PLANS to create a new civic square for Aberdeen city centre by raising Union Terrace Gardens to street level were first proposed more than 20 years ago.
Sir Ian Wood yesterday used an artist’s impression published as long ago as 1987 to illustrate the way Aberdeen’s new civic heart could look.
Aberdeen Beyond 2000, formed in 1986, comprised of a group of local businessmen, to plot a future of long-term prosperity for the city.
An action plan produced by the group first proposed the creation of a new city-centre square at Union Terrace Gardens in 1987. The scheme did not materialise but the idea was revived by Grampian Enterprise in the early 90s.
Sir Ian said yesterday that the development body’s inability to raise enough capital for the project while he was at the helm had always played on his mind.
“I consider the failure of Grampian Enterprise to achieve the backing and financial funds to achieve this in the early 90s to be my biggest failure as its first chairman and that has always bothered me,” he said.
Bids for lottery funding to provide a deck over the existing gardens so a new square could be built at upper street level were turned down in 1997 and 1999, ending hopes of the project getting off the ground – until yesterday’s announcement.
The tycoon told the Press and Journal he began seriously considering resurrecting the plans about a year ago.
“When I set up the Wood Family Trust about 15 months ago, I always had at the back of my mind that it would be good to do one major project in Scotland, and preferably in Aberdeen,” he said.
“I was also growing concerned in the last few years that Aberdeen had kind of lost its position.”
He said he had noticed Union Street change significantly over the past 40-years, and added: “In my young days, Union Street, with an east-to-west axis, was both the main retail centre and the heart, a high-quality main street that ranked among the best in Scotland.
“Sadly, it is now a shadow of its former glory and, with some exceptions, lacks any real distinction and quality.”
Sir Ian added: “I think that this would put Aberdeen back on the map in terms of its position in Scotland.”
Sir Ian, who made his fortune from the offshore industry, has joined a growing list of Scottish philanthropists following the launch of the Wood Family Trust, which is to invest £50million in the next five to 10 years supporting projects in some of the world’s poorest countries, as well as helping young people at home.
Among the goals set out by Aberdeen Beyond 2000 were major improvements to key roads in and out of the city, revitalisation of The Green, the creation of a new shopping centre between Bridge Street and Market Street and the transformation of Union Terrace Gardens into a new city-centre square.