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New surface in George Square needs repairs

THE fiasco around the redesign of the civic heart of Glasgow has emerged again as a new surface laid just five months ago begins to show signs of collapse.

FACING REPAIRS:  The new-look George Square was unveiled last year, but parts of it have been damaged.
FACING REPAIRS: The new-look George Square was unveiled last year, but parts of it have been damaged.

Despite work costing £500,000, small areas around George Square have sunk several inches, while the surface in others has eroded to show the hugely unpopular red tarmac, which covered the square for more than a decade.

Opposition politicians are demanding a report on the damage and durability of the surface, especially in the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, when it will play a central role in public events.

The Herald understands officials have told politicians that the damage to the surface has been largely caused by the events staged in the square around Christmas and the fairground rides currently on the site.

One senior politician also said concerns had been raised about the potential impact on the square of a bout of sub-zero temperatures.

It is understood the council has a three-year guarantee with the contractor to resurface if any problems emerge, with the authority saying the work will be done by spring.

George Square was the focus of a debacle in late 2012 and early last year after council leader Gordon Matheson announced a revamp of the square then changed his mind shortly after a group of specially-recruited experts selected their winning design.

Although Mr Matheson was cleared of any wrongdoing by watchdogs and the police, the costly fiasco left the council open to much ridicule.

A temporary refit was carried out, with the red surface replaced by speckled grey resin, which the council said last autumn would be hard-wearing in icy conditions.

Two new, large grassy areas were created, replacing the ones controversially dug up 15 years ago. They can be covered up to allow large-scale events, an increasing focus for the square, to be staged.

But these events are now being blamed for 'gouges and scuffs' on the surface.

Graeme Hendry, SNP leader on the council, said: "The folly in the square is coming to the fore again.

"The SNP group will be writing to development and regeneration services requesting a report is presented to committee in the near future to advise what further damage is likely, how much this will cost to repair and how the council will fix the mess the leader has created.

"Industry experts have advised me that anyone with any handle on these things knew this would happen. Simply skimming the surface was doing nothing more than papering over the cracks."

A council spokesman said: "Two small gouges appeared in late November during the site set up for the Christmas lights switch-on.

"The contractor will arrange repairs to these areas in the spring when the air temperature and general weather conditions are more suitable for this type of work.

"This will be done at no cost to the council."

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