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‘Smelly’ seafront arches to be destroyed as Aberdeen Beach revamp progresses

Councillors decided to progress with the £48 million transformation of the Esplanade in a crunch vote today.

Arches at Aberdeen beach
The arches are the last remaining thing from the city's popular Beach Bathing Baths, which were built in the 19th Century.

Major revamp plans for Aberdeen beach are moving forward – despite some sadness about “historic features” being destroyed in the name of progress.

Councillors voted to surge ahead with the next stage of the multi-million-pound project, which includes a new boardwalk stretching out into the North Sea.

A “safe swimming zone” under the boardwalk, more public facilities and a clubhouse for watersport groups will also be created.

But the move came amid concerns over the loss of old arches – and the huge costs involved.

The new boardwalk will stretch from the Beach Boulevard to the new proposed entrance of the Beach Ballroom. Image: Aberdeen City Council.

At a crunch meeting today, concerns were raised about how the cash-strapped authority would pay for the £48m scheme.

‘Smelly’ beach arches will have to go

The changes will spell the end for the historic arches, which are all that remain of the popular Beach Bathing Station where generations of Aberdonians learned to swim.

Under the blueprints the 19th Century structure will be demolished.

Councillor Marie Boulton argued this will mean losing one of the most “identifiable features” of the beach.

Marie Boulton was not in favour of demolishing the historic structure at Aberdeen beach. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

She asked: “Why not retain historic features?”

Head of procurement Craig Innes told the chamber they would have to go.

He added: “In relation to the arches, if you walk past you will see there are issues with damp and rot.

“There’s an odour problem there as well.”

The seafront will undergo a facelift. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson 

The top official explained these arches are mainly used by safety groups whose activities are based at distant parts of the seafront, so they are “in the wrong place”.

As the beach masterplan progresses, there will be new facilities built for these groups.

Youths gave the arches a colourful makeover a few years ago. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson.

Do you think the arches should be retained? Let us know in our comments section below

What will be there instead?

Getting rid of the arches will allow for a new “slipway” to be created down to the sands.

Mr Innes said this will “improve access to that area of the beach”, which is “perhaps where the most footfall is going to be”.

New seating areas, he added, would provide members of the public with “enhanced space” rather than using the arches.

Colourful proposals for the playpark included in the £48m Aberdeen beach urban park - which could be named after Queen Elizabeth II. Image: Aberdeen City Council
Colourful proposals for the playpark included in the £48m Aberdeen beach urban park. Image: Aberdeen City Council

Meanwhile, leading councillors voted to push ahead with the redesign despite pleas to put it on the backburner at a time of financial turmoil…

‘This £48m could be put to better use elsewhere’

Emphasising the council’s “stark financial position” at the moment, Mrs Boulton pleaded for the major revamp of the seafront to be paused.

She said: “I’m not being a killjoy, but a realist.

“I want to make sure that every penny that we do spend is on things that we really need to do, and draw people from far and wide.”

Mrs Boulton added the £48m put aside for the beach revamp could be better used for other things – such as enhancing Union Street and preserving public services.

Plans for the Castlegate in Aberdeen released as part of the masterplan consultation. Image: Aberdeen City Council.
The council is currently juggling with three masterplans – for the beach, the city centre and George Street. Image: Aberdeen City Council.

And she argued that there are other “critical places” that need that cash boost instead.

Mrs Boulton added: “We are talking about a park here, about interventions on Union Street – and everything seems to be a priority, which means nothing is a priority.

“We have to look at what will create footfall, and what will bring people into our businesses.

“And right now, the beach doesn’t suffer from a lack of footfall.”

A busy Aberdeen beach on a sunny day. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Councillor Jennifer Stewart backed this, saying the beach scheme should be held for when the local authority can afford it.

But councillor Martin Greig expressed reservations about backing out.

Councillor Martin Greig. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

He said: “I’d be very worried about cancelling legally committed projects and having to deal with the consequences.

“Work has been under way – some of it has even been partially completed – and I don’t want to see public money wasted by ditching the project.”