Save Library Walk: £3.5m glass lobby ‘could be DISMANTLED’ if Manchester Council lose inquiry

A glass lobby which has been built on Library Walk – the walkway between the Central Library and the Town Hall – may have to be dismantled if the Council lose an ongoing public inquiry against the closing of the public walkway.

The public inquiry, which met for the fifth time at the Town Hall today, was a dramatic affair as those opposed to the construction gave passionate defences for the preservation of the original walkway in a heated debate.

The glass lobby was not included in the original St Peter’s Square Consultation plans and has continued to divide opinion, with campaigners insisting the council are breaking the law by restricting the public right of way.

A campaign has been set up, called Save Library Walk, and to date, more than 1,300 people have signed the petition against blocking the walkway.

They object to the permissive access the council propose to put in place.

Before the library closed for refurbishment in 2012, the walkway was accessible to the public 24 hours a day, but with the council’s proposals the public would only be able to walk inbetween the two historic buildings between 6am and 10pm.

This has arisen from suggestions that the walkway is dangerous at night and a setting for anti-social behaviour. In October 2010 a woman in her 20s was raped whilst walking down the avenue late at night.

Melissa Moore, who objected to the council’s plans at the inquiry today, disagreed.

She said: “Most of the information provided by the council has alarmed and distressed me. There have been 92 crimes reported in Piccadilly Gardens, however I don’t see Piccadilly Gardens being cut off and stopped up.”

Ms Moore – who claimed she was ‘buzzing’ during the cross-questioning raised some other interesting issues, including the confusion of who actually authorised the plans, which disrupt the existing Public Right of Way.

She said: “There doesn’t appear to be a clear decision maker. Everyone was aware that there would be an issue with the extinguishing rights.

“And while it’s a more personal thing, I’d just like to add that I find it a little bit offensive that I won’t be able to smoke as I walk through the library walk.”

The walkway has been closed whilst construction work was being undertaken on Central Library and the Town Hall Extension. Both buildings are Grade II* listed, a status held by only 5.5% of all listed buildings in the UK.

“We believe the link maintains the distinctive curve of Library Walk while complementing the historic buildings it will connect,” said Council Leader Sir Richard Leese, “transforming an underused shortcut, which many felt was unsafe outside peak times, into a welcoming walkway, public space and a clear and visible entrance to the complex.”

Inquiry Inspector Mark Yates declared that the inquiry will be continued at a later date. The final decision remains pending.

Image courtesy of Eamonn Canniffe, with thanks

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