If anyone has had the opportunity to walk around the new public realm along the Strand they might well have seen the emergence of some very new and much welcome seating. However like many residents who have made contact with Engage you might well have wondered ‘what were they thinking?’ when they decided to make the benches turn their backs not only on the sun and our fabulous Mersey sunsets but also the magnificent Three Graces.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT PEOPLE TO LOOK AT THIS ….
WHEN IT COULD HAVE BEEN THIS ….
There has to be a good reason why someone in the Highways Department had this brain-wave that seems to many ordinary people to be at best utterly bewildering and at worst to be ridiculous. It certainly leaves the impression that Liverpool wishes to turn its back on it’s greatest architectural and world famous waterfront buildings. However the actual reality of what any seater is forced to gaze at is nothing short of dreadfully embarrassing. OK it can seem a little strange to be facing a busy roadway but the view across to the other side is so energising and uplifting that one wonders why on earth a planner would choose anything else?
NOTHING TO SEE HERE ….
JUST FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS ….
Perhaps in our post-UNESCO WHS civic moment we are so subconsciously ashamed of losing the status that we’d rather visitors are not forced to look at buildings that at one point were on the same level as the Taj Mahal in India and the Pyramids of Egypt and end-up reflecting upon a city that never treasured its world-beating status sufficiently.
Perhaps someone in the Council would like to enlighten us so we can inform city centre and waterfront residents who are very concerned about this extraordinary decision. This isn’t the time or the place to pass comment upon the new cycling infrastructure until everything is fully revealed.
Engage is very grateful to the resident who shared these images with us.
On Thursday 16th September 2021 Engage received the following email from Cllr Nick Small which stated the reasons why the Council made the decision they did. If you want to comment on the explanation please let us know.
In 2019 (shortly after joining LCC) when I was reviewing the designs for The Strand, I recommended that seats be installed at regular intervals to provide convenient places for older and disabled people to stop and take a rest. I recommended that the benches be located at intervals of no more than 50m as this corresponds with the guidance in British Standard 8300. The primary reason for providing benches was to provide places for people to stop and rest while walking along The Strand. Prior to my input, there were no benches proposed – there was only the stone plinth type seating on the other side of the Strand. I also specified benches with inclusive design features such as arm rests, back rests, strong visual contrast, and spaces to the sides to enable lateral transfer from a wheelchair onto the bench.
I can see why some people would like some/all of the benches to face towards the direction of the ‘Three Graces’. However, if the benches faced that direction they would face 5 lanes of busy vehicular traffic, and possibly an increased risk of accidents/collisions etc (e.g. if vehicles mount the kerb intentionally or accidentally). There is also the risk that visually impaired people, who are unfamiliar with the area, may stand up and step out into the road. It is also possible that if seats have their backs to the main pedestrian flow, some people may feel vulnerable if they cannot see the pedestrians behind them. If the intention of these seats was to admire the views, they should have been located near to the buildings (e.g. Beetham Plaza etc). However, the primary reason for my recommendation to install benches was to provide places to stop and rest for disabled people using the Strand footway.
If the benches were moved (using the existing the fixtures) to face the opposite direction, they’d be very close to the kerb edge and would not comply with the guidance in the Design for Access for All SPD (see below) which requires a minimum 2000mm wide footway. The distance from bench to the kerb would have to be increased to around 2500mm.
I reviewed the bench locations on 25th August and I do agree that some users may prefer to have the option to stop and dwell and admire the views of the ‘Three Graces’ and therefore, I believe there is an opportunity for at least one bench to be located facing the ‘Three Graces’. The proposed bench outside Jurgen’s has not yet been installed so could face towards the ‘Three Graces’.
If there is a strong desire corporately for a greater number of benches to face the direction of the ‘Three Graces’ there are other locations where this is possible, however, their locations would not meet the requirements of the Design for Access for All SPD. Other factors (e.g. cost, technical reasons, public safety etc) should also inform our decision making.
The specific issue of benches along the Strand was not discussed at the Corporate Access Forum (CAF), however, it is likely that the CAF would favour seating that is compliant with the recognised best practice such as the Design for Access for All SPD and British Standard 8300.
I’d be happy to discuss this matter with you in further detail.
Graham Garnett I Inclusive Design Officer I Planning