A grand blueprint outlining up to £1 billion of investment in Aberdeen could be reconsidered years ahead of schedule, due to the economic change in the city.
The 25-year city centre masterplan (CCMP) was agreed in 2015 but it has now been revealed the area could be increased – and include the city’s seafront.
George Street and Harbour councillor Michael Hutchison has pushed for an early refresh of the plan due to the significant change in the city’s fortunes over the last year.
The 25-year outline includes improvements to the Castlehill area, a new residential quarter in Queen Street including knocking down the ageing police headquarters, and improvements including a new pedestrian bridge at the Torry waterfront.
Regent Quay and Woolmanhill are also earmarked for change, including reclaiming the disused Woolmanhill Hospital as residential space and redeveloping the Denburn health centre site.
But the downturn in oil and gas, the pandemic and Brexit have “battered” Aberdeen, Mr Hutchison said, forcing a number of businesses to shut up shop or leave Aberdeen – and that meant the blueprint should be re-examined.
He told The P&J: “Our city centre has changed dramatically in the past few years, more so than anyone could have imagined in 2014 when we consulted on the current City Centre Masterplan.
“There’s a need to build our city centre back up but there has to be an acknowledgement that what people want and need now is not necessarily the same as six years ago.
“We should be starting the work on a new masterplan as soon as possible, canvassing ideas from the public, businesses, universities, and anyone else who wants to share their ambitions for Aberdeen.
“We could also look to examples across the world for inspiration and seek to better link our harbour and beach with the city centre.
“We all want a better future for Aberdeen, and this should be our chance to imagine how we get there.”
But it is now understood the Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent ruling coalition have begun talks on the CCMP update, which could include incorporating the beachfront.
Capital programme convener Marie Boulton said: “Covid-19 has hampered our ability to bring the process forward as early as we would have wanted.
“There requires further discussions with stakeholders, one of which is Aberdeen Football Club who may now have a desire to remain within their spiritual home down at the beach.
“The administration intend to take forward their plans for a refresh of the CCMP shortly, and these plans, along with engagement plans with stakeholders and citizens, will be published in due course.
“If Michael Hutchison and the SNP are serious about transformation in Aberdeen then they need to be on the phone to the SNP-led Scottish Government asking for a fairer settlement for Aberdeen because – as they should know by now – transformational projects aren’t free.”
Discussions around the refresh of the masterplan come as members of the city’s planning committee meet today to discuss proposed boundary to the city centre conservation area.
The protected area could be expanded to include Marischal Square and the St Nicholas Centre and new parts of Holburn Street, Union Grove and Chapel Street.
The site of the £107 million office and retail development, across Broad Street from Marischal College and built in place of the former council HQ, was not previously in the conservation area as an “anomaly”, officers said.