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Lengthy CPO fight averted for Aberdeen roads planners as councillors begin to learn impact of pandemic on multi-million-pound projects

The junction of South College Street, Palmerston Place and Millburn Street.
The junction of South College Street, Palmerston Place and Millburn Street.

Potential loggerheads over a long-awaited, multi-million pound road project in Aberdeen have been averted.

Aberdeen City Council issued compulsory purchase orders (CPO) in May to gain land needed to improve South College Street.

Yesterday it emerged the sole remaining objector to the buy-out had stood down, potentially clearing the way for the work.

While clearance for the plans is still to be confirmed, the news from Transport Scotland that resistance has fallen away rules out a lengthy public local inquiry to decide on the CPO.

First drawn up in 2004, the improvements would include a new turn-off from North Esplanade West into Palmerston Place.

That road, as well as the carriageway in South College Street, would also be expanded to accommodate more traffic – steering it away from the city centre.

The council’s chief capital officer, John Wilson, told councillors yesterday: “There was a risk of potential objections for the CPO process and we started a parallel process which could have led to a public local inquiry.

“But I can advise the committee today that there are no objections, as we were notified on Tuesday by Transport Scotland.

“That scenario won’t actually happen. That risk is now gone.

“We expect the decision in the next three weeks.”

A report prepared for the capital programme committee, published only last week, identified the risk of up to 18 months of delay due to a potential public local inquiry.

It also revealed negotiations around the CPOs and the pandemic had added around eight months onto the timeline, with the road now due to open in summer 2022.

Union Terrace Gardens, where the completion of work looks to have potentially slipped into 2022.

The committee also heard updates on other major council projects, including the redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens – another project to slip behind target due to the health crisis.

Originally planned to be open next summer, the public may have to wait until January or February 2022 to benefit from the grand overhaul.

Priced at £28.3 million, Mr Wilson yesterday told councillors negotiations with contractor Balfour Beatty on the cost of the delay were ongoing.

“Sitting here just now, it’s within budget,” he said.

Work on the planned Hall Of Heroes in the A-listed Provost Skene’s House – undergoing a £3.8m restoration – has also faced setbacks due to “unforeseen” challenges including additional rot being found as the 16th Century building – the city’s oldest surviving house – was stripped back.

South of the River Dee, delays in the removal of asbestos from the roof of the former Torry Academy has “significantly delayed” progress on a new primary school and community facility on the site.

Months of talks over the cost of the pandemic on construction of the £150m energy from waste incinerator in Tullos have now concluded, resulting in Mr Wilson assuring members it was still running to budget.

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