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‘The change Aberdeen needs’ or a ‘big mistake’? Your reaction to Union Street pedestrianisation

How a pedestrianised Union Street could look, according to Aberdeen City Council.

Last week Aberdeen City Council formally approved the pedestrianisation of part of Union Street – making the city’s main thoroughfare permanently car-free more than three decades after it was first suggested.

It means the Granite City will follow in the footsteps of others, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, in having a major city centre route closed off to all except cyclists and walkers.

More than half of our readers voted in favour of the scheme in a survey we ran last week.

However, at Friday’s meeting the plans were attacked by Aberdeen’s disability equity partnership, which accused the local authority of failing to consult properly.

The approval of the project also led to the resignation of Marie Boulton as the council’s city centre masterplan lead, who put forward a motion to allow public transport on Union Street but was unable to find a fellow councillor to second it.

Mixed reaction to Union Street plan

After we broke the news, the reaction among the public was mixed.

Some hailed the pedestrianisation – which has been in place since last year as part of temporary measures to allow physical distancing – as “the change the city needs”.

Andrew Connelly called on Aberdonians to “give it a chance”, adding car-free areas in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness are “nice places to walk around”.

Graham Chalmers said the move could make the city centre “vibrant” and would “attract new businesses to the area”.

Samuel Pearse looked to an example south of the border, claiming the pedestrianisation of Northumberland Street in Newcastle was “the best thing that ever happened to the city”.

“Hopefully this has the same effect on Aberdeen,” he added.

Part of Union Street has been car-free since last year because of Covid-19.

However, others were more sceptical of the proposals, with many people arguing the decision would not have the desired effect on the troubled Granite Mile.

Lorraine Malcolm claimed shoppers “will just avoid it and go straight to Union Square” if the pedestrianisation goes ahead, while Kathleen Christie described it as a “big mistake”.

Paul McNamee called the decision “the death of Aberdeen”, and Maureen Buchan claimed it would become a “no-go city”.

Work to start in spring

At Friday’s meeting, councillors were told work could begin on the long-awaited project – part of a £150 million masterplan to regenerate the city centre and the beach – in the spring.

Market Street, Bridge Street and Guild Street will be altered to give buses, taxis and bikes priority.

Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate between Harriet Street and Flourmill Lane will also be pedestrianised as part of the project.

City leaders also pledged to carry out a full engagement exercise with those most affected, including people with disabilities.

Jenny Laing, the council leader, called the plans the “next step in the city’s journey”.

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