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Live updates: Full council meeting on future of Aberdeen

Aberdeen Council Live Updates
Aberdeen Council Live Updates

Aberdeen City Council is meeting today to decide on the future of the city.

Pedestrianisation of Union Street, Beach front regeneration and a new Dons stadium, as well as Aberdeen’s Eurovision bid are all on the cards for discussion.

Please refresh for live updates below.

10.45am: Hussein Patwa presents a deputation on behalf of Katrina Michie (Acting chairwoman) of the Disability Equity Partnership (Dep) and its external members. It can be found in full here.

11.07am: Mr Patwa: “Do we want to have a city that is accessible to some but not all?”

“This is not a short-term solution to short-term problem we need to take account of the ageing demographic and changing demographic.”

11.09am City architect Richard Tinto gives deputation. He says he is here as an Aberdonian who is passionate about the future of the city centre.

He was “gutted” when he saw the return of traffic to the central section of Union Street and he believes pedestrianisation is the “golden thread” that connects all the good work being planned for the city together.

Mr Tinto says pedestrianisation is the missing piece of the jigsaw and said city should take note of surveyors who said it was the only way to bring life back to Union Street’s empty buildings.

11.19am Council co-leader Alex Nicoll asks Mr Tinto what his view of pedestrianisation looks like given no option before the council being considered would result in it ever being “vehicle-free”. He says in his understanding all the proposals suggest some level of vehicle usage.

Mr Tinto says almost every other city in Europe has been able to solve these challenges and asks why can’t Aberdeen get together and solve these?

11.26am: Presentation on city centre masterplan

We’re now being talked through the four options for Union Street.

  • 1. Revert to pre-pandemic
  • 2. Full pedestrianisation between Bridge St and Market St
  • 3. Bus/cycle/taxi only with two lanes
  • 4. Bus/cycle/taxi only with four lanes

11.37am Councillor Ryan Houghton asks officers how they perceived consultations went with organisations like Dep there were suggestions officers did not take concerns seriously.

Head of planning, David Dunne, said “no officers would ever engage with any group disingenuously”.

He said: “It would never happen. As the current head of planning, we will make decisions that won’t make everybody happy but we will always listen.

“My officers have engaged with Dep for years and any suggestion that we wouldn’t take on board their concerns isn’t the case and never will be the case.”

11.54am Councillor Tauqeer  Malik asks officers to explain the economic benefits of each option.

He is told by officer Sandy Beattie, there is “clear evidence pedestrian space allows more time for people to linger in the city centre. The more time people are there the more likely they are to feel comfortable and safe leading to them spending money.”

12.07pm Councillor Sandra Macdonald asked if there could be a “circular route” that took in Guild Street, Marks and Spencer, George Street and Art Gallery by means of small train like transport. She said: “I know it’s not something in this report but it doesn’t seem too out there that it is considered.”

She was told this was previously considered and deemed unviable but could be looked at again.

12.14pm Officers confirmed planning applications for cafe culture around Belmont Street are expected to be submitted in the summer.

Co-leader Alex Nicoll asks what discussions have been had with bus companies about restricted access to Union Street.

Head of planning David Dunne said he spoke to operators this week and there was some concern around capacity and vehicles queuing.

He said the bus companies would prefer works on Guild Street, Market Street and Bridge Street to be carried out first.

But added they “always seek to work in partnership with bus operators”.

12.32pm Councillor Deena Tissera asked if buses are retained in central Union Street space how many will be there each hour?

She was told conversations would have to be had with bus operators.

12.36pm Fifteen-minute comfort break for the motion made by co-leader Ian Yuill to be considered.

1pm Meeting reconvenes. With regards to Union Street pedestrianisation administration’s motion proposes to agree to implement Option 3 (bus lanes with bus laybys)

BUT to further instruct the designs, where possible, should allow for conversion to Option 2 (full pedestrianisation with central bicycle and service corridor and servicing laybys) should the council agree in the future that:

  • a) Suitable 24-hour access arrangements to central Union Street are in place for people with disabilities and limited mobility; and

b) Suitable alternative bus and public transport arrangements are available which ensure easy bus passenger access to central Union Street.

1.05pm: Councillor Sandra Macdonald asks questions about the ability to move from option 3 to option 2 when the time arises.

Will hybrid option cost more?

She asks officers will it cost more and will it take more time to prepare option 3 and move to option 2 in future.

Her question was left somewhat unanswered as officers tried to decipher the motion seeking to compromise pedestrianisation and partial pedestrianisation.

1.10pm Councillor Ian Yuill says it is their opinion option 3 is “better”. He said First is planning to reintroduce most of its routes down Union Street this weekend.

He said the option creates more exclusive pedestrian space, reduces pollution levels and has the ability to improve economic activity.

He said for them the key point is it is “inclusive and not exclusive”.

‘Nothing is forever’ says co-leader Ian Yuill when moving for only part pedestrianisation of Union Street

But he said “nothing is forever” and by allowing option 3 to be carried out in such a way that option 2 could be implemented in the future it would allow flexibility if circumstances or council make-ups ever change.

His main argument for option 3 appears to be to allow disabled access. It is the administration’s belief that if they go for option 2 it would be restricting access to large parts of the population including the elderly and disabled.

1.20pm Councillor Sandra Macdonald reminded the council that failure to pedestrianise may lead to the missing out on the £20 million levelling up funding for the proposed continental market. 

1.25pm Councillor Tauqeer  Malik says he was disappointed but not surprised that the new administration took “the first opportunity” to go against the recommendations from officers. He said “they feel they know better” than the people who have put their names to the appraisal report in front of them.

1.33pm Disagreement breaks out in the chamber between councillor Barney Crocket and co-leader Alex Nicoll over the question of breaking for lunch. Meeting is adjourned until 2.10pm.

2.10pm Meeting kicks off again.

2.28pm A firey councillor Barney Crocket clearly perturbed by the prospect of option 3 being voted through.

2.40pm: Councillor Ryan Houghton, talking on the motion to vote for option 3: “This is going to sabotage the economic recovery of this city!”

2.50pm Independent Councillor Jennifer Stewart backs pedestrianisation.

Quite an impassioned speech.

She said: “What worries me is the many months officers have spent working on these options in front of us.

“And time is money, the public’s money. As an independent councillor, I have always tried to seek and find a resolution.

“Mr Patwa spoke very eloquently and I would hope there could be further conversations with him to see what other possibilities there would be to come up with.

“What concerns me is the buses will travel down Union Street but what are they going to go to? They are going to be on the road to nowhere.

“Life has changed we all know that, through the pandemic, but what the hospitality trade is saying is we need to have that pedestriansed area to get back into the city.

“What people want are experiences now. What concerns me is that more businesses leave Aberdeen, I am worried Marks and Spencer leaves Aberdeen.”

3.13pm Voting taking place on councillor Yuill’s motion.

3.16pm Motion carried 25 votes to 18. Option 3 – Union Street to remain open to buses and taxis passed.

Read full story here 

Eurovision Song Contest Aberdeen 2023?

3.23pm Officers tell the council conversations need to be held to established likely costs attributed to holding Eurovision Song Contest next year.

Conversations also needed with partners and stakeholders in terms of their support for potential event.

Councillor Ryan Houghton moves to amend his previous motion.

4.13pm All beach redevelopment plans rubber-stamped without discussion. Read all about the plans here.

Poll results: Readers divided 50/50 on Union Street traffic ban plans

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