A row over the soaring cost revamping Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens has broken out.
This week, the capital committee heard the project has a gross budget of £28.3million – well above the £17million estimation when the project was first unveiled.
Last night, council leaders were accused of prioritising “vanity projects” by finding “millions down the back of the sofa” to cover the spiralling costs of the upgrades to the Victorian park.
Co-leader Douglas Lumsden however insisted the construction costs had been budgeted for earlier in the year.
The committee heard that £2.3m has been spent to date, including design work, and construction costs have been set at £25.7m. There will also other various associated costs, including officers’ time.
They were also told that tenants will be required to run shops and other venues from the Victorian arches and toilets to pay for the ongoing maintenance of the gardens.
The ambitious revamp includes elevated walkways, new pavilions, an event space and play facilities, and work is due to be finished by summer 2021.
Last night the opposition SNP group said the costings had changed a number of times and that that “the public would keep a keen eye” on the search for tenants.
SNP capital spokesman Alex Nicoll said: “Less than a year ago councillor Lumsden told us that UTG would cost £22m, his predecessor told the public £17m – the reality is that the costs continue to rise and they’ve no idea what the final cost will be.
“Our co-leaders are quick to cut budgets to the things that matter most to the public but when it comes to keeping their vanity projects alive they’re able to find millions down the back of the sofa.”
“I am sure the public will be keeping a keen eye on how long it takes the administration to find tenants for the premises in the arches.”
Mr Lumsden, however, insisted the costs had been fully considered and budgeted for.
He said: “Perhaps councillor Nicoll was asleep during the budget process as these figures were set then.
“The costs presented to the capital committee are the design and predicted construction costs.
“I think the people of Aberdeen will be getting pretty fed up of the negativity and criticism constantly talking down the city when they should be talking it up.”
Design features include:
• New accessible walkway route into the gardens from Union Street
• Lift access from Union Terrace into the upper level of the gardens through a new entrance building on Union Terrace at the existing Burns Monument
• Improved disabled parking facilities on Union Terrace directly adjacent to the new accessible walkway routes into the gardens
• Retaining the central lawn space as a flexible space for large scale gathering and events, and a new entrance opposite His Majesty’s Theatre to accommodate smaller scale events
• Reinstating the ‘grand staircase’ as a central part of the new accessible route into the gardens from Rosemount Viaduct
The transformation is expected to take between 18 and 21 months to complete.