Renfrewshire Council

Abbey Close public realm

Abbey Close is one of Paisley's most iconic and best-loved outdoor spaces. We have bold plans to improve it as an expanded event space and gathering spot which will complement the redeveloped Town Hall when it reopens.

The vision for Abbey Close

We are delivering a major programme of investment aimed at driving new life and footfall to Paisley town centre, including the ongoing work to transform Paisley Museum and Paisley Town Hall. When the latter reopens in 2023, we want the area surrounding it to match the quality of the building, inside and out.

Abbey Close updated image 1 Back in 2019 we consulted with residents on what they would want from any changes to Abbey Close and other locations around the town centre.

People told us they enjoyed Abbey Close for its architecture and scenery, and enjoyed being there on a sunny day. Your suggestions included fixing the surface and resolving trip hazards, adding more seating, managing traffic, and making the most of the riverside location.

While work was delayed due to the pandemic, we used that feedback to create new designs for Abbey Close, unveiled in early 2021. These include:

- expanded public space at the front of town hall - removing the 'D-shaped' turning circle to stop any bottleneck effect with big crowds, and increasing the town's capacity for outdoor events;

Abbey Close updated image 2 - new high-quality paving and lighting, removing some boundary walls to make the space more accessible and open, and give better access to the Abbey;

- adding new seating, creating a better environment for people to gather and spend time;

The pandemic has shown high-quality outdoor space is more important than ever. A more versatile events space in Abbey Close opens up new opportunities, such as outdoor markets, or allowing town hall activity to expand outside.

It also means existing events such as the Halloween and Food and Drink festival - which already bring crowds into the area - can evolve and help the area's long-term recovery from the pandemic.

The planned changes are the first phase of a long-term development which could see improvements to the riverside gardens and changes to the Cotton St/Gauze St junction at a later date.

How we are respecting the area's history

Abbey Close 1880s We are very conscious of the history of the Abbey Green as a burial ground and the plans have been developed to avoid interfering with that. Our extensive surveys to date have found no evidence of graves in the area we plan to build new paving on, and historical mapping supports that.

Our research into the site reveals a fascinating history of changes:

- throughout the 19th century the west edge of Abbey Green housed a row of buildings but these were demolished in the 1880s to expand Abbey Close, as the town hall was built (as shown in the image from the 1880s).

Abbey Close OS map 1913 - 1897 saw an Abbey Surrounds Committee formed to 'provide Paisley with a central open space'; they bought and demolished surrounding properties, to reveal views of the newly-restored Abbey. As the OS map from 1913 here shows, a wall separated the graveyard from the area we now plan to build on;

- By the 1930s this was complete, and the shape has remained largely the same since.

- in 1997 the street was repaved and the current D-shaped turning circle was added.

The work also means we need to move two of the statues - Robert Tannahill will move further back, still facing the town hall, and Alexander Wilson will go to the new corner of Abbey Close and Gauze St. This will keep these two important figures in prominent and visible spots.

We would like to think these plans complement the vision the Victorian and Edwardian town planners had for the site more than 100 years ago.