Council chiefs in Aberdeen have said they are ready to “push the button” on a major multi-million pound renovation of the city’s Union Terrace Gardens.
Local authority leader Jenny Laing and her deputy Marie Boulton yesterday dismissed suggestions that the latest £20million plan from LDA Design will be left to “sit on the shelf”.
Ambitious plans have been put forward by successive council administrations dating back to the 1950s.
Residents are being urged to view the new designs, which include retaining the central lawn space, but creating a new entrance plaza opposite HM Theatre, a cafe pavilion opposite the theatre, while the “grand staircase” will be reinstated as part of a central route into the gardens from Rosemount Viaduct.
Mrs Laing said: “At the time we were consulting on the city centre masterplan it became clear that people wanted to see changes at the gardens but at the same time see the best features retained.
“Union Terrace Gardens has been a divisive issue for the city in the past and that’s why we went for the masterplan.”
Mrs Boulton said: “These proposals stem from the masterplan of 50 projects which decided on after careful consultation with the public.
“We didn’t want another plan that sat on the shelf, and UTG is clearly one of the more important projects to push forwards.
“There was a scepticism from the public (in 2012) that we constantly produced plans and then they don’t see it happen.
“I hope we will soon be in a position to press the button and I think the public will be very excited about what they see.”
LDA Design’s board director Neil Mattinson said: “What we have done is retain the essence of the gardens but bring them up to the 21st century.”
Ross Thomson, Conservative MSP for the north-east and a city councillor, said: “I hope that Aberdonians will take the opportunity to make their voice heard on these new proposals to transform Union Terrace Gardens.
“It has been more than four years since the City Garden Project was thrown out and I hope that the bitter divisions of that period have been consigned to history.
“I think most residents would agree that the Victorian park is in need of some restoration, and I will be interested to hear what people think of the designs before the plans come to council for consideration.”
But opposition SNP group leader Stephen Flynn criticised the Labour-lead administration for unveiling the plans in their last year of office.
He said: “The public have waited five years for this administration to bring forward any proposals for Union Terrace Gardens so of course I would urge residents to view the plans and make their views known.
“I don’t think anyone will be surprised that this will only be decided in March – just weeks before the council election – by this Labour administration, that has a constant eye on how to get a media hit.
“If (Mrs Laing and Mrs Boulton) are saying they are ready to push the button then you have to wonder whether they are ready to listen to the public’s views that they give them.”