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Wallace Tower plans withdrawn – but campaigners rallying to save landmark despite setback

Collage of photo of Wallace Tower and renewal plans
From left, Linday Barclay, young Theo McFadyen with Colin McFadyen and Jenna Conn at Wallace Tower. And the plans that have been withdrawn. Supplied by Roddie Reid, design team

Campaigners have paused plans to resurrect Wallace Tower, but remain determined to save the Aberdeen landmark.

The historic structure was moved brick by brick from the city centre to Tillydrone to make way for Marks and Spencer in the 1960s.

But it has fallen into decay in recent decades.

And long-awaited plans designed to save it from ruin have now been withdrawn.

Picture of Wallace Tower from Seaton Park
Wallace Tower looks over Seaton Park from its spot just off Tillydrone Road.

Wallace Tower revamp years in the making

The Tillydrone Community Development Trust has spent years plotting the renewal of the dilapidated monument.

Their dream appeared close to becoming a reality last year when plans were lodged with Aberdeen City Council.

The designs showed how the B-listed tower could be brought back from the dead with a glass extension housing a cafe, and office space upstairs.

However, the blueprints attracted objections that will cost thousands of pounds to address.

A previous vision for the site, with a glass extension, attracted some complaints.

Why have Wallace Tower plans been withdrawn?

Group chairman Colin McFadyen told us today that the scheme had been put back on the drawing board – but only for now.

He aims to have it back before the council by the end of the year.

Colin said: “The responses we got back showed that we needed to do some quite significant investigations.

“Together that amounts to an extra cost of about £6,000 so we have pulled it back to make sure we can fundraise to get that work done.

“It’s only been withdrawn for the moment though… We aim to re-submit it within nine months.”

Illustration of gardens with a footpath and a playground near Wallace Tower.
Another image shows how the Tillydrone Community Development Trust would ultimately like to see the area around Wallace Tower.

What next for Wallace Tower saviours?

The money is needed to fund research into the impact on nearby trees, and to address concerns about the lack of lighting around the tower.

Studies are also required to determine whether the smell of food from the cafe will “upset neighbours”.

Heritage experts have also warned against affixing the glass extension to the important building in case it causes damage whenever it eventually needs to be removed.

Illustration of annex next to the tower
The Trust later revised the scheme, with cladding around the side of the glass-encased cafe

Plans withdrawn, but dream lives on for Wallace Tower campaigners

Colin added that the group plans to apply for a community asset transfer to take over the building from the council this summer.

And members will be ramping up their fundraising over the next while.

Black and white photo of Wallace Tower and surround area
The building, which dates back to the 1620s, seen here in 1974.

“The plans are still very much on the table,” he said.

“Now we can be more active with fundraising, we are launching our first event with a storytelling session next month along with Aberdeen University and St Machar’s Cathedral.”

Is withdrawn Wallace Tower plan the ‘only option’ to rescue it?

Wallace Tower, originally known as Benholm Lodgings, dates back to the early 17th century when it was built on the Netherkirkgate.

Architects hired by the Trust previously claimed its plan “is the only sustainable available option for the building to be converted and restored for a new use”.

You can view the planning application here.

And more information on the storytelling event, to be held at the Elphinstone Institute, is available here.

Rebecca Buchan: Don’t wait until Aberdeen’s heritage is under threat to fight for it