There was little wrong with the area surrounding Whitehaven Civic Hall as mature trees and permanent flower beds added a bit of greenery to a typical 1970 style concrete environment. Through the efforts of Whitehaven in Bloom this had been further enhanced with tubs of plants and art installations.
However, there had been an underpass that members of the public used as a shortcut through to Morrisons and the Catherine Street car park and was also used by some youths as a place to have a few drinks whilst waiting for gigs at the Civic hall. Once the decision had been taken to close this off the access ramp became wasted space.
It was therefore decided to spend £650,000 to remodel this space and modernise the overall appearance, re-branding it as the Civic Quarter.
The first job was to permanently block the underpass and fill up the access ramp to level out the land along the Scotch Street edge of the Civic Hall.
Also all the old paving was to be removed from Lowther Street in front of the Library and Civic halls - although sound and serviceable this consisted of rather plain large concrete paving slabs between some permanent flower beds surrounded by more attractive sets.
The paving was also removed along the Scotch Street corner and the wall and railings around the underpass access ramp was removed.
Within a month the underpass had been sealed off and a new wall built hiding any signs of its existence with the ground levelled off ready for the new paving and a raised grassy platform.
By late December new stainless steel planters had appeared and the paving in front of the Dunboyne was completed. The Whitehaven insignia has been moved from the other side of the building to allow for art work on the Scotch Street side.
By January everything was just about complete and it certainly gives a much needed lift to this prominent gateway into the town centre. The paving in front of the Dunboyne Hall looks great but did provide a problem during the cold weather when it became extremely slippery and the removal of the pavement meant there was no safe passage.
There has been an overall effort to create a welcoming communal space where people will gather and sit and talk. This rather unusual grouping of seats almost looks like an art installation. It also looks rather like a blank canvas waiting to be decorated. It will be interesting to see if they get used and who decides to sit beside a busy road when there are three tranquil parks within a few hundred yards.
The side of the Civic Hall is used as a gallery for some colourful art work which certainly brightens up a rather dull expanse of brickwork. The raised platform should be getting some grass when the weather becomes suitable for growing.
More benches have been added to this corner and three new trees planted on the raised platform, the steps of which will no doubt also be used for seating when people are waiting for gigs at Whitehaven Civic Hall.
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