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Sir Howard Bernstein gives approval to plans to put Aberdeen on cultural map

Sir Howard Bernstein at Deloitte, Union Plaza.
Sir Howard Bernstein at Deloitte, Union Plaza.

One of the UK’s most respected regeneration tzars has thrown his weight behind plans to put Aberdeen on the cultural map.

Sir Howard Bernstein, who masterminded the rejuvenation of Manchester following the 1996 IRA bombing, said ideas being mooted to inject the Granite City with the “wow factor” were ambitious, imaginative and full of energy.

But he warned that in order for the city to be able to transform, Aberdonians need to be supportive, have belief and embrace change.

He was talking at Deloitte’s office at Union Plaza during a visit to the north-east yesterday, where a number of Vanguardees from the chamber of commerce pitched ideas through which they believe the city can be transformed.

One of these includes a Barcelona-style cable car, which would link the Castlegate to the new harbour.

The ambitious plan, first reported last month in the Press and Journal, would see 164ft-high terminal structures towering above the shore while positioned at the beach, the Citadel and Nigg Bay.

It is hoped such a move would not only give Aberdeen an iconic visitor attraction but also regenerate the respective areas and act as a mode of transport for those visiting the city by cruise ship.

Yesterday architect Chris Smith presented his ideas to Sir Howard who said it was an idea worth “detailed evaluation”.

He said: “There is a real energy, a passion and an imagination and that’s clearly driving some very interesting ideas and thoughts about how Aberdeen can be made a better place to both work and to visit.

“Not every idea is going to work but progressive places need energy and that’s been clearly demonstrated by the people I have met this morning and through their ideas.

“What they are trying to solve with the cable car is an issue of how do you transport people from the harbour to the city. Ambition is part of that and that ambition is absolutely right. Is the cable car technically feasible? Well there are many examples of places around the world which shows they can be deliverable and achievable.

“Is it the most practical and the most cost effective way of moving people around? I don’t know and I suspect the people who came up with the idea don’t even know but it is certainly an idea worthy of detailed evaluation and analysis and that as an option should be progressed quickly. It works in Barcelona why can’t it work here?”

Sir Howard was also presented with a wide range of other ideas which the volunteers hope will have a more immediate impact on the city.

He said that while the plans were bold and ambitious it was important they were progressed sooner rather than later.

He said: “I think the ideas are great. The proof in the pudding will be in executing them. The really good ideas, the ones that work, and not all of them will, require actually being grasped and embraced by business leaders in order to change the economic and social fabric of the city.

“You have to deliver things. There is no good talking about them or even disagreeing about them, cities constantly evolve. They never stand still.

You’ve got to always look to adapt different parts of the city to change economic cycles and behaviours. If you don’t anticipate those changes and plan for them then you are always reacting to events. Those are the places that really struggle to catch up.”

Caroline Muir, partner and head of tax at Deloitte in Aberdeen, said they were delighted to welcome Sir Howard, who acts as a strategic advisor with the firm, back to the city to hear his insights on what can be done to shape the future of the north-east.

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