As Britain's second city of the Empire, Victorian Glasgow ranked as one of the richest and finest cities in Europe between 1860 and 1914.
The statues in George Square display Glasgow's pride in its achievements. Surrounded by the square's civic buildings at the heart of the city, the statues reveal a lot about the development of the city and Glasgow's history and culture, representing an asset for the enjoyment of visitors and those who work or live in the city.
The Scottish Civic Trust wishes to ensure that alongside creating an urban space of outstanding design quality fit for the 21st century, the proposals to regenerate George Square also look to the past to reinforce and celebrate the history of the square and the city around it, and we believe the monuments have a significant role to play in that. This could be an exciting opportunity to combine some of Glasgow's most valued historic features with innovative and high-quality modern design.
While the trust is broadly supportive of the proposals to regenerate the square, acknowledging that the poor-quality public realm detracts from what should be the focal point and civic heart of the city centre, there is a concern that this project is moving very swiftly and we would wish to ensure that all decisions are based on the fullest understanding of the potential impact of any changes.
The Glasgow Central Conservation Area Appraisal states: "A conservation plan is needed to identify the key historical components of the square and to ensure that their interest is recognised and maintained in any redevelopment proposals." To the trust's knowledge, no conservation plan has yet been drafted for the square.
While this application sets out to some extent the significance of the individual statues and the repair works needed, there is no assessment of the significance of the statues as a group, or to their setting or their significance as part of George Square as a whole. George Square does in fact have Site of Special Landscape Importance (SSLI) status, and this does not appear to have been addressed thus far. We would expect to see Glasgow City Council setting an example here, with such a high-profile site and project, by ensuring a full and evidenced action plan or strategy is in place for the square as a whole, as a basis upon which each element of the project can be assessed.
We accept the principle of full cleaning and restoration of these significant monuments and we hope the full restoration of the statues will add value to any future imaginative redesign of the square. However no case has been presented to justify why this work must take place off site rather than while the statues remain in situ. The logistical challenges involved would surely suggest all alternatives should be fully considered.
We are concerned that although this application is ostensibly for the temporary removal of the statues, no time limit has been specified for their return to the square. Until further work and public consultation has determined the future of the statues, the assumption must be that they will all return to the square, and a time limit should be specified for their reinstatement.
Heritage and design officer, Scottish Civic Trust,
42 Miller Street,
over the years I have rejoiced at Glasgow becoming one of the most interesting and vibrant cities to visit. I am a proud born-and-bred Glaswegian and still a regular visitor.
Tourists come to the centre of cities to enjoy the heritage, so why remove the statues in George Square?
The mural paintings of the famous people of Glasgow on the walls of Princes Square have already been replaced by bland wall panelling. I hope the mural has not been destroyed and that a future generation will discover and restore it.
George Square is at the heart of some of my happiest memories, such as the day three friends and I played a game of charades after realising none of us knew who the statues commemorated. On another occasion my husband and I visited the square to take part in the world's biggest salsa dance class, which made it into the Guinness Book Of Records. Last Christmas, with our grandson, we enjoyed entertainment in George Square all day in the open tent, with the rain lashing down on the landmark statues of famous people all around.
That said, George Square used to have more greenery and benches where you could sit and relax.
Maybe the proposed plans will have some pleasant surprises and will be able to enhance the slightly bland look of the square where all nationalities can relax and enjoy friendly Scottish hospitality.
Keeping in mind the fact tourists look for heritage, please leave our statues where they are.
1 Cunningham Drive,
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