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Public inquiry launches into Simpson's 'stunted black glass stub'

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A public inquiry begins later today (21 October) into the future of a controversial, half-built glass and metal walkway by Ian Simpson Architects behind Manchester town hall

The planning inspectorate called the hearing following hundreds of objections to the covered link between St Peter’s Square and Mount Street which will only open between 6am until 10pm.

Although Manchester City Council won planning approval for the structure in October 2012 - built as part of the wider overhaul of Manchester’s Grade II*-listed Town Hall Extension and Central Library - the authority never extinguished the original public right of way.

Local architect Emma Curtin, who works at the University of Liverpool and will give evidence later today, said: ‘In simple terms there is still a right of way through the site. It is similar to building across a road while it was closed temporarily for a different reason.’

Author and AJ contributor Owen Hatherley said: ‘Library Walk is not only an extraordinary architectural space, an effortless transition between a classical library and a gothic town hall, it is also an extraordinary public space, free, atmospheric and wholly unique, in a city which has been lately intent on privatising and filling in all free spaces.

This stunted black glass stub is inexplicable and inexcusable

‘In between these two masterpieces of public provision, to shove pointlessly this stunted black glass stub is inexplicable and inexcusable. A council that is - rightly - proud of these buildings should not be reversing the public-spiritedness that lay behind them in the first place.’

Among the objectors to the scheme include the Open Spaces Society, The Twentieth Century Society, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group, the Liverpool School of Architecture, the Manchester Modernist Society and Friends of Library Walk.

In response Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, told online title PlaceNorthWest: ‘Linking the Central Library and town hall extension as a single complex with integrated, improved services across both is at the heart of their transformation.

‘The link maintains the distinctive curve of Library Walk while complementing the historic buildings it will connect - transforming an underused shortcut, which many felt was unsafe outside peak times, in to a welcoming walkway, public space and a clear and visible entrance to the complex.

He added: ‘Under our plans Library Walk will remain open to the public 16 hours a day, between 6am and 10pm. It was very rarely used and more often abused outside these hours.’

The public inquiry will run until tomorrow (22 October).

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Why, I wonder, wasn't the link planned as a bridge at upper floor levels, to preserve access through Library Walk?

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  • Robert. There is already a generous basement link between main public areas, without compromising the spatial integrity of the walk. This is/was one of the best and most unique spaces in Manchester which has now been stolen from the public realm.

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