The Lancashire Evening Post, Wednesday, 28th May 2008
Expert Slams Square Revamp By David Coates
A JUDGE on the panel which picked the 3m plan to transform Preston's Winckley Square has broken ranks to say the design has "missed the point."

Architectural expert Keith Scott, who lives overlooking the park, says the plans do not meet the key aim set for the competition by failing to connect the city centre with the riverside Avenham and Miller Parks.

He said the five-man judging panel had picked a design which would create a "tortuous path" for disabled people looking to get from the city centre to the park side.

Mr Scott, who helped design Preston's landmark bus station, and who received a CBE for his contribution to architecture, believes plans would improve the park, but don't provide the vital "link" it desperately needs.

He said: "I think we are about to spend an awful lot of time and money on a project which does not address the fundamental problem which this competition was set to solve. That was achieving a greater sense of connectivity between the civic buildings in the city centre and the parks and all but one of the entries we judged failed to do that.

Keith Scott
"They really treated Winckley Square as a destination rather than strengthening connections."

The design which includes a 64-jet fountain and installing fibre optic lighting around the Victorian square has been dismissed as "silly and childish" and "self-indulgent" by members of the Preston and South Ribble Civic Trust.

Mr Scott was the only member of the panel not to support picking the plans was drawn up by Bristol-based design consultants Cooper Partnership. When the competition judging panel met last week to discuss how the plan may need to be altered to fit the brief, strengthening the link from the city centre was top of the agenda.

Mr Scott said: "It seemed we had picked the winner and now we were trying to change it to meet the point I had been labouring was a condition of the competition.

"But, then there was a lot of talk about the detail of the design, how events would take place in the square, but no talk about how the crucial point of connectivity would be met."

He said he also felt the artwork planned for the square needed re-assessing fearing that costs could run out of control - and suggested that improved works of arts could be found at a better price.

Following that meeting, the architect wrote to his fellow judges to put on record that he felt the design had failed to create "an interesting space" to connect the city centre to the parks.

In the letter, he said: "My reservation about the winner's solution is that the entire concept presumes the remodelled Winckley Square as a destination event, rather than a transitory experience on the way from the city centre to the river."

Catherine Mitchell, of the Cooper Partnership, said it had researched the history of the park and designed "something breath-taking" which was in keeping with the 19th century square.

She said: "We think we have got a good balance of new and existing character in the scheme and the feedback we have received has been great."

The Bristol-based Cooper Partnership are working with the council and the judging panel to develop a proposal to go out to public consultation later this year.

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, May 2008