Leaders back Square revamp

A leading Christchurch retailer's proposal to downsize Cathedral Square has divided Press readers but won backing from city leaders.

Ballantynes managing director Richard Ballantyne has called for slow-traffic lanes through the pedestrian areas and extra planting to make Cathedral Square feel more "intimate", with cafes and restaurants spilling on to the footpaths.

The plans have been backed by Wigram MP Jim Anderton and Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale.

TIMES PAST: An early evening photograph of Cathedral Square, 1957.
TIMES PAST: An early evening photograph of Cathedral Square, 1957.

Anderton said the Christchurch City Council should "take heed of our most successful city retailer and take careful note of what he has to say".

"The council should take on board Ballantyne's views and include them in any plans to rejuvenate the heart of our city before it disintegrates any further," he said.

Lonsdale said the Square looked like it "has been designed by a committee".

"Cathedral Square is a bit of a cold, grey slate area," he said. "It is essentially quite a large space. They use it for big events and that is quite popular, but how many of those are there a year and do we need that much space? It could be done differently and could still be used for events, like Victoria Square."

Readers commenting on press.co.nz yesterday were divided over the proposals.

"The Square is a well-meant but crowded hodge-podge. Open it up more. It's a grand formal space; let it show," wrote Ken Taylor.

Geoff supported Ballantyne's ideas.

"He is correct to raise this issue as anyone who frequents the CBD and the Square would understand the city is going backwards and has been for years."

The architect heading up the city's post-earthquake design team, Ian Athfield, has also criticised the layout of Cathedral Square.

He said it was "absurd" that hundreds of buses moved through the Square every day, but only 20 stopped there.

Athfield said changes to the Square's layout meant people crossed it as quickly as they could.

The Square was once a bustling centre, with trams, buses, cars and people crossing in all directions. A road in front of Christ Church Cathedral was closed in 1965 and one in front of the post office building was closed in 1972. The area was made pedestrian-friendly in a redevelopment completed in 1974.

The Press