Stevenson Square Northern Quarter CGI Jan 2020
The project is part of a wider strategy to boost walking and cycling in the Northern Quarter

Manchester signs off cash for NQ road closures 

Dan Whelan

A project that will see Thomas Street and part of Ducie Street in the Northern Quarter permanently closed to traffic has been awarded £2.3m by the city council.

The scheme is the first part of a wider £11.6m project to improve walking and cycling infrastructure in the Northern Quarter that will ultimately create a continuous route for active travel between Manchester’s Piccadilly and Victoria railway stations.

Manchester City Council’s deputy chief executive and city treasurer approved the release of £2.3m of capital expenditure to fund work to make temporary road closures permanent and widen footways and reduce on-street parking on Dale Street.

The section of Ducie Street between London Road and Dale Street will be permanently closed to traffic and repaved following the removal of the pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Piccadilly Approach.

This section of road has been closed since the summer to allow people to socially distance more easily amid the pandemic.

Thomas Street will also remain closed to cars having been temporarily pedestrianised last year as part of the council’s initiative to boost active travel.

Manchester City Council’s executive member for transport, Cllr Angeliki Stogia, said: “We’re continuing our work to make walking and cycling through the city centre a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.

“The Northern Quarter is a unique cultural area of our city. We want to make it more dynamic, attractive and greener for all, while supporting our local independent businesses too, by helping people to safely enjoy travelling through the area on foot or by bike and ensuring that essential access is maintained for vehicles.

Later stages of the Northern Quarter walking and cycling route, which is being supported by the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Challenge Fund, will see work carried out at other locations, including at Stevenson Square, Shudehill and Withy Grove.

However, a fresh round of public consultation will be held before any permanent changes are made to these areas, the council said.

The closure of Thomas Street and the adjacent Stevenson Square last summer allowed the roads to be used by restaurants and bars as outdoor dining space, a move that proved popular among residents and visitors.

Piccadilly ward councillor Sam Wheeler welcomed the start of the project, saying: “The trial pedestrianisation of Thomas Street has been a great success, particularly for local businesses. The closing of Ducie Street makes a true Piccadilly to Victoria [station] cycling route viable for ordinary commuters.

“Pedestrianisation in the city centre is a crucial part of the regeneration strategy and making city centre living a reality. Anyone who wants that project to be successful should be behind it.”

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Pedestrianisation nearly always leads to gentrification which forces up rents and forces out independent business who rely on those cheap rents. This is not a good thing for the NQ

By Tooblue

People forget that traders need access, albeit it’ll be good for people in wheel chairs…

By Alan's GTX Jacket

The NQ has been gentrified for years; this will improve the area no end.

By Red Rose

It only forces up rents if public realm in other parts off be city is equally rubbish. The NQ is already successful and generally busy. I’d say a bigger effect on independent business is competing with bar operators and the general creep of development rather than some limited public realm improvements which should be the rule rather than the exception in a modern civilised city centre.

You don’t find independent businesses in run down areas with rubbish public realm in most other leading European cities because they generally have good public realm across the board. This is the minimum standard we should be aiming for too.

By Paving Slab

There are parts of the NQ that may have been gentrified but commercial rents fortunately remain sufficiently low to attract independent business. This will force rents up and you will soon be bemoaning the creep of the corporates into the NQ because this is the start

By Blurtoo

Worked near Tib Street 25 years ago and always thought the area now know as the Northern Quarter had great potential. Stevenson Square in particular is a little gem, pedestrianisation will enhance it even more.

By Anonymous

Good start but ALL the public realm in the NQ needs sorting out, it is a disgrace. @Tooblue if what you are saying is the case why is Ancoats so successful and full of independent businesses. That area has been gentrified and has amazing public realm, it should be a blue print for the rest of the city.

By Bob

@Tooblue – not true at all. Where is your evidence of that?
@ Alan’s GTX Jacket – I’m sure they’ve thought about that and as the article says there will be another round of consultation.

I don’t like the Stevenson Square proposal. It should be 100% pedestrianised. Why are those bus stops/stands still allowed to remain. Probably TFGM digging their heals in. Really spoils the whole concept of the idea.

The Council also need to stick to their promise of planting more trees. I see work on Dale Street has commenced and there is not one tree pit in site! And yes i’ve heard all the excuses about services etc in the ground. It’s amazing how other cities in the UK manage to do it.

By Steve

The businesses down here are very downmarket, gentrification would be good I say, this is the city centre, not Gorton

By PDM

Absolutely agree with @Steve – how on earth can you call it a pedestrianised zone with buses trundling through – the necessary shelters, bus lanes etc completely compromise the whole concept of a pedestrianised square.

By Blakey

NQ would function much better with more pedestrianisation. Van access can be managed in numerous ways. It’s nothing new in that respect.

By Anonymous

Ancoats has worked because the developers have specifically targeted those users and provide incentives. Building owners and developers in the NQ struggle to do so. It’s not all as straight forward as it might seem

By Tooblue

I’m agreeing with @Steve and Paving Slab, this is a good idea, however the details are in the execution. I appreciate even pavements and the cycling path shown, however this doesn’t feel like a public space yet, this is a paved area left for the businesses to set up their benches during the summer, can this be a whole day pleasant public meeting space – an alternative to Piccadily Gardens?

By Paulina

If they extend it to some of the minor streets like they did in lockdown, the NQ will end up top notch.
The outdoor seating gave the area a totally different feel that made the area a pleasure to walk around at night.

It would interesting to understand why they still want vehicular traffic on one section, as I also think it would be better if it were fully pedestrianised.
But either way it will be a massive improvement.

By Anonymous