses, trams and a concrete wall all day.

By Dave

Whilst I agree with some of the comments about ASB and feel that the design could be greatly improved I think that it’s naïve to think that the design alone will solve the social ills of the area. I think that we will see by even the closing of the area for redevelopment will push the unsavory characters to Back Piccadilly and China Town, which are already quite grim areas.

Rather than trying to stick a bandage on the wound we should be pushing the council and government to solve the social problems that are the cause of this ASB.

By Aaron

The area will still be blighted by antisocial behaviour with or without the improved gardens if Manchester City Council does not provide more homes and better opportunities for disadvantaged Mancunians.

By Anonymous

Sadly this council has spent so long designing in problems that any thoughts of designing them out will have to be radical and therefore too expensive, eg moving the bus stops, tramlines rerouted, and not all of what’s left of the gardens are under control of the council etc. We are left with what can be accomplished and with a multiagency approach and good design a lot can be. Considering just how much is being spent on Albert square and the Town Hall £350m and 4 yrs work!) it should not be beyond the council to get hold of this once and for all. Maintaining it afterwards is the most important part of all. Keeping it litter free, graffiti free and crime free. We keep saying it councillors and you seem not to listen. Low level crime leads to more serious issues. Reduce this by spending money and you have a chance of creating communities that will take ownership of their environment.

By Nve

Pedestrianising the road outside Travelodge & Morrison’s & a reduction of buses in the area would be nice..

By Jeff Blair

We need a large square which allows easy movement. Much easier to maintain that gardens, although they could add a few trees and some planting.

Move the met underground.

Get rid of that office building and restaurants in the middle of it. We need to start maximising open spaces.

Relocate the bus station to Piccadilly as part of the redevelopment proposals and have a large bus stop area (in place of the offices) which runs parallel to Portland St.

A couple of the retail units which area directly adjacent to the bus station could be turned into restaurants/bars with outdoor seating overlooking the square.

Clean/renovate the buildings which surround it. There are some fantastic ones which aren’t being displayed properly and are blocked out by the offices depending on your location.

I echo other comments about the design only being part of the solution.

By Anonymous

Agree with many of these comments, Phil puts it succinctly.
Generally to ‘declutter’ the space I think is most important. There are so many raised planters, walls, different path surfaces, desire lines, poorly finished materials. It’s a mess. Personally I think resurfacing with a high quality, unifying, lighter surface like the excellent St Peter’s Square, removing unnecessary raised planters to create a much more open ‘plaza’. Take care of existing trees – release them from their tree grids which are now beginning to girdle them. Plant new trees where possible but keep them towards the edge. Move the bus stop if this is at all possible, or at least create a ‘wall of vegetation’ to block it out as much as possible. These are design related issues that could help address the other issues that have been mentioned re antisocial behaviour, litter etc.

By JR

Piccadilly gardens was very pretty when it was green and full of flowers and seating areas all
It needed was was redesigning let’s make it fantastic again and put something in the gardens that says something about manchester and not a concrete cold looking area its the centre of manchester make it special.

By Steve casey

Difficult to get this right being the plughole part of town.

Will need the finest placemaking brains and stacks of cash and vision.

Good luck.

By Jess A

Agreed that we need an open style and that we have to look forward with a modern design. The idea of ‘going back’ to old gardens is backwards. Open it up and encourage retails and restaurants. Model on St Peter’s.

Also agree to get rid of bus stop but I don’t know and effective and useful place to put it.

By GM

Pave it, like Trafalgar Square or George Square in Glasgow. Given the footfall + weather, it’s no surprise that the grassed areas look like a rugby field. Then work on getting rid if the metrolink + bus stops, and finally the monstrous Piccadilly Plaza.

By Jack

You can bring the old garden back (I`ve seen the pictures) but it wont bring back the 1970`s. 2021`s problems will still be happening. It looks like it was concealed? If so it would be even more scary at night.

By Hanna Morris

Having moved from London to Manchester, I was impressed by the city’s vibe, commercial and residential development boom and clearly a growing city. After few years in Manchester, I simply cannot understand how despite the fantastic progress, the city’s council and businesses struggle to transform one small square. I am still shocked by the state of this square every time I walk through it. It is so unusual that in the middle of main transport hub, key retail and business district is area surrounded by crime, anti social behaviour, generally dirty and unappealing to anyone passing by. You do not see this in London’s Oxford Street, Paris Champs-Elysees or any other major European city. Even the Liverpool One Shopping District does not have this issue. It is remarkable to be seeing security guards at Greggs , giving a very bad impression to a modern city and society. Many tourists that arrive must wonder why are there security guards protecting £1 sandwiches. The Council needs to overhaul its strategy and dealing with this issue. Having police in the area is not the solution. The council needs to remove the crime, drug dealing, aggressive beggers and then start investing in making nice and clean parks with flowers etc.

By Paul

I am a social worker in East Manchester, I can tell you the PG is the real Manchester, these are real Manchester people. Spinningfields is a bubble, the new Ancoats a bubble. This is what Manchester is really like unless you live in Didsbury.

By Floyd

It needs a complete redesign of the square. Also the same amount of care and money spent in Albert sq over the next few years.

By John s

Return it to its beautiful previous condition! Knock down the hideous wall!

By Helen Lamont