Tomorrow’s meeting of Aberdeen councillors will be “one of the most important” in years – with the future of the city centre to be decided.
The city growth and resources session will be the last convened by outgoing co-leader Douglas Lumsden, who was elected to Holyrood last week.
This morning it was revealed Ryan Houghton will take over leadership of the local authority’s Scottish Conservative group.
Members will be asked later this week to vote on him becoming new council co-leader alongside Aberdeen Labour’s Jenny Laing.
Speaking ahead of his final meeting at the helm, Mr Lumsden outlined the significance of the talks.
He said: “It’s a really important time where he’s taking over, in terms of what we’ve seen in the city centre due to Covid.
“It’s taken a real battering and there needs to be a response.
“The committee this week, I think, is one of the most important committees we’ve had in terms of this administration.”
Masterplan and BHS on agenda
There are a total of 29 items on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, including a look at the revised city centre masterplan.
Earlier this year members agreed to spend £150 million for a review of the scheme, designed to aid Aberdeen’s recovery from the pandemic.
Tomorrow they will be asked to push ahead with the project, which will now involve the development of a plan focusing on the beach, and the addition of new electric vehicle infrastructure.
Key city centre locations such as the Bon Accord Centre and Norco House – the base for John Lewis – also feature, as will the former BHS store and indoor market.
Last week we revealed Town House chiefs are considering a surprise bid for the site, with a view to transforming it into a “destination venue” with permanent and pop-up space for local traders.
Developer Patrizia currently has planning permission to redevelop both spaces into offices, flats and retail.
Mr Lumsden added: “There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and some quite exciting projects coming up – thinking about the BHS building on Union Street, and the city centre masterplan.
“There’s real exciting things coming up on the agenda – things we need to be doing to move the city forward.”
Freeport bid something to ‘grab with both hands’
Members at tomorrow’s meeting will be asked to back a potential bid for a Freeport in Aberdeen, which Mr Lumsden says could prove a major employer.
He said: “If you look at where we are now with the decline in oil and gas, and the decline in retail, if there’s a chance of something that will bring thousands of jobs then we should grab it with both hands.”
Councillors at the meeting will also be asked to approve business trips to the likes of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea, and receive an update on plans for a bronze Denis Law statue near Provost Skene’s House.
At the weekend Mr Lumsden was voted into Holyrood as one of four Scottish Conservative MSPs on the North East regional list.
While he is stepping down as co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, he will continue as a councillor until next year’s local elections.
He said: “It’s a shame I won’t be staying around in the co-leader role to see these projects through, but I’ll still be keeping an eye on things.
“I’ve gained a lot of experience from the council role and I’ll be fighting Aberdeen’s corner down in Holyrood.”