THE grass beds have been re-instated, the red surface torn up and replaced and on Sunday George Square will once again be open to the public.

Just hours before the perimeter barricades came down, the Evening Times was allowed on to the historic heart of the city to inspect the facelift.

The red surface has been replaced by speckled grey resin, making the area look larger.

Council bosses say the new surface will be hard wearing in icy conditions.

Two new, large grassy areas have been created, replacing the ones which were controversially dug up 15 years ago.

They have been designed so they can be covered up to allow large scale events to be held in the square.

Turf will be relaid around four times a year to ensure the area always looks smart.

The historic statues have also been given a new look as part of the £500,000 first phase of the upgrade of the square.

When the square closed at the end of June, one of the first tasks was to carry out an expert survey of the statues, to find out their condition.

They will be fully restored as part of a £15 million facelift of the area, which will be carried out after next year's Commonwealth Games.

Elsewhere, the benches, where generations of city centre workers have enjoyed their lunch, have been returned.

They have been placed round the edges of the grass beds allowing the number to be doubled.

One of the most dramatic changes to the square is at the Cenotaph, in front of the City Chambers.

It has been cleaned and repointed and 30 lilandii conifers, each more than 20ft tall, have been removed.

In their place are small yew trees, which will be regularly pruned to keep them at a low level.

The weeping ash at either side of the Cenotaph - a traditional plant for graveyards - have been given a haircut and trimmed into shape.

As a result, the Cenotaph now stands out proudly with the massive trees no longer blocking the view of the City Chambers.

Liz Cameron, the council's executive spokesman for jobs and the economy, said: "This makeover will give the city a real boost when the eyes of the world focus on the city during Glasgow 2014.

"The grey surface drastically improves the look of the square and I am confident everyone will be glad to see the back of the red Tarmac.

"We have taken the opportunity to cut back some of the trees around the Cenotaph, as they were in danger of encroaching on to the monument.

"We have now introduced more attractive looking plants to the side and also around the Sir Walter Scott Monument. The two grass beds on the western side of the square have also returned, ensuring a greener square at the very heart of our city.

"By completing phase one in September, we are allowing for suitable commemoration of Remembrance Day and enabling the Christmas events to return to the square this year."

One of the first events to benefit will be Great Scottish Run, on October 6, which will start from near the City Chambers.

The race has attracted around 24,000 entrants.