Secret Scotland

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Glasgow City Council heads for cover behind George Square fiasco

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

One of the things that can be found in the history of Glasgow City Council is a strange tendency for its members to pursue their own desires in the face of opposition from the people of Glasgow, often amidst claims by citizens that council plans have been put in place without any consultation, or ignoring them if they have been heard.

Although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to such things (since the truth gets lost by those who like to play politics), we have had such things in the past in the form of the Go Ape story in Pollock Park, the handing over of management of museum assets to private companies (which seemed to upset many), the extermination of Paddy’s Market (to suit some trendy idea about art, possibly because it lay so near re-reborn The Briggait) and most recently, an announcement almost out of nowhere that the Glasgow’s George Square was to be subject to one of six possible makeovers, of which the council would make the final choice of the award of £15 million to the design it preferred, a choice not offered anywhere to the people of the city:

With no apparent choice in the selection of the six final designs (just invitations to view the final selection, or of the final design itself, it looked as if the people of Glasgow were set for a fight, and were planning various protests and rallies against whichever of the six designs was chosen for them by Glasgow City Council.

Basically, none of the six was acceptable – with things probably not appropriate for the Scottish climate being included (such as extensive water features), and some even appearing to require the removal of the statues which have been installed in the square over the years, and one calling for the central column in the square to be moved.

There was another gem released by the council in the days running up to the final decision – any overrun in the allocated £15 million project cost would be met by the taxpayer, not the council. Which might as well be interpreted as a licence for the winner to print money, with  no incentive to stay within budget… their money was guaranteed, and the council had protected its own pot.

Then, at the last moment, and just as the final choice was made by the council (why did they bother)… it was announced that NONE of the proposals would be used, although the council members had actually made their choice (well, why waste a free round of tea/coffee and sandwiches at the taxpayer’s expense) :

The design competition for a new square was won by John McAslan and Partners but the council said it would not be proceeding with the £15m contract.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow have made it clear that they do not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They want the square to look better and be a place of which they can be proud – a place they can while away a sunny afternoon or get together and celebrate the big occasions in the life of the city.

“They also want us to keep the statues where they are, and they like the grass. However, they clearly want rid of the red tarmac. I am proud to say that I am listening to them.”

Cllr Matheson said the scaled-back refurbishment would be carried out in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He added: “Only if there is public demand thereafter, will we consider a radical change.”

The design competition to completely overhaul the square was announced by the council last year.

Earlier this month, six shortlisted designs were selected from a total of 35 companies which had expressed interest in the project.

The four British firms on the shortlist were Burns and Nice, Gustafson Porter, JM Architects and John McAslan and Partners.

They were joined by American firm James Corner Field Operations and Agence Ter from France.

Their designs have been on display at The Lighthouse for the past few weeks, where members of the public have been able to register their comments.

The judging panel comprised of David Mackay, MBM Architects Barcelona and Professor Andy McMillan, former head of Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art.

They were joined by David Harding, former head of Environmental Art, Glasgow School of Art, Geoff Ellis, director of DF Concerts and Cllr Matheson.

The technical advisor of the panel was Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The panel’s decision had been due to be announced on Friday but was delayed after judges could not reach agreement.

Via: George Square redesign: Council drops radical revamp plan

George Square refurbishment announced

Instead, the £15 million will be spent on a facelift for George Square, including a fix for the so-called “Red Tarmac” that seems to have irritated so many Glaswegians by its continued presence on the square since the last time it was tampered with, and the place they knew and loved was generally ruined.

Speaking to STV News later, Councillor Gordon Matheson expanded on the initial news of the refurbishment:

“We’re also looking at ways to reduce traffic flow around George Square, too.

“We we still invest £15m but this is a major investment in George Square and, in the process, the grass will remain which is what the people have said that they wanted, the statues will remain — but we need to respect the history of George Square, too.

“We will introduce high-quality public realm and ensure that whenever there are major civic events taking place within the square, like the George Square Christmas light switch on, that all the requirements will be in place under the square so we don’t need to bring in any generators and all this sort of stuff.”

STV also included the following impression of the design that Glasgow City Council had chosen for the “New” George Square  redesign, produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh:

George Square redesign

George Square redesign produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh

I get the impression that rather a lot of Glasgow city councillors would have had to jump on their horses and get out of town if that had actually been created.

There’s no good reason the original green and pleasant city centre landmark could not have been retained much in its original format of many years ago, other than the need of a few councillors who probably went on one of those stupid ‘facilitating’ (by whatever name) courses, and came back brainwashed with some idea that they would be seen as failures, or weak and incapable if they made any sort of “no change” or “status quo” type of decision, and had been sold the line that “No decision is not an option”. The latter being a favourite of my Sales & Marketing director, who liked to fire anyone that did not keep making changes. His philosophy was that one had to make a decision, because “Even the wrong decision was better than no decision.”

One can only ponder on how much good Glasgow City Council could have done for itself had the lasting memory of this sham not been one of “How much money was squandered on meeting, proposals, dinners, refreshments, expenses, etc, etc, etc…” (not to mention hours that could have been better spent on council business), and not instead been the much sharper and welcome announcement weeks ago that the council had managed to amass £15 million from various saving initiatives, and was going to spend the money on restoring George Square as per the wishes expressed by many Glaswegian in recent years, and of taking the opportunity to improve the facilities available there.

Meh… Too simple.

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January 21, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] One of the things that can be found in the history of Glasgow City Council is a strange tendency for its members to pursue their own desires in the face of …secretscotland.wordpress.com/…/glasgow-city-council-heads-f… […]

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