THE force behind Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall has criticised plans to demolish the landmark's steps.


Labour council leader Pat Lally - who fought for the venue to be built at the height of Thatcherism - said he was sad and frustrated by the decision.

The local authority he left a decade and a half ago has backed plans for the steps to go as part of a £400m plan to turn Buchanan Galleries in to a supermall.

But Mr Lally - whose role in the Concert Hall was so key that locals referred to the building as "Lally's Palais" - believes the city has lost a key public space.

The 89-year-old said: "The people of Glasgow might be gaining more shops but in the process they might be losing something more valuable."

The steps are being removed to build a four-storey glass rotunda entrance for the Concert Hall - dubbed the "People's Pedal Bin" by critics.

This is part of the much wider redevelopment of the Buchanan Galleries - backed with some £80m in public money - in to what effectively amounts to a city centre supermall

This was given planning permission last week. It will change key public spaces, not just the steps.

Queen Street station will be revamped with its old entrance on George Square replaced by a huge glass frontage.

Station owners Network Rail will not need planning permission for this, sparking anger among city officials, as it will use railway regulations rather than planning laws to make changes.

The supermall will also see other changes on George Square, including a giant car park built behind Queen Street station. The Millennium Hotel, the last Georgian building on the square, will become a high-rise.

City officials will raise some £80m in tax incremental finance or TIF funding for the scheme, borrowing against future business rates they hope shops and restaurants in the mall will generate. This money will go to pay for public works around the mall, including the pedal bin.

The Scottish Government has backed this loan, despite a business case that assumes a "worse-case" scenario of retail sales rising at two per cent a year for 25 years.

Major city centre players, such as the rival St Enoch Centre, have previously said they believe such support amounts to state aid.

Asked about Mr Lally's intervention, a spokesman for the council said: "The planning consent unlocks over £310m of private sector investment for Glasgow; £80m of public realm and infrastructure improvements in the city centre, and 1,500 new jobs."

The new mall will have three floors of shops, a food court and a 10-screen cinema.

Its champions hope it will help Glasgow continue to rival Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham for the position as Britain's biggest shopping centre outside London.

One retail expert, however, told The Herald: "Cities compete by being unique, not being a retail monoculture.

"The steps were unique, the kind of thing that makes people want to visit a city. Glasgow will have to work hard to replace them."

Some 14,000 signed a petition calling for the steps to be saved.

But planning committee vice convenor Jonathan Findlay, speaking after the decision was made, said: "I don't think the steps offer the kind of open space we should have aspirations for in our city."