By Sara-Jane Duffus
Aberdeen City Council decided yesterday to progress to the next stage of what was the City Square Project and what is now the, somewhat hastily, rebranded City Gardens Project despite strong objections from many councillors, in particular from the Labour camp.
Deputations were put forward against the Civic Square/ City Gardens Project by Mike Shepherd on behalf of Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and also by Steven Bothwell, owner of Café 52.
Despite neither man winning over the councillors, it raised the issue of whether TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is a valid, effective and secure mechanism with which to “fund the vision.”
Earlier in the day the council rejected the proposal for new purpose built offices at the Oakbank School Site, Mid Stocket Road despite this being one of the projects required to reach fruition to fund the Civic Square via TIF means.
The following questions from councillors during the debate showed an increase in the lack of confidence in this project from all sides.
Councillor Young asked if there was a legal document in place to secure Sir Ian Woods gift of £50 million. Sue Bruce said discussions were in place to move forward with this.
Councillor Bolton asked that should the design project result in a substantial decrease in the entire cost, will Sir Ian reduce his offer to reflect this. To which there was no clear answer.
Councillor John West asked what opportunities the council would have “to put the brakes on if the designs were unacceptable.” He was assured the council would have the final decision.
Councillor John Stewart’s motion to progress with the project was passed by 25 votes to 15 against Councillor Crockett’s amendment to not take the project any further. Councillor Greig’s motion to progress with the project with amendments to keep the gardens substantially as they are but with improvements such as toilets, improved disabled access and events laid on to promote use of the gardens was also defeated by 22 votes to 7 with 11 abstentions.