Fresh multimillion-pound plans to breathe new life into an iconic Aberdeen city centre park will be unveiled to the public for the first time today.
The £20million redesign of Union Terrace Gardens incorporates features to modernise the Victorian park and bring it back into use, while retaining the green space many residents have fought to protect.
Award-winning consultants LDA design – the firm behind London’s Olympic Park – were recruited earlier this year to drive forward the revamp.
From today, their designs will be public display – and residents from across the north-east are being urged to have their say.
The project includes retaining the central lawn space, but creating a new entrance plaza opposite HM Theatre to accommodate for events and gatherings of all scales.
A cafe pavilion is also planned for opposite the theatre, while the “grand staircase” will be reinstated as part of a central, accessible route into the gardens from Rosemount Viaduct. This could also act as an informal amphitheatre for events on the lower lawn. As a result, buses will no longer use the slipway onto Union Terrace.
The existing toilets would be upgraded for a new use while a potential cafe and gallery space at the Burns Monument, and within the existing arches, is also visualised.
There would also be a community garden space adjacent to the railway, as well as viewing platforms and a light installation to illuminate the park.
There would also be lift access and a ramp into the gardens.
A bridge linking Belmont Street to Union Terrace had been put forward but has not made the final draft of the plans.
Kirstin Taylor, project director at LDA Design, said the firm hoped to make the gardens a “year-round destination”.
She said: “The proposals enhance what is there, keeping as many trees as possible and providing a rich new planting scheme.
“Fine features such as the granite balustrading will be repaired, and the ‘grand staircase’ reinstated.
“We propose easier and more inviting access with new raised walks which allow for longer views and a gradual descent, and new disabled parking and lifts into the lower areas of the gardens.
“We are proposing a beautiful lighting installation as a beacon, and new lighting for the monuments and viaduct and the arches to animate the upper terrace.
“The gardens could be a lively cultural hub and our proposals include flexible spaces for events with an informal amphitheatre, and new community garden space. New facilities and more activities will make them feel safer.”
If approved, it is hoped that the new designs would be in place by the autumn of 2019.
And the council say opinions voiced during the consultation will be taken into account before detailed designs are drawn.
Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing said she was “delighted” with the proposals brought forward.
She said: “LDA was tasked with improving access, amenity and activity while conserving UTG’s rich heritage – what residents asked for during a consultation on the masterplan itself.
“These proposals respect the unique character of the gardens while making the space more usable for all. I would urge all residents to share their views so the LDA can refine the design and ensure we get the best result for everyone.
“Union Terrace Gardens represents a glorious gift from the past and in turn can be our gift to future generations. It is ours to nurture.”
Deputy leader Marie Boulton, who chairs the cross-party city centre regeneration board, added: “These proposals promise to enhance the city’s green heart as place to relax and enjoy.
“LDA Design has presented us with a vision we believe everyone can unite behind.”
Opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill urged residents to have their say during the week-long consultation.
“I hope that as many people as possible come along to see these designs and make their opinion known,” he said.
“Union Terrace Gardens is a special place in the hearts of many Aberdonians and it’s important that the work is scrutinised.”
Neil Mattinson, board director at the company, added: “The community’s ongoing participation is key to the success of the gardens.
“People have been very receptive to the types of positive changes raised while developing the proposals to date.
“Our aim is a balanced approach that provides something for everyone.”