WORK to demolish the unpopular green escalator in Coventry’s historic city centre finally has started – and it will be replaced by a new one.
Many Coventrians since it was added to the lauded post-war city architect Sir Donald Gibson’s Upper Precinct in the 1990s had argued it was an eyesore.
It was regarded as blocking the orginally intended view from the cathedral to the Lower Precinct – considered to be Europe’s first prototype pedestrianised shopping mall.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, last year pointed to plans to remove it as evidence the Labour city council was committed to retaining the city’s heritage, despite some public criticism.
Watchdog Historic England had last year listed more elements of the post-war city centre as being of ‘historic and architectural importance’, including the Upper Precinct’s canopies.
Council support for developers wanting to remove them at the former BHS store lead to Coventry Society and other campaigners accusing the council of providing a “developer’s charter”.
As demolition work started this week, Coun O’Boyle said: “We know that residents don’t like the escalator and want to see it removed – and it’s just the start of the work planned to improve the city centre.
“The Upper Precinct is going to feel much more open and modern once the escalator is out of the way and then we can crack on with the bigger work which will see new paving, planting, trees and water features installed.
“With the link between Hertford Street and Broadgate reopened and Coventry Point coming down we are really seeing big changes in the city centre. We have said we will make the best of the old and the best of the new and that is exactly what we are doing.”
The council added: “The works begin with the destruction of the glass conservatory area on the first floor, and the escalator itself will be demolished shortly afterwards. A new escalator has already been installed in the former Moss Bros building, plus new stairs and a lift, to improve access to West Orchards Shopping Centre.”
Councillor Patricia Hetherton, cabinet member for city services said: “Our city centre is changing and it’s going to be very exciting. We want people to feel proud of their city and I’m sure getting rid of the rather ugly escalator will please many people.
“There is lots to do and of course there will be some disruption – but it will be worth it and we’d like to thank people for their continued patience.”
Stewart Underwood of Shearer Property Group said: “We are delighted to be building on the success of Cathedral Lanes and continuing our partnership with Coventry City Council to deliver the next phase of the City’s transformation.”