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‘This is a serious insult’: Daughter of Piper Alpha survivor hits out at Hazlehead memorial garden redesign

The Piper Alpha Memorial Garden.
The Piper Alpha Memorial Garden.

A proposed £500,000 redesign of the Piper Alpha Memorial Garden in Aberdeen has been branded an “insult” by the daughter of one of the survivors.

The Pound for Piper Trust campaign wants to redesign the gardens to provide a sustainable and fitting memorial at Hazlehead Park.

But Iona Ballantyne, the daughter of one of only 61 survivors, Bob Ballantyne, said families were not consulted on the new plans.

What are the Piper Alpha rose garden plans?

Pound for Piper plans to create a garden with concentric circles and new signage. The proposed garden has been designed by Kirsty McLean, of The Garden Design Company Scotland and former Beechgrove Garden guest designer.

However, in a scathing Twitter thread, Ms Ballantyne – a BBC Alba TV presenter- said: “The Piper Alpha memorial garden is being redesigned and rebranded by a charity which did not confirm it intentionally to the families involved before going ahead with their plans.

“After the explosion on 6 July 1988 which killed 167 men, families and survivors wanted to build a memorial but faced many obstacles.

Roses were requested by families

“They finally got permission from Aberdeen City Council to site it in a new rose garden at Hazlehead Park – far enough from the town not to offend the oil companies – and they asked the council for 167 roses to be planted around the memorial.

“Raising funds was problematic and took a very long time. Of the 28 companies who lost men in the disaster, only 21 contributed, most sending donations of around £50 with one sending £2,000.

Artist impression of  the proposed North Sea Memorial Garden within Hazlehead Park.

“The families were left to source funding and also to contribute to it. The families, including my own, fought long and hard for this monument and garden and paid for it to be built.

“Pound for Piper is proposing that the redesigned garden should be firmly rebranded as the ‘North Sea Memorial Garden’. They’ve already ripped up rose beds.”

She continued: “It should not be rebranded as a generic monument and garden, removing the association of the space with the disaster.

Pound for Piper Memorial Trust (PFP), Piper Alpha memorial service at the memorial gardens at Hazlehead Park on Tuesday July 6 2021. Picture by Kami Thomson / DCT Media.

“Surely it would be better to maintain the current garden in excellent condition rather than replace it with a design that includes a large concrete circle around the monument instead of the 167 roses that the families requested should surround it in the first place.

“Maintaining them as intended is so important to families and survivors who still deal with the horror of that fateful night. Being somewhere the oil companies can be ‘proud of’ is a serious insult.”

Shane Gorman said the Piper Alpha Memorial statue, which contains human remains, is “like a cemetery to us, because we don’t have a gravestone to go to”.

He said: “There’ll be lots of families out there, connected to Piper, who still won’t know this is going ahead.

“From that perspective, imagine if you just turned up one day and there was work going on? People would be beside themselves.”

Trust wants to keep garden as ‘special place of solace’

Steve Rae, chairman of the Pound for Piper Trust, told Energy Voice: “We took the decision to go ahead with the launch before consultation with family/survivors and the public knowing that even with our best efforts it would be highly unlikely that we would be successful in connecting with many of those who were directly impacted by the disaster in particular those who lost family, loved ones, colleagues and work mates.

“With this in mind we realised that we would receive feedback, both supportive and critical, on our proposed re-development as soon as it was launched.  Our intention was, is, to respond to these personally and privately, which we have been doing since the launch last Friday.”

Call for oil and gas industry to back £500,000 plan to redevelop iconic Piper Alpha memorial garden

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