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T in the Park promoter will help choose square's design

The promoter of Scotland's biggest annual music festival, the Scot behind Barcelona's Olympic village and a top modernist architect are to help decide who will redevelop Glasgow's George Square.

panel: From far left, Andy McMillan, Neil Baxter and Geoff Ellis will help pick a design for George Square. Picture: Colin Mearns
panel: From far left, Andy McMillan, Neil Baxter and Geoff Ellis will help pick a design for George Square. Picture: Colin Mearns

T in the Park's Geoff Ellis; David Mackay of MBM Architects, who co-ordinated the development of the 1992 Olympic village; and Professor Andy McMillan, a former head of the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, will sift through hundreds of applications over the coming months..

Others involved in the tendering process include David Harding, a Glasgow School of Art academic, and the leader of the city council, Gordon Matheson.

More than 100 notifications of interest have been registered with Glasgow City Council in the week since the design contest was advertised internationally by the UK Government's tendering service.

It came after pollsters Mori found an even split between members of the public who want to see George Square transformed into a green space with increased grass areas and trees and those who see it as a place for events and meetings.

But campaigners have questioned the role of Mr Ellis in the selection process, claiming his involvement suggests a decision has already been made to transform the square into a large-scale commercial events space.

The panel includes Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, as an observer. Mr Baxter was the architect behind the ill-fated plans for a nightclub in the city's Botanics Gardens.

Details of the selection process come amid an attempt by several opposition councillors to have the square redevelopment plans reconsidered. They claimed there was little time for politicians to consider them before a decision was taken and that too few people have been involved in the process. However, a specially convened committee yesterday disagreed.

The first phase of the square's redevelopment will be in place for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, creating a blank canvas on which the main redevelopment will take place.

As part of this, all 12 of the statues in the square, some almost 200 years old, will be removed at least on a temporary basis, during which time they will undergo restoration.

Some, if not all, could later be relocated elsewhere in the city.

The panel of experts will make the decision, which will be based on anonymous submissions to avoid accusation of favouritism.

The design brief states: "It is crucial that George Square is considered in the wider urban context. Consideration of the movement of pedestrians, cycles and vehicles on its periphery, and in particular in relation to Queen Street and Buchanan Street, will be central to its success as an urban place.

"Whilst it might not be possible to achieve all aspects of the wider urban re-design for the Commonwealth Games commencing July 2014, it is essential to deliver a practically complete and fully functioning square by no later than June 2014."

Campaign group Restore George Square said: "The decision to include Geoff Ellis of DF Concerts on the George Square competition jury is worrying, although not altogether surprising.

"This 're-imagining' of George Square should be the central issue and not the deliberate distractions of statues, water features and design competitions."

A council spokesman said: "No-one is seriously suggesting there shouldn't be events in George Square. Everyone is clear that these should be of high-quality that reflects the status of Glasgow as a world city and the desires of the people of the city.

"Geoff Ellis knows more about world-class events of large and small scale than almost anyone else in Scotland and including him is the right decision."

Council sources claim it wants fewer but higher-quality events in the square.

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