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Frank Gilfeather: Crystal ball visions for city centre masterplan

Quiet Wednesday in Union Street, Aberdeen.
Quiet Wednesday in Union Street, Aberdeen.

It’s all but done and dusted.

Aberdeen’s Union Street, or at least the section that is more heavily populated by shoppers in search of a mall, will remain pedestrianised.

It is part of a super-duper £150m masterplan, the latest of the masterplans that have come our way over the past decade or more.

How are we with the Berryden corridor, by the way?

“Thank you Covid,” the master of masterplanners might say, as the virus allows him to reconfigure the town’s main thoroughfare from Bridge Street to Market Street, where empty buses queue from top to bottom in search of passengers, and having moved from A to B at a snail’s pace via the scenic route.

Now we await the removal of the Union Street bollards as we beg the masterplanners: Can you also rid George Street, Rosemount Place and all the other areas of the red and white nuisance-value cones?

We concede that the work of a masterplanner must be difficult, along the lines of a clairvoyant.

The current strategy, for example, seems set to start with a new-look market which will, according to the council’s Mystic Megs, “enliven” the Green, Hadden Street and Market Street.

That’s a thumbs-up from me. I hope I’m still on this earth to be enlivened.

Then, there’s the potential deal with Aberdeen FC to site their new stadium in the beach area.

That would also boost that part of the city, we’re told.

Well, around once a fortnight at least, when the away fans from Livingston and Kilmarnock arrive to spend their money.

The local authority would seek some kind of community access, of course, as part of the arrangement, especially if we, the council-tax payers, are to contribute.

You know the kind of thing; schools cup finals there, like they used to have at Pittodrie.

I’m told that club groundsmen burst into tears at such a suggestion.

Many years ago, one berated me for walking on the edge of the Pittodrie pitch, until I pointed out I was on the plastic surface reserved for the linesman.

The possibilities that will emanate from a new-look Aberdeen city centre, then, are mouthwatering as the For Sale signs are prepared for Pittodrie and Kingsford and the club looks to offload land.

Meanwhile, crystal balls are placed on committee room tables in the Town House, with those tasked with looking into the future reminding themselves they won’t be around to see the fruition of much of their efforts.

It’s a tough job. They need our support.

Boxing puts profit before pride

Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua ought to be ashamed of themselves for putting pounds before principles in agreeing to stage their world heavyweight boxing championship in Saudi Arabia.

All the money in the world cannot mask the barbarity of Saudi’s rulers who jail innocent people, stone women and flog homosexuals and killed and dismembered the body of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It’s despicable that promoter Eddie Hearn has entered into agreement with the Saudis who believe they will be accepted by flashing the cash before the eyes of greedy businessmen.

Will Sarwar bring back suspended councillors?

Now that the first minister takes another step towards beatification and the Greens hang on to her coat tails – can we run down the North Sea oil and gas industry please, Nicola? – there is an important issue for Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

Will he bring the nine councillors who represent his party on Aberdeen City Council back under the red blanket?

They were suspended for forming an administration with the Conservatives.

“I regard them as Labour colleagues,” Mr Sarwar said recently, although there is little sign he’ll do anything about their reinstatement before their ban ends next May.

He may have had one of those “colleagues” alongside him in Holyrood right now had the suspension been revoked.

I refer to Jenny Laing, an able co-leader of the local authority, who would have been a shoe-in for a list seat at the Scottish Parliament had she not been placed in political limbo by Labour’s hierarchy since 2017.

We assume, of course, she would have wanted a move to Edinburgh.

As it is, the party’s two north-east list MSPs are Dundee-based; Michael Marra and Mercedes Villalba.

And the Aberdeen Nine?

Well, maybe it’s not an important priority for Labour bosses.

They have other matters to sort out.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.