Campaigners wait for verdict on Buchanan Street steps demolition

14,000 have signed petition to protect public space in Glasgow

CITY councillors will decide today [Tuesday 24 February] on whether to press ahead with controversial plans to demolish a key public space in Glasgow.

The Glasgow City Council planning committee will consider proposals and complaints regarding the Buchanan Street steps, which form part of the city centre concert hall.

Opponents of the demolition say that the steps are a vital public space, which provide a non-commercial area for residents to eat, political rallies to take place and for musical entertainment.

The campaign received 14,000 signatures in support of preserving the space for public use, as well as receiving support from the Glasgow Girls, Green, SNP and Conservative councillors, and a host of other community campaign groups.

The council claims that replacing the steps with a glass entrance at ground level will provide greater disability access, as part of wider expansion of the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre.

The Labour party, which supports the proposal, has a majority on the planning committee. This means that the proposals are likely to be passed.

Max Wiszniewski, who works in the city's art sector, said: "I got involved in the campaign because I'm passionate about the maintenance of public space. Glasgow should save the steps because the public demand is there.

"I still don't think enough people in Glasgow know this is happening. The consultation was very meagre. When we were campaigning we met a lot of people who didn't know this was even happening."

"The council say 'People make Glasgow', well let's prove it", he added.

Aileen McKay, a student in Glasgow, helped coordinate the 'Save the Steps' campaign.

"At the moment we don't have enough public space and it's really vital that people have a platform to express their opinions freely and safely. On a more day-to-day level, it's important that people have somewhere to relax," McKay told CommonSpace.

The group proposed maintaining the area as a public space while adding disability access to the entrance.

David McDonald, Glasgow councillor, added: "The Buchanan Street steps are more than just concrete and stone: they are an important part of the city's built heritage. They have become a backdrop for celebration and a platform for protest, a place to relax and reflect for the city's shop, office and construction workers, tourists and locals.

"We need more public space in the city centre, not less."

In a Herald column, Common Weal writer Katie Gallogly-Swan expressed concern at council plans: "I envisage staring at birdshit-stained glass, behind which sexy neon logos invite us to spend money on sweatshop tees, and telling my uncaring weans about the beautiful summer of 2014, the last The Steps saw."

The council decision is expected imminently.

Picture courtesy of Save the Steps.