Work to build an all-new visitor attraction overlooking Aberdeen’s iconic harbour has officially begun.
Greyhope Bay will become a dolphin spotter’s paradise, with a visitor centre, viewing platform, cafe and education and community space.
Over the last few months, momentum has been gathering to make the project at Torry Battery a reality after six years of hard work.
And today, the ground was finally broken at the site.
For Fiona McIntyre, who came up with idea while rock pooling, it was an emotional moment.
The marine biologist said: “Today we’ve broken ground and are starting the physical works at Torry Battery – it’s a culmination of six years of hard work and I’m really excited that we’ve got here and can finally build our centre for Aberdeen.
“I’m just overwhelmed and emotional, and terribly excited about it all.
“It’s that feeling that it’s part of history, it’s going to be part of the history of this monument (Torry Battery) and breathe new life into it. It’s just so amazing that we’ve managed to do it. It can be done.
“It was a big dream and to be this point is unreal.”
Full steam ahead for project six years in the making
Miss McIntyre, who gave up her job and lived on her savings to get the project off the ground, paid tribute to the “perseverance, resilience and strength” of those involved.
Over the coming weeks, the foundations will be laid before two shipping containers – which will be converted and kitted out to form the visitor centre – will be lowered onto the site.
It is that moment that Miss McIntyre is most looking forward to, adding: “It will be quite a wonderful sight to see the containers arriving.”
Lead architect Professor Gokay Deveci, who has been involved in the project from day one, was also thrilled to see work start and hopes it is a sign of things to come for the Granite City.
Originally the centre had been planned for Greyhope Bay, to the south of the harbour, but after listening to community feedback, the team turned their attention to Torry Battery.
Despite fears that it might be harder to get planning permission for the site given its historic importance, both the city council and Historic Environment Scotland supported the idea.
More to Aberdeen than energy
Prof Deveci said the decision to build at Torry Battery would breathe new life into the monument, bring more people to the area and create a great entrance to the city.
“Aberdeen needs to diversify for the post-carbon world, and this development helps us move in the different direction of tourism and environmental interests.
“My big dream is that this is a small stepping stone that will lead to more, like a marine centre. It could be the entrance to the city, a great welcome to the city and show what aspirations we have.”
Lord Provost Barney Crockett, who grew up in Torry, was among those who attended the sod-cutting today, and said he was delighted to see the battery “full of joy”.
How to get involved
Funding for Greyhope Bay has come from a variety of sources, including grants, but primarily through the support of the local business community and the public.
The charity launched a special fundraising scheme with various tiers of supporters – “admirals” for major foundational investors, “skippers” for groups or individuals looking to raise cash in their own way, and “crew” members who donate £30.
The first 1,000 founding crew members will receive an exclusive pin badge, five free coffees and discount to events.
Major funders include CNooc International, Taqa, Shell UK and Clarksons Platou Offshore, with grants provided by the likes of the city council, Opportunity North East and Aberdeen Harbour.
Other fundraising activities have included beach cleans, craft fairs, coffee mornings and even a Santa paddle down the River Dee.