Why Union Terrace Gardens Really Matters
Mike Shepherd, Chairman of the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, puts the case for keeping Union Terrace Gardens.
Union Terrace Gardens are a vital part of Aberdeen’s heritage.
If Union Terrace Gardens feel as if they belong in the city, it is because there is a harmony between the park and the surrounding buildings, several of which were designed by Marshall Mackenzie.
There is a sense of architectural authenticity. This authenticity would be lost if a six-acre modern square is built, which would be surrounded by Victorian granite buildings. The singer Annie Lennox has described this possibility as an act of civic vandalism.
Aberdeen’s heritage matters.
The beautiful granite buildings give us a sense of place and belonging. We identify with our heritage, and Aberdonians are proud of their beautiful city. The replacement of the old with the new, artlessly done, erodes the unique feel of Aberdeen, and starts to make our city look like everywhere else.
The Gardens are beautiful and spectacular.
The Gardens provide shelter below street level under the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The shelter is enhanced by the 78 mature trees in the Gardens, all of which will be chopped down if a modern city square is to be built according to the technical feasibility study.
An Aberdeen Council document states the following:
Union Terrace Gardens has many qualities to be exploited and enhanced including:
– Topography which provides a unique and dramatic setting for the surrounding historic townscape and bridges, and an essential component of the identity of the City Centre
– The character of buildings to the rear of Belmont Street
– The setting for His Majesty’s Theatre, St Mark’s and the Central Library, Denburn Viaduct and Union Bridge
– Green space and mature trees
– One of the last locations where the historic relationship of Union Street to the old city can be appreciated
(Source: Aberdeen City Council, “Aberdeen City Centre – Developing a Vision for the Future“, May 2010).
The development of Union Terrace Gardens is not a done deal.
There are many obstacles in the way of the so-called City Garden Project, such that it is unlikely to happen. The project depends on the Council borrowing £70M to fund the project through Tax Incremental Financing. The council, who are £562M in debt, cannot afford to take any more risks on borrowing.
There is no public consensus for the project: indeed a consultation held two years ago rejected the scheme. The politicians are hoping to address these concerns by holding a referendum, which will inevitably support the retention of the existing Gardens.
There is a much better alternative to building a modern and intrusive city square in the middle of the Granite City.
The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens group are committed to the sympathetic restoration of our city centre park. We intend to act in a similar capacity to the Friends of Duthie Park; Duthie park will benefit from the funds attracted by the Friends and will be restored to its former glory. Likewise, the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens intend to return Union Terrace Gardens to a fully-functioning park again.
It wouldn’t take much.
Our park needs some tender loving care, new toilets, a play pen, improved access. We have organised social events in the Gardens and we are instrumental in making Union Terrace Gardens a fun place to visit. It is a park that is a key part of Aberdeen’s heritage, the green heart of the Granite City.
We are a community group dedicated to the future of Union Terrace Gardens.
– Join us, help us in our aims; find out more from our website www.friendsofutg.co.uk