Aug 242012

Divisive an issue as the proposed development of Union Terrace Gardens proved to be, there was always going to be an unfortunately high number of Aberdeen citizens left disappointed – whatever the outcome. One such disappointed citizen shares with  Aberdeen Voice readers her view regarding key decisions taken by Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday 22nd August. Amanda-Jaied McCahery writes:

I have never been one to get involved with politics in the uber-sense of the word.

Obviously I know that every aspect of life in this country is shaped by politics, and of course I vote whenever I get the chance, but unlike some friends it has never been a major talking point in my life…until now.

I live in Aberdeen: a beautiful city filled with gorgeous things to see and do, surrounded by the most stunning countryside that Scotland has to offer.

Just yesterday a few friends and I took a beautiful 16k walk along the gorgeous sandy beaches near the city, just because it was such an amazing day and we didn’t want to waste the views.

We have lovely parks and gardens and even when the rain pours, which is much of the time, the city sparkles and makes you feel lucky to live in such an amazing place. Then the council sticks its nose in and you feel slightly ashamed.

In recent years many people have decided to invest millions of pounds in our city, despite the current economic climate. Plans for bypasses, new football stadiums and city centre civic areas that will bring in more money, jobs and tourists have been the source of huge debate.

The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Bypass Route has been all but buried under tons of red tape, caused by appeal after appeal. This article is about Union Terrace Gardens, however, and a little about Calder Park.

For those of you that don’t live in, or have never visited Aberdeen, and I implore you to come and visit as it is truly a great place to be, Union Terrace Gardens is a 123-year-old sunken garden in the heart of the city.

It was originally a small river valley that has taken on the form of an amphitheatre since the addition of a viaduct at its northern end and the development of the covered remains of the old Denburn Terrace. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the sun, when we get it.

Barney Crockett and his peers weren’t so sure the voting public were clever enough to make this decision

The Bon Accord crest depicted in flowers, beneath the latest addition of the official Diamond Jubilee design is still one of my favourite Facebook pictures and the Gardens are still my first choice when the sun comes out, despite the fact that my back garden looks out onto acres of gorgeous green fields.

However, as with any out of eye-line areas, Union Terrace Gardens does have a seedy reputation.

Famous for harbouring many of the city’s undesirables, and not the safest place in the dark, this setting is largely ignored for most of the year and 52 percent of the people that voted for it think that it is about time that the heart of the city started beating again.

Sir Ian Wood, one of Aberdeen’s and in fact Britain’s richest sons, has been at the forefront of the City Garden Project, pledging millions of his own money to the redevelopment, and bringing in investments from some of the area’s biggest businessmen.

Plans for a number of different ideas for the gardens were shown to the public and a winner was chosen.

The Aberdeen voting public said yes and everyone was wondering when the awesome new centre, filled with cafes, bars, art galleries and a concert area, as well as an outdoor winter ice rink, was going to come to fruition…and then Labour took over the council.

Big man in charge Barney Crockett and his peers weren’t so sure the voting public were clever enough to make this decision. Were they good enough to vote them in, but not good enough to make any other important decisions about our home?

They decided that they were going to decide on the project instead…and today they decided: ‘NO we don’t want to inject new life into the city, NO we don’t want to listen to the very people that put us in our position at the top, NO we don’t want to make the once bustling city centre a better place for future generations, we just want our own way and by Jove we are going to get it.’

Mr Crockett then decided that he didn’t think the Calder Park development was a good idea either

This news came today in the same way that every decision so far has come, surrounded by controversy and debate. 22 members of the council voted to disregard years of design, planning, voting and spending, leaving 20 members and a large part of the city’s population seething and confused as to why we were asked in the first place.

And then to add insult to injury Mr Crockett then decided that he didn’t think the Calder Park development was a good idea either, and that Aberdeen Football Club should continue to play in a stadium that they first used in 1903 and was last renovated 19 years ago.

So Union Terrace Gardens looks set to remain a sunken, largely ignored beauty spot with a bad reputation, and The Dons look set to continue playing atop a 113 year old dung heap.

It seems that Labour aren’t fans of change, but what they need to realise is that the citizens of Aberdeen aren’t fans of being ignored, and I am sure this debate it sure to rage on for years to come.

Unfortunately, for now at least, it seems that the heartbeat of this great metropolis is doomed to plod along with the outdated visions of the men in charge.

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  13 Responses to “Union Terrace Gardens: The Debate Rages On.”

  1. Amazing that this long article fails to even mention the central issues – (1) the public finance implications (debt, borrowing), (2) the effective transfer of civic assets and common good land to a private company and (3) the loss of the unique Victorian gardens we already have. The author seems to assume that any change is bound to be for the better – not so!

  2. Aberdeen Voice is of course inclusive and a forum for everyone, but apart from some of Amanda-Jaied McCahery’s infactual opinions. I had no idea Union Terrace Gardens had a seedy reputation or was known for, “harbouring many of the city’s undesirables”. Perhaps Ms McCahery is refering to Councillor Donnelly, who was seen on Wednesday.

  3. Well said Amanda, great post.

    Just a pity the editorial team here have chosen to bury it away from the front page, they’ve even kept articles from last week ahead of this very relevant post.

    • It’s simple George. There are always 5 featured articles on the carousel. All contributors of articles are asked to provide at least one good quality picture. If the picture is adaptable for use on the carousel, and there are no copyright issues, then the article can be featured.
      For today’s release, only two articles were accompanied by images suitable for the carousel, therefore two articles remain from Monday, and one from last Friday…. No burying, no bias.
      However, it’s a shame you chose to bury your support of a new writer by dedicating more words in your post to drawing attention to your own jaundiced view of this publication.

  4. Vis-a-vis the Dons, let’s do some accuracy, shall we?

    The plans have been in place for some time for Cove Rangers (a private company) to develop Calder Park as a Highland League football ground. Aberdeen FC (another private company in which I am a shareholder and season ticket holder) would use this facility to train.

    It seems that the building of this facility, funded as I recall by Stewart Milne, Aberdeen FC chairman and Mr Bert McIntosh of McIntosh Plant Hire, Birchmoss, Echt, a regular benefactor to AFC, would allow Aberdeen FC access, a condition of planning, it is reported, to its proposed new stadium on the fringes of Loirston Loch, roughly to the south of Calder Park.

    The Council, democratically elected and inheriting a debt of over £600m, seems to have decided (the meeting was understandably held in private for reasons of confidentiality) to take control of this land which it owns. This presumably means that a previous administration loosed control of an asset which belongs to the citizens of Aberdeen, where I am a Council Tax payer. I didn’t know that and I’m not sure, not having all the facts before me, if I’m happy with that.

    This looks like a council re-asserting control over its assets, possibly in an attempt to realise their market value, quite a commendable action in today’s straitened times.

    Councillor Young has pointed out that Aberdeen FC has planning permission to develop a stadium on the Loirston site and suggests that they go ahead and do so. It is well-known that the stadium development plans are in limbo due, it is rumoured, to the Club still having a funding shortfall in terms of the £30+m required to build the stadium.

    I find the reaction of the Club somewhat hysterical in saying that the plans are dead. Might it be a convenient way of deflecting criticism from the current board’s inability to find the wherewithal to fund their ambitious plans?

    Aberdeen City Council’s ruling coalition has taken a kicking this week despite its being crystal clear that the vote on Union Terrace Gardens was a manifesto commitment that would be honoured.

    It is convenient then, when those who wish to lambast elected representatives for doing what they said they would do, conflate the two discrete issues and point fingers in what is possibly the wrong direction.

    It looks simple to me – the Council will consider offers for the land in question, but at market rates. It is then up to those who wish to own it to find the money necessary to effect that purchase.

    Cove Rangers’ silence on this is remarkable, but given rumours of that club’s struggle to find the funding necessary to make the move, that may not be surprising.

    Good luck to the Dons on Sunday.

  5. The article writer has conveniently forgotten that a consultation about whether or not to redevelop the gardens as per Sir Ian Woods proposals was ignored when the result was no! She has also failed to mention the fact that any concerns she may have had would have been resolved by the Peacock proposal which had funding in place and was scuppered by Sir Ian Wood sticking his nose into the affair. She has also ignored the fact that the scheme which was put forward was not the one the public voted for! Also ignored was the fact that the amount of money thrown at the referendum by the advocates for the new design and the misinformation regarding the Tif funding and amount of jobs the scheme would bring to the city and the fact that the booklet produced to give all sides opinions left out parts of the document sent in by at least one side who wanted to retain UTG. The council that was at the time also was biased toward the scheme and set up a video of it in the Art Gallery. The local press were also biased in favour. These things would not have been acceptable in a political election and it is my view that were the scales tipped more evenly then the people would have voted no. Anyway the council elections were about to be held not long afterwards and Labour immediately said that they would be standing on a no to the CGP mandate and they ended up running the council. Therefore IMHO the last vote which was the council election was the fairest vote and the one that should stand. I personally use the gardens and am in favour of restoring them in a sympathetic way but apart from the fact that to say that raising a garden will make all our problems disappear is nonesense there is so much wrong with that design……it is horrendous and full of nooks and crannies for undesirables to gather, dangerous in icy winters, will certainly not be a haven of peace and tranquility as we have now! As for Calder Park… was supposed to be for Cove Rangers……..why if AFC need to use it for their training ground, should they not have put in a planning application for the whole thing at the same time? Why did they not incorporate training facilities into their stadium at Loiriston and why don’t they do so and why not if they are having problems getting finance don’t they share Loiriston with Cove Rangers? As far as I’m aware they don’t have reserve matches when not playing at home so share with Cove and incorporate a training facility……however if you went for planning permission for Loiriston knowing it couldn’t operate without Cove getting their stadium at Calder Park then that was very bad planning indeed!

  6. Re Calder Park, as I understand it, having turned down all oil company sponsorship 20 years ago, AFC (aka Milne) are now trying to get hold of public money. Milne could put his hand in his pocket, or how about the Sir Ian Wood Community Stadium? As AV has pointed out. Loch of Loirston is not a fit place for a stadium due to wildlife and lack of public transport (with or without a new bypass). Labour have obviously looked at the ACC books and thought “enough is enough”. I have never voted Labour but good for them!

  7. Karen,

    Where do you suggest Aberdeen football club build the new stadium? I’ll pass your answer on to Mr Milne.

    We don’t want to be moving wildlife 50 yards to the side so it will need to be a brownfield site, obviously next to a railway station.

    Very interesting that Mr Milne turned down oil sponsorship, I’ve been an Aberdeen fan for 40 years and that’s the first I’ve heard of that, could you please pass me a link to this news?

    Pity Labour didn’t look at the books before deciding to spend £62 Million doing up the new council office and giving £24 Million to the AECC to bail it out!

    • On Calder Park, it would seem from an interview published yesterday that the Council took back control of the lease from Cove Rangers since, after 12 years of discussion and negotiation, the Calder Park facility was meant to be completed by 01 September 2012. They’ve got 55 hours from now until midnight on Saturday then. I doubt it’ll be ready for next Saturday’s match.

      The interview also stated that if Calder Park isn’t developed, the Dons can still fulfill the planning condition of alternative access via this route but that they will have to pay for it. I am one of around 7000 season ticket holders and one of around 15000 shareholders in AFC. Council taxpayers, feeling the pinch due to the recession, outnumber us by 7 to 1 and their needs, like it or not, have to come first. Still no statement from Cove Rangers or from the representatives of the ward or those who formerly represented the ward throughout earlier episodes of this long-running saga. That silence says much, I think. They’re skint although still able to offer Mike McKenzie, probably the Highland League’s best player, enough of a contract to entice him from Deveronvale.

      I agree with George on oil company sponsorship not having been offered to my knowledge. I also agree with Karen on the craziness of the location at Loirston both from a transport viewpoint and environmentally.

  8. “Where do you suggest Aberdeen football club build the new stadium?”

    I think between the chip on Milne’s shoulder and the petted lip on display recently, there’s enough space for a stadium, training facilities, car and bus parking and a load of shite quality housing.

    Anyway, they have a stadium. They can always ground-share with Inverness Caley until they tart it up.

  9. Very mature response from one of the resident socialists who frequent this site and who hate all wealth creators, always some rich guys fault, no ideas to create wealth or to stimulate growth, always a negative.

    Lets just give it all up and go back to living in caves.

    • Yaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwnn.

    • George, I have no problem with wealth creators. I do have a problem, however, with those who would create wealth for themselves by exploiting public assets, especially when such individuals are usually among those who denigrate and decry public services and servants. Getting counil-owned Calder Park on the cheap would be one such stunt and I’m delighted that a far bigger attempted purloining of prime city centre public land, with a bribe of £55m was halted last week.

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