“Misunderstood” Aberdeen officials are to go above and beyond in consulting on work to revitalise George Street – after claims residents and businesses have not been given enough of a voice.
Colourful new visions for the tired city street have been approved in a near 100-page draft masterplan.
Planners have outlined new road layouts, traffic restrictions, cycle lanes and proposals for the former John Lewis department store in the multi-coloured masterplan.
The “big hug” to the unloved street could also include an outdoor cinema, and trendy rooftop bar on the Bon Accord Centre.
But traders in Jopp’s Lane warned the suggested way forward could be “catastrophic” for their businesses.
‘Maybe planners went too far’ with detailed vision for George Street
This afternoon, senior planner Nigel McDowell admitted the level of detail in the document might have spooked people into thinking the proposals are definite.
The urban designer said: “I think the matter is more a misunderstanding as to what the masterplan is saying.
“At the very start, it says these are visions and objectives and principles.
“Looking at the transformational projects, it says very clearly that these are ideas for further exploration and engagement.
“And maybe we went too far in terms of the level of detail on some of those…”
He continued: “But I am happy to explain the concept of where we’re coming from.
“Ultimately, if we look at before and after, it’s very easy to see the positive benefits to these areas.”
His masterplan for the area highlighted six possible “transformational projects” which could make George Street an “instantly recognisable streetscape” in Aberdeen.
- Improving and modernising the street
- Creating ‘Norco Place’, a mini-park outside the former John Lewis building
- Reimagining the Bon Accord Centre
- Making more of the area surrounding Nescol
- Improving lighting
- And exploring which areas could be redeveloped for homebuilding
What do you think of the George Street “vision” outlined in the masterplan? Let us know in the comments section below
Bumper consultation on masterplan after George Street trader concern
The “visions, objectives and principles” were approved at the second time of asking at Aberdeen Town House on Friday.
Councillors didn’t reach George Street on the agenda at the first sitting of the meeting weeks ago, as a row exploded over “racist” comments hurled at one councillor from another.
George Street and Harbour SNP councillor Dell Henrickson today spoke in favour the plans – and the bumper consultation his administration promised.
He said: “George Street can by some be regarded to be a forgotten area of Aberdeen.
“However, for those who live, work in and know the area know this is not the case.
“The masterplan is a vision of what the George Street area could become.
“There are concerns regarding certain elements, understandable when change is brought forward.”
Initial consultation on the George Street draft masterplan garnered only 102 responses on the council website.
Labour: ‘One thing is missing… money’
Aberdeen Labour’s M Tauqeer Malik said he was “happy to approve” the draft masterplan.
“But there is one thing missing: money,” he added.
“We have seen plenty of SNP proposals consigned to shelves in the past, after getting agreed at council.
“All lovely coloured pictures, currently sitting in one of the libraries not yet closed by the SNP.
“We believe the SNP are once again giving the people of Aberdeen false hope.”
He pressed for the decision-making to be deferred until March, when the council decides on where to take £35m cuts to its budgets.
George Street and Harbour Labour member Sandra Macdonald described the masterplan as the “big hug” the beleaguered area needs.
What would you like to see happen to George Street? Let us know in our comments section below
Concern over designs for former John Lewis department store, Norco House
Meanwhile the Conservatives blasted the draft masterplan, claiming it was “just not ready to be finalised”.
Tory transport lead Duncan Massey delivered his well-rehearsed fury at recent city centre road changes, a continued “gaslighting” he said would be exacerbated by what’s imagined for George Street.
He also ridiculed the idea that George Street should be included in the city centre in the first place, suggesting the “massive” Aberdeen city centre was growing to rival the footprint of “London, Delhi or Shanghai”.
But more seriously, he said a “key part” of it all was missing: what did the new owners of Norco House – the former John Lewis department store – want to do with it?
He added: “It is under new ownership, aligned to the Bon Accord Centre.
“But absolutely no engagement has been included with this new owner.
“So the plan includes a variety of hypothetical changes to the building but they are now out of date and don’t necessarily reflect reality.
“We need to engage with them as a matter of importance.”
Lib Dem co-leader Ian Yuill countered that talks with the new owners were ongoing.
The George Street draft masterplan was approved by 23 votes to 11.
- Our coverage of the draft George Street masterplan when it was published
- Jopp’s Lane traders claim they were not asked about huge change outside their doors
- Changes to Aberdeen’s new bus gates
- And the social enterprise eyeing up the former John Lewis for a north-east food produce market