Give people of Glasgow a Square deal

FAR be it from me to suggest that city chiefs need a jolly on the public purse, but I do think our town planners would have benefited from visiting New York to see a clear vision of how George Square could look.

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They need to meet the people behind Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, who transformed a public square once occupied by drug dealers, prostitutes and homeless people into a tranquil idyll in the heart of the busy city.

I remember sitting in that green oasis almost six years ago, ice-cream in hand, on a crisp March afternoon and thinking that it was exactly how George Square could be.

It was bliss: a vast lawn surrounded by trees, well-kept paths, a handful of flower and book stalls and a few outlets selling coffee, ice-cream and sandwiches.

The tables and chairs set out for anyone to use felt sociable and cosmopolitan.

The best part is, on doing a little research, I learned that this public space is operated by a not-for-profit company that pays for its upkeep through leasing the space for temporary events. Genius.

It has free wi-fi and its lawn becomes a huge ice rink in winter.

We have plenty of concrete and stone in Glasgow city centre. Goodness knows we have enough water features courtesy of Mother Nature without adding our own man-made constructions.

What we don't have is space to breathe – the city centre needs green lungs at its heart.

Designing a new-look George Square shouldn't be rocket science. It's busiest on sunny days when people want an open place to relax away from shadows cast by high-rise buildings.

The six shortlisted designs, now on display at the Lighthouse, look like variations on the same boring grey theme.

Who wants 'acoustic bells' or a 'wetland garden' when it's a lush expanse of greenery that's really missing?

A lawn might require more maintenance, but it's far more attractive and welcoming than cold, depressing stone.

I think the £15 million budget to revamp this civic space would be best spent on landscaping the square, installing proper drainage and employing a team of round-the-clock gardeners to make our Dear Green Place truly live up to its name.

Look at Bryant Park – it's a tried-and-tested formula that works.

And it shouldn't be a judging panel that takes the final decision this subject. It should be the people of Glasgow.

Let's have a real public consultation about a public square, not six men holed away in a private room far removed from the people whose opinions matter most.


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