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Phone mast wrangle could disrupt £150m Queen Street redevelopment

A row over phone masts on the roof of Queen Street police station could delay the ambitious redevelopment of the whole area. Photo by Scott Baxter/DCT Media.

Plans to demolish the former Aberdeen police headquarters to make way for a multi-million-pound regeneration project could end up in court – if a row between the council and a phone company can’t be resolved.

The local authority wants to knock down Queen Street station as part of a £150 million redevelopment of the area.

But ongoing wrangles with a telecoms company, which uses the height of the building to boost its phone network, could end up at a tribunal, Town House chiefs have said.

Aberdeen Journals has been told the local authority’s top legal minds do not believe the dispute will reach the courtroom.

“Currently we anticipate the risk of a challenge to the land tribunal to be low,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are confident that working with the relevant parties a solution will be identified.”

Queen Street redevelopment: ‘Low risk’ of going to court

Aberdeen City Council is expecting to take ownership of the police station at the end of January, with Town House chiefs tasked with overseeing the so-called Queen’s Square redevelopment then hoping have the whole block down by March 2023.

And despite the confidence in ongoing talks resulting in an amicable solution, resources director Steve Whyte has outlined the risk that the timeline for the huge work could already be scuppered – with the council yet to reach an agreement with the unnamed telecoms firm with an interest in the site.

There are three which had equipment on the roof of the looming police building and only two have agreed to having theirs moved, as it required by law.

Mr Whyte, in a report on the Queen Street plans, said: “All companies retain the right to contend the notice to remove in court via a Lands Tribunal Case should they deem it unfair to relocate within the 18-month notice period.

“The council and police have undertaken extensive efforts to assist each mast company with finding suitable alternative sites, and whilst this has been successful with two out of three of the companies, there is a still one outstanding party.

“We continue to work alongside Police Scotland to resolve this issue, however, the risk of Lands Tribunal Action remains until legal agreements have concluded between all affected parties.”

Change already afoot as part of Queen Street redevelopment

Police Scotland’s public counter has already been moved to nearby Marischal College, with officers expected to handed in the keys to their 1970s HQ at the end of the year.

Demolition will begin will begin soon after the council takes ownership, expected on January 31.

Meanwhile, exploratory work looking at moving sheriff, civil and commercial courts has shown the cost of bringing it all under the Town House roof would be “prohibitive”.

However, an in-principle deal between the council and the Scottish Courts And Tribunal Service has been reached to look into the feasibility of the moving the civil and commercial courts to the city’s civic HQ, with sheriff court action to remain in Castle Street.

The whole project – which has already resulted in the council buying up and knocking knocking properties including the McKay’s clothing shop – is part of regeneration in the east end of city centre.

A residential, cultural and civic quarter – made up of around 300 homes – would also bring about retail space.

However, with the loss of the police mortuary at Queen Street, council chiefs will have to find a temporary solution – given the replacement planned for Foresterhill is not expected to be built until early 2023.

Councillors will be updated on the Queen Street work at a meeting this afternoon – where decisions will also be taken on another £150m plan to reinvigorate the city.

The refresh of the city centre masterplan could include the pedestrianisation of Union Street, a new £50m market development and huge investment at the beach – including a new football stadium to keep Aberdeen FC from moving to the outskirts.