Extra Comment: Give us our greenery!

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GEORGE Square – it has been the site of many a demonstration over the years.

But unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you’ll know that the public space has become not just a venue for voicing outrage, but the subject of it as well.

Last week, Glasgow city council released the six shortlisted designs for a brand new (and, some might argue, improved) George Square.

A more cynical journo might pick faults in each, from a big brother eye-style fountain to what appears to be tartan ground (not to mention the assumption that Glaswegians have the ability to walk on water – see entry one).

Yes, I have voiced less than complimentary opinions on Twitter, and signed my name to the option seven petition started up this week (‘restore George Square to its former grassy glory’).

A quick poll of The Extra’s Facebook and Twitter followers last week proved that many of you feel the same – which is why, despite being a southside paper, we decided to run the story as our front page.

And herein lies my complaint: while I’m sure that one of the whistles-and-bells plans brought to life would prove a draw to the city centre, the fact remains that residents in the southside, in the westend, to the east and to the north, have not been adequately consulted on any of them.

I don’t know about you, but when I invest £15 million in something, I expect to have a say in it.

Many protesters have argued that the designs are geared towards turning George Square into a concert venue, and that lazy summer lunches there will be a thing of the past – I disagree.

After all, each design incorporates seating and maintains the function of the spot as a public space – even if we are meant to tread water to get to it.

There does remain the question of the statues contained within, and their place in the revamped George Square (pushed aside, if included at all, according to the drawings now on display at the Lighthouse).

But most important is the widespread opposition to those six options on display for just a week before a decision is made – and the petition calling for a seventh option: restoring the greenery removed in favour of red tarmac during the previous controversial makeover of the 90s.

The fact remains that £15m is being spent to landscape a relatively small area of land – and Glasgow city council’s front garden, at that – when residents are crying out for just a few patches of grass, and maybe some extra cash for elsewhere in the city (roads might be a good place to start).

The verdict is due from the judging panel – which includes GCC leader Gordon Matheson – on Friday, and it seems unlikely that option seven will come out on top.

Still, a reminder to Glasgow city council: it’s unwise to stand between Glaswegians and their claims to a dear, green place.

If we have one shared trait (other than walking on water), it’s the ability to complain – and I suspect this controversy won’t be forgotten about any time soon.

What do you think? Share your thoughts on the George Square issue on Facebook or Twitter.