Aug 232013

To a background of calls for those sympathetic to the preservation and enhancement of Union Terrace Gardens to be extra-vigilant as the Wood Family Trust’s 12-month deadline for withdrawal of its strings-attached £55m ‘donation’ to ‘city centre transformation’ approached, a predictable and transparently-concerted campaign, backed by increasingly-vocal local press coverage has emerged.

Our democratically-elected representatives now appear to be under renewed pressure to reconsider their decision to take a prudent approach to financial risk and publish imminently alternative and affordable plans for city centre regeneration. ‘Stand firm’ seems to be the message from the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens. Thanks to Robin McIntosh.

Union Terrace Gardens are an emerald jewel in Aberdeen’s civic crown, and part of the city’s proud Common Good heritage.

When the Victorian public toilets were closed in the 1990s, the Gardens entered a period of ‘managed decline’ with virtually no capital expenditure attributed to them. The last five year period has seen a variety of groups comment on the potential of UTG, motivated by their particular opinions on what is best for Aberdeen.

The result has been further degradation of the park, its suitability for events and its facilities as we await a resolution on the future of this publicly-owned green space.

The Friends of UTG group has compiled a wide range of transformational and evolutionary ideas from its membership and has presented its Vision and Proposals to the council for consideration.

The cost of delivering these membership-originated projects will be but a fraction of the predicted £140m cost of the City Gardens Project, and the benefits of evolutionary change to the ‘feel’ of our city centre are clear.

Robin McIntosh, Chair of the Friends of UTG, said:

It is now vital that we move forward in the spirit of Bon Accord (good agreement), and undertake a full sympathetic restoration of this green heart in our Granite City. A modern society requires a combination of history, culture and facilities, and we must find the funds to deliver this for Union Terrace Gardens, in the same way that we have for the outstanding Duthie Park.

“The Friends have already delivered some minor, but sustainable improvements – building nesting boxes and planting a Spring Walk and a Flanders Field poppy field for the WW1 Centenary in 2014. 

“Larger capital projects will obviously require greater investment, and we are committed to continuing to work closely with the council, senior members of the administration, and any other interested parties, to secure finance to deliver a Garden with civic pride at its very heart. 

“Our aim is to achieve the best possible outcome for the people of Aberdeen – improvements that are both affordable and which will allow the Gardens to remain in public ownership.”

FoUTG’s blog outlines its proposals and gives current news updates

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  18 Responses to “‘Improve, Don’t Destroy’ – FoUTG’s Defiant Message”

  1. Perhaps, and only perhaps, when Edinburgh’s Princes St Gardens are covered in concrete. we might consider doing likewise. As said above the gardens are a common good asset. There is no reason why they could not be regenerated in the way Duthie Park was. Only we and Edinburgh have a green oasis slap bang in our city centres. We should be proud of that and protect it from developers wanting to make a fast buck at all costs.

  2. Who elected this FOUTG group?

    I’m a citizen of the City and have been all my life, I oppose the views of this group, they sure don’t speak for me or the majority who voted to raise the garden.

    I would like them to leave the garden alone if they’re not elected or approved by the Council.


    The CGP would have doubled the green space and been accessible to all, that includes the disabled and those with buggies. At the moment the garden will be empty, if it as street level with facilities that wouldn’t have been the case, it was a massive missed opportunity.

    • They don’t have to be elected, they’re just making suggestions. The planning department will decide if the plans they produce are viable and worth proceeding with.

      Would you be in favour of a solution that was less expensive but improved disabled access (disabled people can access the UTG just now) and brought better use of the area? You never seem to come back on here and respond to questions George, which is a shame as you might get some support for your points of view. I never liked the granite web, as I thought it was destined to over-run spetacularly and the engineering of it seemed dubious at least. Do you genuinely believe they could have poured the levels of concrete required to fill UTG without bringing the city to a stand still for months or years and still come in on budget with a good looking final product? Genuinely? I’d like to here your answers to this, and the questions that Suzanne raises in her other article about safety across the granite walkways?

      • You’ve been listening to those opposing it for too long i’m afraid, it wouldn’t have been a case of pouring concrete in till it filled up!

        Structural engineers and architects said it could be done and it was properly costed from those reports, even if there was a shortfall Mr Wood has said he’d make that up, do you honestly believe he would walk away and leave it partially finished?

        As for the safety aspects again do you really think the Worlds best architects would leave the project finished if it had safety issues? With all due respect Suzanne is not an expert in any of these fields.

        The garden and City centre need upgraded, we need the same vision our forefathers had when they created Union street, an improvement here and there and a few licks of paint won’t do the job.

        With a little vision this could be our own Covent Garden/Trafalgar square.

        [ Unfounded defamatory remark removed – Moderator ]

      • Thanks George. I’m not suggesting they would have just filled it with concrete, but there would have been an inordinate amount requiring transportation. The city would have been at a standstill.

        I don’t believe Ian Wood would have footed the bill for overrun, and there is clearly no mitigation of safety concerns on the walkways – it doesn’t take an architect to see that. As far as I’m aware Mr Wood, or the architect have not responded to questions regarding this (or the shipment of concrete to the site, or the ability to restore the vegetation).

        Union street originally bankrupt the city and is now a wreck of pound shops and bookies. It’s horrendous. The UTG plans (Wood’s ones) would do nothing to change that. An upgrade is required, a sympathetic upgrade that gets more use out of the gardens, with better access and better facilites – not a £140M over-write. UTG is a stunning location, that could be made significantly better for little money. We don’t need more commercial space, or more parking, we need more ingenuity, imagination and pride. Less it more in this instance.

    • George,
      You attack the group FOUTG for being unelected and not approved by the council and do not speak for those who were for the CGP.
      ACSEF are also unelected and certainly do not speak for those 41,000 souls who voted no. FOUTG most certainly did and thank goodness still do Perhaps you wish to adopt the fascist approach of we’re right and anyone who opposes is most definitely wrong.

      • Bob,

        I prefer the democratic approach, one vote, one person. I think it fascist to ignore democracy, as was the case here.

    • Covering the road and railway, while maintaining the existing green space would have done exactly the same thing George, at significantly less cost would it not? As I recollect, Sir Ian’s benevolence only extended to an additional £35m. His placing that offer made one think that an overspend was inevitable, which it probably was. They simply can’t get away with ignoring the public at every consultation and then saying the referendum was fair and unbiased. The whole thing was a PR disaster and well you know it. What would have happened when the concrete crumbled, as it inevitably does?

      • Ron,

        Mr Wood has stated he will look at other plans, I’m sure a compromise like this would be the type of thing he had in mind, unfortunately (and I have to be careful what I say as some of my posts are now being discarded) I have no doubt it will be met by the same opponents, they won’t work with Mr Wood in any circumstance because of who he is.

        It’s a real shame that no matter what he does he gets attacked, same goes for Mr Trump and Mr Milne, these type of blinkered agendas will get us nowhere and we can’t afford to keep knocking back huge investments in our City.

  3. Has anyone considered putting a large concrete structure on top of the gardens to protect them? I, for one, would be in favour of that.

  4. I have said this before and will say it yet again. Yes Aberdeen city centre lacks green places. Yes the Union Terrace area has some trees plus some grass. Sadly ignored by it’s citizens for many decades, the gardens are in the shadow of buildings all around. In high summer they are lovely but in the rest of the year they are a frost pocket and bereft of not only Aberdonians but sunlight.
    Aberdeen has the beachfront, various parks and even a hill or two within the city boundaries. The “gardens”, if that is what they indeed are, have been in decline since Kelly cast his cats all those years ago.
    Build over the hollow that is now there, invite developers to invest and build shopping precincts. Then use the capital and planning gain to pedestrianise Union Street and George Street then fill the car free boulevard with trees, public spaces and public transport systems.

    • Like any park, UTG is well used when their is something on and the sun shines. It’s sheltered, something raising it would have removed Duncan. Show me any park, in any city, that’s got numbers in it when it pouring with rain or snowing.

    • I agree Duncan that they are not fit for purpose, the majority who voted in the referendum agree, sadly we don’t have the loudest voices, till the opponents can be convinced I sadly see a stalemate for our centre and more decline to follow.

      It’s time for both sides to come to a compromise that all will be happy with, it’s clear major change is needed.

      • Major change George? Now what about the glass and concrete boxes proposed for Broad Street? Perhaps discarding that idea, in favour of a public space, would improve the area? A win, win, situation. Just think: areas of grass and flower beds, shrubbery and trees, with lots of seating. We’re left with our city centre park and a new one at the much neglected east end of Union Street.

      • Broad street isn’t the City Centre, putting a square there would be a waste of time.

  5. Well done to the Evening Express for attempting to bring a solution to our Centres decline, as long as all sides agree that compromise is needed then I see no reason why things can’t happen.

    • For once I agree with you George. Compromise, not dictatorial, is the way forward.

    • I’m sure you’d agree that a pleasant plaza, fronting Marishal College, would be an improvement though George. A pile of concrete and glass wouldn’t exactly be pleasing on the eye.

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