LOCALS DISCUSS FUTURE USES
Twenty-eight people attended last night’s online meeting held by the Better Broughton group to discuss the future of Picardy Place.
Among them were three City Centre councillors: Karen Doran (vice-convener of the Transport & Environment Cmte), Joanna Mowat, and Claire Miller.
As Cllr Mowat pointed out, yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of the last Council consultation on what should be done with the central reservation.
Cllr Doran outlined a general order in which matters would proceed from now on. The Council will: (1) create a site brief (based on 2018 consultation) and appoint design consultants; (2) seek funding; (3) start further engagement; (4) finalise design; (5) procure contractors; (6) begin work after completion of the tramline and tramstop. However, she could not clarify exactly when each of these stages would occur.
Cllr Mowat called for clarity on process and timeline, suggesting the Council’s exact obligations and room for manoeuvre were obscured in the murky depths of its GAM agreement with St James Centre owners Nuveen and the Scottish Government. She pointed to the significant Council distinction between ‘community engagement’ and ‘community consultation’ and urged locals to understand which was on offer. She hailed the new cathedral plaza outside St Mary’s as a success, but said accurate figures on pollution levels in the area would be useful.
Cllr Miller said it was important to determine the main purpose of the Picardy Place island and how it can be made a pleasant place in which to ‘dwell’. The current gyratory prioritises vehicles over the community, but could be improved with, for example, shorter wait times for pedestrians at crossings. Better use could be made of the pedestrian space between the OMNi Centre and Picardy Place. She wanted effective participation by locals and experts, informed by better communication from the Council, in creating a green space which would take account of transport developments over the next 5–15 years.
There was general agreement among attendees about nailing down the timing, process, and transparency of future development here. All agreed on the desirability of introducing trees, grass, or shrubbery as a green screen against traffic.
- potential effects of pollution on any planting
- need for clear and efficient crossing points at OMNi–John Lewis, Broughton St, Holiday Inn–Playhouse, and Holiday Inn–Topping’s
- potential to close and pedestrianise one arm of the gyratory if Council’s target for 30% reduction in traffic is realised
- chance to preserve/enhance sightlines to and from the cathedral
- importance of not creating an unsafe, inaccessible, windswept wilderness
- aspirations for public toilets and public art.
There was a clear wish among those who spoke to seize back some of the initiative on shaping Picardy Place's future. Whilst realistic about what could and could not be achieved, attendees were keen not to be bounced by officials into choosing between a limited suite of predetermined options.
It seemed clear to this observer that the three councillors present recognised and respected these objectives.–AM