Sit downer

Looks nice doesn't it? Notice anything odd, though? It's like a game of spot the difference but in this case between what was planned and what has actually been delivered.

Mann Island winter gardenThis is the covered public realm, sometimes referred to as the winter garden, at Mann Island in Liverpool, between two black residential blocks designed by Broadway Malyan for Neptune Developments and Countryside Properties.

The 13,000 sq ft public space was a sensible condition of the development brief laid down by the former site owner the North West Development Agency. The covered area was to be a shelter from the wind and rain lashing in off the Irish Sea and the Mersey. A welcoming area to stop and dry off and take a breath before the next surge of sightseeing around the Pier Head or Albert Dock.

It's a public space conceived for and partly funded by the public. The 4.25-acre Mann Island site was sold by car dealership Robert Smith Group to the NWDA in 2002 for £9.2m and subsequently sold on to Neptune Developments and Countryside Properties for £3.57m in 2007. As well as the land subsidy, the NWDA later awarded £3m to Merseytravel to occupy the office building next door, which was then sold to a German pension fund for £47m. The new canal link outside cost £22m of taxpayers' money. In all, more than £230m of public money has been spent on projects on Liverpool's central waterfront since 2000.

Mann Island has been trumpeted over and over by the council, Liverpool Vision, English Heritage, Cabe and anyone else that can fit onto a conference stage as a major part of the city's much-improved waterfront.

It's such a shame the space fails at the first test – it does not contain a single seat.

It would be helpful if the city fathers spent as much time on the detail of public accountability for grant funding and enforcing planning conditions as they do on self-congratulatory hyperbole about the city's renaissance.

A spokesman for Neptune and Countryside said the plans for the public space were still 'emerging'. I hope they emerge soon and in line with the original design that we all paid for.

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I think it says more about the exhibition than it does the space. I think the space is beautiful having walked through it a number of times with my kids. I do think it needs to be marketed more as somewhere that the public can go and there needs to be the odd event or two in there but all in all it is a nice space but dont put seats in as it will start to look like a bus station! Poppy

By Poppy

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