Piccadilly Gardens is set for a makeover as councils trial new high-tech ‘hybrid grass’

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Manchester’s much-maligned Piccadilly Gardens is set for a makeover, as the council have announced they will be replacing its existing grass with a new mixture of natural and synthetic grass.

As part of wider works to maintain the grassed areas in the public square, starting today a section of Piccadilly Gardens will be sown with reinforced hybrid turf designed to withstand tough conditions.

The area has been the subject of much consternation in the last few years due to numerous issues including rising crime, litter, rough sleeping and anti-social behaviour.

Due to high footfall in the area, Piccadilly Gardens’ existing grass has been left looking patchy and lacklustre, with residents complaining that it is an eyesore and leaves visitors to the city with a poor first impression of Manchester.

But there are hopes that the new high-tech ‘hybrid grass’ will smarten the Gardens up and make a big difference to its overall appearance, as well as proving more cost-effective over the long term.

An initial trial will see a small area adjacent to the fountain sown with the hi-tech turf, which is a mixture of natural and synthetic grass popular across the world for use on professional sports pitches.

And a second trial area will be turned to improve the soil, and then re-seeded.

Potentially offering the best of both worlds, the hybrid grass technology delivers a natural surface that is far more resistant than standard grasses and will reduce expense by minimising the amount of maintenance required.

Should the hybrid grass prove successful, the Council will then consider expanding the trial area to other parts of Piccadilly Gardens that receive high levels of footfall.

There will be fencing on site until Friday 5th July to enable the work to be undertaken safely, and the two trial areas will remain enclosed for the next few weeks in order to allow the grass to germinate, be cut and establish itself properly.

The majority of the space, however, will continue to remain in use and be fully operational, with the trial areas kept to a minimum to minimise the impact on the general public.

Thousands of people pass through the Gardens every day and Town Hall chiefs hope that trials of the new hard-wearing grass will prove successful.

“For a hard-working public space, we need a hard-wearing grass that can take such massive footfall, especially when the weather does let us down,” says says Councillor Pat Karney, Manchester City Council’s city centre spokesperson.

“Over the years, we have tried a number of grass strains to improve its durability and we hope this trial will prove successful, with a view to extending the area across other parts of Piccadilly Gardens.

“We are also taking this opportunity to re-sow other areas of grass to improve the space as we welcome the summer months in Manchester.”

The trial is part of ongoing plans to improve the overall area, with current proposals including more planting, improved lighting and design to deter anti-social behaviour as well as the raising grassed areas and re-laying of pedestrian thoroughfares.

A £2m planning application by Pavilion leaseholder Legal & General to demolish the concrete wall was withdrawn earlier this year with the agreement of the council, who in turn promised to commission a landscape architect to draw up fully-costed alternative proposals.

The Council’s overall ambition for the Gardens builds upon Pavilion leaseholder Legal & General’s 2017 proposals, and hopes to see the demolition of the free-standing wall and the introduction of a green living wall on the rear wall of the Pavilion and facing the bus station.

The hybrid grass trial marks the start of these plans, with a planning application likely to be submitted later in the year followed by a public consultation on the revised design, due to take place in November 2019.

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