An update report on the Peterloo Memorial and how it has informed a whole new approach to inclusive design for council projects will be received by a scrutiny committee on Tuesday 22 June 2021.
Since the memorial was handed over in August 2019, the Council has been working with access campaigners and the Peterloo Memorial Campaign Group to explore potential solutions to make it fully accessible so that anyone can ascend it should they wish to do so.
However, despite the best endeavours of all involved it has not proved possible to come up with a viable solution.
Several options involving various ramp or lift designs have been explored in detail but none have proved feasible. Five of the ramp designs produced by architects commissioned by the Council would either have had an overbearing impact on the monument, obscuring the details of the people who died as well as overshadowing its appearance, or required the use of a significant amount of extra land owned by Manchester Central Convention Complex and used during major events there. A further ramp design proposed by the accessibility campaign group faced the same issues. The other option, or a platform lift option, posed a range of technical and maintenance difficulties.
An option for a temporary ramp to be used for planned events was also rejected, although there is still scope for this to be implemented if there is a request to do so.
The report confirms that in the absence of any prospect of a workable and satisfactory permanent remodel solution for full accessibility the memorial will remain as it is.
Its purpose, as set out in the original design brief, remains as an interpretive public art installation to inform people about the 1819 Peterloo Massacre and there are no barriers to anyone engaging with its key content.
While the interpretation of the design brief resulted in an interactive element, which envisaged the memorial perhaps doubling as a ‘speaker’s corner’ or protest site, there is little evidence that this has proved the case in practice and there are more suitable alternative sites.
Deputy council leader Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE said: “We have held our hands up that some mistakes were made in developing the Peterloo Memorial and that insignificant consideration was given to access issues as thinking around the design evolved.
“It’s a matter of regret that despite working together over almost two years we haven’t been able to come up with a viable solution to make the Peterloo Memorial fully accessible.
“If we could go back and start right at the beginning again we would do things differently. But we can’t. All we can do is learn from this experience and demonstrate how we are putting those lessons into practice in current inclusive designs, such as the Glade of Light memorial, and in future projects.
“While the time and effort spent on finding a full accessibility solution for the Peterloo Memorial hasn’t produced the result we all wanted it was not in vain because there will be a a positive, inclusive legacy to this process.”
Lessons learned through the Peterloo Memorial process have been incorporated into the design and consultation process for the Glade of Light memorial for the 22 May 2017 terror attack, with an access group established to provide guidance throughout. A transport access working group has also been established to ensure access considerations are at the heart of future transport schemes and the Council has committed to apply this inclusive consultation approach to all city centre public art and public realm schemes.
The report will be considered by the Communities and Equalities scrutiny committee when it meets on Tuesday 22 June 2021.