Video shows detail of Leicester mayor's £4m Jubilee Square plan
The first detailed designs of a controversial new £4 million public square in Leicester have been unveiled.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has released images of a proposed plaza, called Jubilee Square, intended for the area that is now St Nicholas' Place – the home to a 50-space car park and the city's park and ride terminal.
The architects' work, commissioned by Leicester City Council as part of a £100,000 design phase for the project, shows lawns and seating areas, mature trees as well as a paved area where it is envisaged features such as temporary ice rinks or Ferris wheels could be sited.
The scheme has been dubbed an expensive vanity project by opponents, but Sir Peter insists it will provide a welcoming area, creating civic pride in the city.
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He said: "We are very short in Leicester of public space for people to relax and take a break from shopping or work and that is what I want to change.
"I want the space to be uncluttered and flexible.
"Jubilee Square sits in a part of the city that is absolutely crucial in re-linking the modern part of Leicester with its historic heart."
He said the city's "dreadful" ring road acted as a barrier to historic features such as the Roman Jewry Wall and St Mary de Castro Church.
The plans include removing a lane of traffic from the ring road and establishing so-called "super crossings" – similar to the one opposite the London Road railway station – so pedestrians can get to the historic sites more easily.
A series of large screens on the edge of the ring road will help block traffic noise.
Sir Peter said he hoped the new plans would deal with concerns raised in previous consultations.
They involve relocating the park and ride stops from the middle of the site to a lay-by on the western edge of the square, near the Holiday Inn.
Taxi ranks in the area will be moved to the corner of Highcross Street and there will be a dozen disabled parking spaces.
Discussions are also underway to find replacement short stay parking nearby, but Sir Peter said he was unable to reveal further details because of discussions with private companies.
He said he had been encouraged by a previous consultation showing the "overwhelming majority" of traders supported his designs.
Chairman of the Leicester Retail Forum Peter Wilkinson said: "Larger businesses are generally supportive of Jubilee Square with the caveat traffic can still access the Highcross.
"I like it, but it would be fair to say some smaller businesses are less enthusiastic because of the loss of parking."
Traffic access to Highcross shopping centre will still run along the northern edge of the square.
The council hopes a bid for £1.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund will succeed in providing some of the funds for the project.
When asked what would happen should the bid fail, Sir Peter said: "I am very confident. It is a very strong bid. I am not contemplating failure."
A planning application is likely to be submitted at the end of the year or early January. If that is approved, work could start in the summer and take two years to complete.
Tory opposition councillor Ross Grant said: "The mayor says very few people object to Jubilee Square, but nobody was ever offered a yes/no choice on this.
"When you tell somebody something is happening whether the like it or not, they will disengage from the process. After that, any likely consultation is only going to get answers you want."
One businessman in the area, who asked not to be named, said: "I won't be getting involved in the consultation. There's no point. By messing around with the parking down there, he is making a decision which will affect the livelihoods of a lot of people. It's a vanity project for the mayor. "
The latest consultation will involve an exhibition of the proposals at Wygston's House, Applegate, on November 26 and 28 from 4pm to 6pm, and November 27 and 29 from noon to 2pm.