Millions of pounds has been promised to Aberdeen to help pay for a new market development on Union Street.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the Granite City was successful in its bid for £20 million from the UK levelling up fund in his budget.
Confidential documents seen by Aberdeen Journals priced the new development – to be built on the site of the former British Home Stores unit and dilapidated indoor market – at nearly £75m.
That project alone would have used up half of a £150m budget put aside to pay for a revamp of the city centre and beach areas over the next five years – which is why the council has been so keen on chasing government funding.
It is hoped, as happened with the Aberdeen city region deal and is planned for the city’s green hydrogen production hub, that public money being committed will encourage private firms to invest too.
At the Commons dispatch box, Mr Sunak confirmed Aberdeen City Council’s success in securing the money for the scheme.
He told MPs: “As we level up public services, we are also levelling up communities – restoring the pride people feel in the places they call home.
“To do that, I am allocating the first round of bids from the levelling up fund.
“£1.7 billion to invest in the infrastructure of everyday life in over 100 local areas.
“With £170m in Scotland, £120m in Wales and £50m in Northern Ireland – more than their Barnett shares, this will benefit the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Aberdeen was the first place he named.
Council finance convener, Conservative Ryan Houghton, said: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news which will help us breathe new life into our city centre.
“We are an ambitious council and our plans for the redevelopment of Aberdeen market and former BHS retail unit combined with associated public realm works on Union Street and to the south will bring transformational change to the heart of the city centre.”
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Aberdeen had been deemed second tier on the levelling up priority list, with 122 other local authorities – including Dundee and Glasgow among 13 north of the border – thought to be more in need of the Westminster investment.
Another £20m has been promised to efforts to restore Inverness Castle, while another six places take the Scottish levelling up gain to £172m.
But Aberdeen Central MSP, the SNP’s Kevin Stewart said, despite the cash, the last fortnight had been a “major setback” in the north-east Covid recovery.
“Our city was betrayed last week on carbon capture and it’s been hung out to dry again today,” he said.
“Cash to redevelop a shop and market is a drop in the ocean compared to the £500 million committed by the Scottish Government to our just transition and does absolutely nothing to compensate the disastrous decision to overlook St Fergus for a carbon capture site.
“This budget should have put our region front and centre of just transition investment – instead we’ve been left with a few scraps off the table.”
Mr Stewart said the last fortnight proved the case for independence while Tory north-east MSP Douglas Lumsden argued the exact opposite – that the cash going into Union Street showed the benefits of being in the UK.
The former council co-leader said: “The Chancellor’s announcement is ground-breaking for Aberdeen and will help revitalise Union Street which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“This funding package from the UK Government is vital in helping to deliver a transformational Aberdeen market that will benefit our great city for years to come.
“The city council saw the massive opportunities presented by direct investment and Aberdeen will now reap the rewards.”
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Council officials are working to get the proposals together, with a planning application to be submitted “as soon as possible”.
The former BHS shop, empty for seven years, and nearby indoor market will be demolished – as well as the bridge linking the two at 101 Union Street.
Plans – which have been developed quickly since first appearing in May – could also include the pedestrianisation of the part of the Granite Mile, between Market Street and Bridge Street.
The council bought the buildings from developer First Endeavour earlier this year, after property investment firm Patrizia gave up on its office block plans for the site.
Billed as a “destination venue”, the international-style market would include space for fixed, temporary and pop-up stalls selling local and seasonal produce, as well as continental-style delicatessens, cafes and food outlets.
Council chiefs are also excited about the possibility of better links between Union Street and The Green through the redeveloped site.