In the pages of The Press and Journal this week, a columnist contrasted the vibrancy of Dundee’s centre with the “rot” reportedly besetting Union Street and its environs.
To judge a city on the back of a summer stroll is one thing. To miss the ambition of Aberdeen and the renaissance taking place within its heart is that bit harder to understand.
Aberdeen City Council is leading the way by reinventing our city centre so that it continues to thrive in the 21st century in a way that goes far beyond its retail offering.
Aberdeen Art Gallery, judged Museum of the Year on the back of a £36 million redevelopment, is currently hosting the British Art Show. This September our city will host the final stage of the Tour of Britain, the country’s premier cycling race.
At this year’s budget in March, the council – named Local Authority of the Year at the MJ local government achievement awards 2020 – announced it would be refreshing the City Centre Masterplan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This included £150 million over the medium term to strengthen links between the city centre and beach.
The council’s continuing investment in our environmental, economic and social infrastructure, coupled with strong partnership working, will feed into the ongoing renewal of Aberdeen’s city centre
As it is, the £28 million regeneration of Union Terrace Gardens will greatly improve access, amenity and activity, creating an inclusive 21st century park while conserving its Victorian heritage. Provost Skene’s House is to reopen as a new visitor attraction after a £3.8 million renovation.
Boosting population and supporting business
The Masterplan recognises the importance of boosting the population in the city centre to add lasting vibrancy. As part of its drive to increase this by 3,000, the council relaxed affordable housing contributions to encourage the redevelopment of older buildings. Plans are being progressed for a new residential and cultural quarter at Queen Street, a flagship masterplan project.
Interventions of this kind will support business activity in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.
These are things we have some control over.
It is worth noting that temporary Spaces for People works in the city were carried out using ringfenced Scottish Government funding designed to rightly protect public health by reducing Covid-19 transmission. Some of those measures are now set to be removed, and the timetable for Union Street will be part of a report coming to committee next month.
Business rates, as we know, are set by the Scottish Government.
A magnificent new destination
Combined with associated public realm works on Union Street and to the south, this will improve pedestrian connectivity between the bus and railway stations via The Green and greatly animate the area, potentially offering a home for distinctive local enterprises.
It promises to create a magnificent new destination that will have a transformational effect within the city.
The council’s continuing investment in our environmental, economic and social infrastructure, coupled with strong partnership working, will feed into the ongoing renewal of Aberdeen’s city centre, something we should all be supportive of.
- Editor’s note: This comment piece is a response to an earlier article which you can read in full here.
Councillor Jenny Laing is co-leader of Aberdeen City Council