George Square consultation inadequate

THE plans to renovate and redesign George Square have caused something of a media stir over the past few days.

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I haven't yet had a chance to view the designs prepared by the companies taking part in the competition – I have only seen photos in the papers – so I will reserve judgment on whether or not I have a particular favourite until I have seen them in the flesh (so to speak).

However, it would be wrong to say that I don't have strong views on what we should be aiming for when it comes to giving Glasgow's civic square a facelift.

For me, any redesign has to, first and foremost, protect and enhance access for people using the city.

George Square is not just a space that people pass through on their way to and from different parts of the city centre.

It is also somewhere that people should be encouraged to spend some time, whether that is to enjoy the odd day of sunshine, have an al fresco lunch, view the statues (and, yes, I do think at least some of the statues should stay), take part in the kind of peaceful protest that has long been a part of Glasgow's civic tradition, or marvel at the magnificent architecture that is the City Chambers.

So, in my view, we should be looking for a design that has lots of grass and plenty of benches for people to sit on – perhaps a bit like it used to be before the famous 'red square' makeover.

I also think we should avoid anything that obscures the view of the City Chambers. I might not always agree with the inhabitants of that building but it is one of the finest – if not the finest – buildings in the city and it should be at the heart of any master plan for the city centre as a tourist attraction.

And just as important as what the square ultimately looks like must be the process of getting there.

Unsurprisingly, most of the comments I've heard from people in the last few days have been about the costs in a time of austerity and the fact they don't feel at all involved in the decision – indeed, many people I've spoken to didn't even know there was a plan to redesign George Square.

All of that suggests that the council still has a lot of work to do sell the benefits of the redesign for the city economy, our ability to attract tourists and the need to put our best face forward for the Commonwealth Games.

I also agree wholeheartedly with my colleagues in the SNP council group who say public consultation so far has been inadequate and a way must be found to properly involve the public in the selection of the winning design – it can't simply be a decision taken behind closed doors.

In short, the council has an opportunity to really put George Square on the map and excite people about the history and the future of this very special part of our city.

I really hope it takes it and makes sure that the future of George Square is something all of Glasgow can have a say in and be proud of.

Local government

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