What is the probability that the City Garden Project will actually happen? Mike Shepherd looks at some of the obstacles it currently faces.
The City Garden Project cannot proceed if £70 million of private finance is not in place to fund it:
So far, only £55 million of private money has been pledged, although £70 million has always been the target figure. The project will stall if the full £70 million of private funding is not committed.
Aberdeen Council voted in January to agree the following:
“Instructs officers to enter into negotiations with a view to putting in place a development agreement with Aberdeen City Garden Trust (ACGT) and/or their representatives, which sets out the terms upon which Aberdeen City Council (ACC) would be prepared to make necessary Council owned land available, to realise the proposed development subject to;
“(x) Requires ACGT to confirm, in a legally binding form, that they have access to at least £70 million of private sector funds to invest in the CGP, prior to the signing of;
a. An appropriate Development Agreement, and
b. A TIF agreement confirming ACC’s ability to invest at least £70 million in enabling infrastructure related to the CGP.”
A council vote to give final approval to signing the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) agreement will probably come up this summer. This is basically a request for a £92 million loan from the Scottish Government, £70 million of which would fund the City Garden Project.
The £55 million of pledged private money has been on the table since early 2010 and the full £70 million remains an unfulfilled aspiration two years later. The funding gap of £15 million will be difficult to make up.
One issue is that big companies who could afford to make donations on the scale of millions may be reluctant to get involved with such a controversial project. They will not want to come under severe criticism from either the public or their workers.
Sir Ian Wood could come up with the extra £15 million, perhaps anonymously. This would however be an admission that the project has failed to motivate the business community in the place where it matters: the bank vault.
The TIF business case is risky:
Noted academic Professor Tony McKay has criticised the business case for public funding through TIF as “the worst he’s seen this year”.
Claims that the project will create up to 6500 jobs and add £122 million per year to the city’s economic output are ludicrous, he says. He thinks that the Scottish Government will reject the application for a loan from central funds.
The Aberdeen business case contends that much of the commercial activity in two new business parks in the north of the city, and in the city centre, will not happen without the City Garden Project.
I suspect that few truly believe this, as the new business parks will attract inward investment to the city on the back of a currently resurgent oil industry anyway.
Nevertheless, I suspect that the Scottish Government will give a few knowing nods and winks to the “But For” criteria here. They may be amenable to allowing new business rates to be captured to pay off the Council’s loan of £92 million for the proposed city centre redevelopment.
But will it be enough? The business case makes it clear that the revenue will pay off the £92 million loan and accrued interest with a small margin to spare after 25 years. And required to do this are 6,500 new jobs and £122 million added to the city’s economy each year for the next 25 years, a “ludicrous” estimate as mentioned previously.
Let’s take the lesser case whereby the city gets 5,000 new jobs and about £100 million per year of added value. This would also be miraculous news for Aberdeen if it were to happen, but it would be a disaster for Aberdeen City Council. The council would be left with a shortfall on a very large loan. It might have to sell off assets to pay the difference.
Audit Scotland was aware of these problems when it expressed concerns about the City Garden earlier this year, stating that “a key risk will be the affordability of the project and its impact on the council’s finances”.
[Audit Scotland: ACC Annual Audit Plan 2011/2012 p. 10]
The land issues are complex:
At some point Aberdeen Council will have to approve a deal transferring property rights to the Aberdeen City Garden Trust (or its equivalent). This deal would be likely to involve assigning a long-term lease, and the council have said that they will not sell the land.
There are major issues here, not least those arising from transferring what would be a property lease for public land, potentially worth millions, to a limited company.
Union Terrace Gardens lies on Common Good land and at some point the Council would have to apply to a Court of Session to allow development to take place. Additionally, there are contracts in place for the use of Union Terrace Gardens as a park. A legal document from 1871 states that the area of Union Terrace Gardens should on no account “be appropriated to any other use than that of a recreation ground for the public.”
The City Garden Project website mentions the following:
“The gardens will be run on a not for profit basis. All income will be put back into the running costs for ongoing upkeep and improvement of the gardens. The City Gardens will be able to generate income through activities held within the park; exhibitions, conferences and returns from coffee shops and restaurants.”
I’m not a lawyer, but these issues look to be somewhat contentious. The January council meeting approved the allocation of up to £300,000 of council money to be spent on carrying out legal due diligence for the City Garden Project. The council lawyers must be very worried.
The new council make-up is not favourable to the City Garden Project:
The last council progressed the City Garden Project through its voting procedure with a comfortable majority on most occasions.
In addition, the Labour Party leading the new council administration has pledged to kill the City Garden Project.
There will be several votes to come, including a likely knock-out vote at the full Council meeting on August 22nd.
The City Garden Project will also need to survive the TIF business case approval, the development agreement and the planning submission.
This is an administration that will have other concerns. I’m told that central funding for Scottish councils is being cut by millions over the next three years, yet only 18% of the cuts have come through so far. The last thing any new administration will want is the divisive distraction of the City Garden Project and its potential to suck much-needed resources out of the council, for example the £300,000 on legal fees.
Council leader Barney Crockett is opposed to the City Garden Project. He has now been assigned as the Council representative on two bodies that support it: the City Garden Project management board and ACSEF. He will be a veritable cuckoo in what have previously been two cosy nests for the scheme.
The City Garden Project could itself be described as a cuckoo in the nest; its big yawning mouth crying to be fed with big gobbets of public money while other more deserving mouths lack succour. A hard landing beckons for this particular cuckoo.
- Have your say in the comments box below. Note – All comments will be moderated.
Every issue Mike Shepherd writes page after page of nonsense regarding the city gardens, what he fails to grasp is that the people of Aberdeen have spoken, we were asked in a referendum whether we wanted the new city gardens, the vote came back with a clear majority yes vote. The very vocal minority failed.
To even suggest the city ignore a democratic vote is lunacy and borders on Nazism, he put up a good fight but lost, can you imagine the outcry if this was happening the other way around.
George, the people of Aberdeen have not spoken. A more accurate statement from yourself would have been “the slim majority of the people of Aberdeen who voted in the City Garden Project referendum have approved the spending £140 million on a park after being bombarded with propaganda biased towards the City Garden Project during a period of several months”. In addition, I would also request that you stop spreading inaccurate propaganda about the legality and power of the referendum; the referendum was not binding and it never will be. May I suggest that you do some further reading on the subjects of politics, the legal system, and referendums—perhaps then you will be able to understand that there is no such thing as a referendum, binding or not, that establishes an absolute yes or no with such a fine majority as was the case with the City Garden Project.
Regards from Mars, Doctor.
If the referendum was so biased and not worth bothering about as it didn’t matter at the end of the day then why did the people against it (Mike Shepherd and his team) attend the voting result?
Smacks of sour grapes, also disappointing that the anti city gardens people are questioning the intelligence of the majority to decide the matter for themselves, no one was brainwashed by propaganda, we simply want the dead garden brought to street level.
Please respect the referendum result, every adult in Aberdeen was asked the question and we gave our answer, that’s proper democracy in action. If the result had went the other way would you still be crying foul play.
George Smith, Bucksburn
“…..and borders on Nazism….”
Well, George has just undermined his comment even more with that nonsense. Godwin’s Law?
Perhaps Fascism would have been more apt than Nazism, I apologise.
If you want to make a comparison with an undemocratic regime, George, perhaps Putin’s Russia would be a better one to choose. Putin uses his control over the media to ensure that the people are informed as to “what the people want”, and what the actual public then think the people want influences them into voting for “what the people want” (which actually means what Putin wants them to want) – this is a known psychological method of influencing people through misinformation. He also ensures that they only hear the news that suits his purposes and that the rest is blocked such that the people aren’t properly informed as to the facts. Exactly the same propaganda techniques were used here in Aberdeen throughout the referendum campaign, and long before it, exploiting the virtual monopoly of the local press in the knowledge that no one from the other side could get a word in without it being edited to water it down and have a reply by a pro-CGP guy tacked onto the end of it of equal or greater length. A Chomsky-style analysis of the EE and P&J over the last few years needs to be done to determine the actual degree of bias, but it will certainly be in excess of 90%. I am working on building artificial intelligence software capable of automating this task of analysis not only to make it practical, but also to ensure that no bias can creep into the analysis itself – once that has been done, everyone will know the score for certain, and this will happen before work on the CGP can begin. I don’t think it will be long before we get rid of the local propaganda rags which have for the last decade been driving Aberdeen in the wrong direction – they are the mouthpiece of developers who only care about making money for themselves.
Here’s what Plato had to say on democracy; “The laws of democracy remain a dead letter, its freedom is anarchy, its equality the equality of unequals”
Is Mike Shepherd Aberdeen’s Plato?
The local press gave equal press to both sides of the debate (I went out of my way to check as I foresaw these accusations would come) , me thinks you’re employing your own “propaganda techniques”, the only platform that was biased (infact 100% biased) was the Aberdeen Voice.
Good luck with that software.
You clearly aren’t capable of weighing up the evidence impartially if you think equal press was given to both sides – a simple exercise with highlighter pens will show the 90%+ bias very quickly. In the last week or so of the campaign you’ll see a significant shift in the direction of equal quantity of comment for both sides, but there is still massive tinkering going on, for example with all the most powerful parts of Jim Milne’s statement being edited out. Now, I can’t guarantee that I can analyse things perfectly either without some bias of my own creeping in, and however small that bias might be, it opens the door to people on your side accusing me of being hugely biassed, so no analysis done by me or anyone else will ever count for anything – he who shouts loudest will always win, and that means he who controls the press. That is why a completely impartial means of analysis is essential to resolve this issue, and all other contentious issues likewise – it needs high-level A.I., and that’s why rather than going on arguing about it here I’m going to get on with my A.I. work. Thanks for wishing me good luck with it, but it’s well beyond the stage where any luck is required.
You don’t believe the Aberdeen public are intelligent enough to decide what’s propaganda and what way they should have voted?
I asked my elderly parents how they voted and the answer was for the new city gardens, the reasons given were they could never access it as it is (1 is wheelchair bound the other not capable of many stairs) , the other reasons were they’ve never been down there anyway and the place is always empty, not swayed by propaganda, they like most people don’t even get the local paper, just a honest opinion as to their reasons.
Sorry George, I have no idea what you’re on about. Please see the following page to refresh your memory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism. Umm nope, that’s not what we have here. Oh well then, back to the comment writing!
George, again I must reply to you. David is absolutely correct in that this is simply a game, and unfortunately the banker controlling the game has significant political, press and financial influence. And I can tell you from my own research and from witnessing the full press coverage, from radio to paper, that the ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ advertising budgets certainly were not equal (if you believe this then it would seem that you have been taken in by the same biased propaganda that you say doesn’t exist).
I’ll repeat this sentence for the benefit of “Doctor who” (why anyone would wish to remain anonymous on this site is beyond me).
You don’t believe the Aberdeen public are intelligent enough to decide what’s propaganda and what way they should have voted?
Are you another Plato?
Fascists ignore democracy, simple really Doctor Who, I don’t need to read your link to understand that.
If propaganda had no effect, the massive advertising campaign by the CGP side would not have taken place and the press would have been neutral. Propaganda demonstrably works, and the people of Aberdeen are not uniquely superior to the rest of humanity such that they can’t be influenced. Even if people don’t read the papers directly, the ideas pushed through them still get into the population and are spread around to everyone regardless, apart from a few people who are socially isolated. Opinions can be spread through a population through the art of propaganda while the spread of other opinions can be prevented by not giving them any room. The more often and the louder an opinion is shouted by a newspaper, the more widely it will be held as a result. There is no need to be right or to win the argument, but merely to be able to shout your case louder than the other side. Most of the people who voted had a negligible or highly warped understanding of what they were voting for as a direct result of the propaganda campaign, and that destroyed the attempt to measure public opinion on the issue. If you were to run another referendum on the issue with a propaganda campaign of the same scale in favour of the other side instead, the CGP would have been lucky to scrape 30% of the vote, at best.
Who’s right? You or me? Is propaganda a failed idea which doesn’t work? Is all money spent on adverts wasted? Is a good salesman no better than a bad one? When you look at the business cass for it, the CGP is actually a scheme to build a loss-making facility in the middle of town to compete against other loss-making facilities and thereby amplify all the losses. If the papers had spent a year pumping that message out, the whole idea of the CGP would have died lang syne.
Anonymous? Why George darling, that is my name. A name is simply an identifier that a person wishes to be known as, and not a good one at that. If this website wishes to have accurate and verifiable identification for comment posters then perhaps it would have in place a requirement that all posters submit their DNA in some form. In fact, you have proven quite well why some posters remain anonymous in debates such as this one, and that’s because people such as yourself enjoy personal attacks rather than attacks upon the points of debate raised. Accusing the writer of being a Nazi isn’t very sensible now, is it?
You are simply embarrassing yourself now George. This has nothing to do with the intelligence of anybody involved; it is a fact, yes fact, that humans are influenced quite easily by the world around them. I presume that you have not studied enough psychology to understand this, so I will let this pass. My point? During the campaign, there were false claims which were so sensational that there is no doubt in my mind that they did influence the referendum result (just not enough to ensure a valid majority though, LOL!). The evidence is available if you know where to look, and the economic report is quite frankly hilarious. Whether you like it or not, humans (fancy versions of monkeys, basically) are influenced by the media.
That is all. Doctor.
No one accused anyone of being a Nazi, talk about a drama queen!
I simply pointed out that democracy worked and that the people of Aberdeen are more than capable of deciding whether the dank hole in the ground is past its sell by date.
Embrace change, the people want it.
Same goes for the Bypass, the Trump golf course, Airport extension and City redevelopment, the majority want it all, the vocal minority can shout all they want it won’t stop progress.
I have a feeling this platform and the majority of its readers would have objected to industrial estates and oil exploration if it/they had been around in the 70’s.
“Most of the people who voted had a negligible or highly warped understanding of what they were voting for as a direct result of the propaganda campaign”
How do you know this as fact?
I believe that is a bizarre statement that implies you think you and the no voters are somewhat superior to those who voted for it!
I think I’ll stick on the side of a multi millionaire businessman who has built a business from scratch and provided employment for thousands of people (and the majority of voters in the referendum) over some anon person on a website.
As George has previously used the terms Nazism (subsequently withdrawn) and fascism when referring to the campaign against the CGP, his credibility on this forum is dropping even further, post by post.
I concur with Gary. Fairness is hard to define, but it is clear that the referendum was not fair, both legally and morally, due to the efforts of several individuals and organisations with significant and non-questioned public influence. Referendums are supposed to be run in an equal way, with all information provided being non-bias (or as much as possible subject to independent review), but this simply has not happened. Once again I must reiterate that at no point has the intelligence of voters been questioned; please consider even the basics of human psychology and behaviour before you make such a foolish statement. The fact is that humans are easily influenced in ways you wouldn’t even notice, and in this case people were influenced by false statements and promises provided by trusted public servants and media outlets. ‘Subconscious.’
I must apologise. The above post was intended to be a reply to George and Gary.
George, there is no disputing that downright lies and flawed projections were presented as facts in the pro CGP propoganda. There is also no disputing that many, many people believed those. I know because I was on the street campaigning, and spoke to people who had voted fro CGP, and prominent among their reasons were those ‘facts’ eg, the jobs, the diseased elms, the costing by PwC who have been fined millions for flawed auditing for other projects.
Lets consider this.
If a jury convicted a suspect of a crime based on the evidence they were presented with, it would not make them stupid, and the suspect would rightly be convicted. If however the evidence was later found to be flawed, or any witness was found to be unreliable, then that suspect would have the conviction overturned. That is Justice, and justice has a value which is greater than democracy.
Whatever value you place on the outcome of the referendum, the process was unfair, and the ‘evidence’ which swung the voters was seriously flawed. To progress with the CGP would be a victory for those, who had they acted as they did in a court of law, would find themselves in a whole lot of trouble.
“I believe that is a bizarre statement that implies you think you and the no voters are somewhat superior to those who voted for it!”
Knowing more about an issue doesn’t make a person superior, but it can lead to their judgement of that issue being superior, so long as that knowledge doesn’t come from one side. Most of the people who voted got most of their information from one side – the press bias ensured that.
“I think I’ll stick on the side of a multi millionaire businessman who has built a business from scratch and provided employment for thousands of people (and the majority of voters in the referendum) over some anon person on a website.”
You’ll stick with a man who wants to saddle Aberdeen with a debt and a permanently loss-making facility which replaces a run-down park with a new concrete-themed park? The business case for it is an absolute pile of pants, so fortunately it hasn’t a hope of qualifying for TIF funding.
Thanks for your allusion to Plato, George. There are indeed many interesting parallels between the current situation and the Athenian democracy which Plato railed against.
As I understand it, Plato objected to the vote of a well-educated citizen carrying equal weight to that of one who knew little or nothing about the matter being voted on.
One of the main problems faced by the Athenian democracy in Plato’s time was the ease with which the citizens were swayed by demagogues – skilled public speakers who on occasion employed the art of rhetoric, rumour and propaganda to persuade the masses to vote against their own best interests.
The Athenian democracy made some horrible decisions. This is one of the reasons why we now have representative rather than direct democracy – our representatives are afforded a salary so they can devote their time to becoming well informed on matters of public interest.
I’m sorry to hear that your parents voted to destroy the Gardens without ever having visited them. I hope they will take the opportunity to do so before they are gone. From William Wallace’s statue, cross the road towards His Majesty’s Theatre – there’s a pedestrian crossing, it’s perfectly safe. Turn left and go past St Marks and the library. At the end of the library building, turn right down Skene Street. Take the first right, along the back of the theatre. In front of you is a very short tunnel or arch which will take you under Union Street and into the Gardens without having to negotiate any steps. It is a very tranquil place which I’m sure your parents will enjoy. My own parents are very fond of it, and are disappointed that their grandson’s favourite park is to be erased – but not being Athenian citizens they sadly have no say in the matter.
* under Rosemount Viaduct I should say above, not under Union Street 🙂
Let’s see: We had Sir Ian saying he would “walk away” if the public voted against his project. They voted against and he didn’t. so off we go again with all kinds of dubious propoganda and promises – remember the “pine forest”? No horticulturists on board at Acef & co it seems or they would have realised, pretty smartly, there’s not a hope in hell of pines growing in UTG. Then we come to the millions of pounds and thousands of jobs to appear magically because of Teletubbyland. Yes, propoganda appears to work folks, either that, or a serious proportion of our citizenry is gullible in the extreme. I’m sure we’d all be delighted if the road and railway in the Denburn was covered and grassed. That wouldn’t cost £140m (or £240m or £340m) but the movers and shakers appear not to like that idea. I wonder why? There has to be an ulterior motive for wasting such large amounts of money and I do wish someone would actually be honest and upfront about the necessity of The Granite Web for, to mere mortals, the business case just doesn’t stack up.
“As George has previously used the terms Nazism (subsequently withdrawn) and fascism when referring to the campaign against the CGP, his credibility on this forum is dropping even further, post by post.”
You think I’m concerned about my credibility?
I didn’t post to change anyone’s mind, I know that isn’t possible, especially on an extremely biased forum such as the Aberdeen Voice, I’m well aware of the position of the majority of the readers here. I do however hope that some people will see that ignoring the referendum is extremely undemocratic, judging by the latest opinion poll where 70% of those asked said we should listen to the result I appear to be with the majority.
I thank the editorial team here for allowing my views to stand, I expected heavy moderation.
An excellent post Melissa. Indeed the gardens do need improved access routes. I cannot deny that for the disabled, elderly or otherwise physically incapable there are not enough access routes which do not involve stairs. Let us hope that instead of the gardens becoming a concrete nod to people in high places they are revived and able to be used and enjoyed by all in a way and at a cost that the public deem worthy.
I had several people say they are delighted that the project isnt going ahead, that all the talk of it being empty was stupid, who the hell uses thier garden in bloody winter anyway??
There is NO good reason why they cant knock down the old offices and build the civic sq in the civic quarter and leave the green heart where it is….aberdeen didnt win britain in bloom with a concrete block!
George you are in ill informed troll and trolls shouldnt be fed! back under your bridge until something easier comes along….
George, if so many folk wanted the Granite Web to go ahead why did they not turn out to vote for councillors who shared their support for the development? It would appear that a majority of the councillors were elected on a clear promise to oppose the development. Is it not right that the fulfill their election promise?
The referendum was when the people were asked to vote on the gardens, we did and the city garden project was the clear winner, local elections are decided on tens of issues, you can’t start moving the goalposts when you lose.
I’m sorry if you feel I’m trolling, I honestly didn’t think a call to support democracy would be met with such hostility and personal attacks. I respect yours and others opinions even though I may not agree with them, please try and do the same for me without stooping to insults.
George, please stop bringing up old hat. Either you’re desperate to get a big reaction from your trolling, or your support of the City Gardens Project is paying your bills. Democracy goes both ways. On a side note, you can’t ignore the previous referendum. You know, the one before the heavily funded council referendum, the result of which you claim must be supported by everyone—democracy anyone? Sarah is quite within her rights to express her belief that you are a troll; it’s certainly looking a lot like it based on what you’ve said so far!
I live in Bucksburn and hand on heart never even knew the first consultation was happening, I’ve still to this day no idea in what format that consultation took. If I didn’t know about it then no doubt I wasn’t the only one, how can that be considered fair.
Regardless of what form it took even the most blinkered would agree that it was a very small percentage of the population who responded to it, the only fair way of asking the question to the people is to ask them all, the size of the vote in the referendum was huge and put shame on the turnout for the council elections.
Strange that you too claim I’m “trolling” when in fact I am on the side of the majority. Perhaps you can’t accept not everyone in the World agrees with your views.
looking to the vote, was the result swayed with online votes that where counted last? I seem to remember that things didnt look great for the utg web until the online votes where counted. I think i was around my mid 30`s when I began to realise when I was being influenced. Anyhows, what are the demographics of Aberdeen just now. Is it mostly young ppl or old?
I have to be honest here. I would like to see something happen down at UT, problem is I just didnt trust anyone involved with the current proposals. The £120 million budget was nonsense, the jobs created are being created anyway( I wouldnt want to be one of the businesses in those parks paying those rates).
My view that somebody needs this project to go wildly overbudget as it enevitably will, and will then seek to be seen to “help” the city for a small reward along the lines of ownership of the land, to then go ahead and build as they see fit.
This is as daft as a new football stadium that wants to compete with a failing AECC
How stupid and dated is the granite web going to look 50 years from now? Look at all the concrete eyesores thrown up in the 60`s. It will be a nice place for the homeless to hang out.
I would just like here to point out to George that Ian Wood (just like Trump) did NOT build his business from scratch – he is playing with his father’s money
I find it increasingly hilarious that the impending shitcanning of the CGP is being painted by shills as ‘anti-democratic’.
Of course, if the RETAIN vote had come out on top, none of this would now be taking place, but it’s hardly a case of sour grapes – the rather sinister backers of the CGP would have known that the game was up, and would have slunk off into the night, rightly chastened.
Instead, they doubled down on their amusing little paid-for advantage, and went into the elections confident that they’d get the result they’d splashed out on.
The difference between the referendum and the election, of course, is that one was an ELECTION, and the other manifestly wasn’t. One required people to actively engage with the process of democracy, and one required you to put a code in on a website.
Put it this way. You could go out onto the streets of Aberdeen today, and ask 80,000 people what they liked best, apples or oranges.
52% of your constituency might say apples. But then a month later, if the ‘We Hate Apples’ party rather surprisingly gets into power, they sure as sh*t don’t have to start liking apples.
The cancellation of the CGP is the ONLY democratic way forward.
Well Hankinshaw, I think that sums up this whole debate quite nicely.
Good day to you, my good person.
To go further, it’s interesting that the CGP shills got so heavily behind the ‘anti-democratic’ stance as their latest and probably last effort to sway popular opinion.
That only an imbicile couldn’t see through it is tantamount to the high-handed and – yes, I’ll say it – *contemptuous* attitude the pro-CGP adopted right from the start.
To be fair to the many successful businessmen behind it, it was dunderheaded move after dunderheaded move on their part – that they’re all extremely rich has less to do with their business skills and intelligence and more to do with them being unpleasant human beings. It’s a credit to the city that we’ve all been consistently unimpressed by their ham-fistedly proffered bauble.
And where’s George gone? Come back and tell us all how people getting what they voted for – as opposed to what they were asked their opinion on – is ‘undemocratic’