Sixteen year-old Kenneth Watt, born and bred in Aberdeen and a friend of Union Terrace Gardens, tells Aberdeen voice of his sadness at the apparent disrespect for the city’s youth in consultations by Aberdeen City Council and ACSEF, particularly in relation to the City Gardens/Civic Square Project.
It was my intention to make my voice heard. I had invested considerable time in research and preparation of a presentation I hoped to make to the Aberdeen City Council at today’s meeting.
Throughout this sorry saga I have had few replies to e-mails sent to councillors and frequently found my phone calls not returned.
I should not have been surprised that they decided not to allow deputations, including mine, to be made at the meeting.
Councillors instead argued about the politics of the motion put before them. No action was taken, and it just became more and more apparent how out of touch our representatives are with their electorate.. It would appear a distinct lack of financial knowledge was displayed during the session, along with sweeping statements, one example being a claim that Peacock Visual Arts were never fully financially secure. It should be noted that they only needed a further £3.5 million from the Council as the rest was already secured.
Conversely, the cost of the City Gardens Project has not been calculated. The proposed method of funding (T.I.F.) has not been used in the UK to date, and reports of successful use has been confined to areas in the United States of considerable deprivation: a description which does not fit Union Terrace Gardens.
It would appear to me to be significantly disingenuous for ACSEF to invest/ promote Youth Matters when the input of the younger generations have been ignored on so many occasions. This I find unacceptable.
It’s not Council leader John Stewart’s generation that will have to face the brunt of what seems like a modern design for the City Square Project in 2011. It is my generation that in twenty year’s time will have to support the council repaying debts, should the project over run, and address possible service cuts and traffic problems invariably associated with the project – not to mention the loss of unique green space in the city centre because of a naive decision taken today.
Taking the views of only 1% of the city’s future tax payers is disgraceful, and completely dispels any myth that we are the forefront of this project.
Not only have our elected representatives seemingly ignored our offers of dialogue, but I feel that there has been inadequate consultation with Aberdeen’s youth in general, and little or no engagement with Aberdeen’s youth in the decision-making process. The consultation, such as it was, was invalid, too narrow and did not reflect the views of the youth of Aberdeen.
In the City Square Project public consultation amongst Secondary Schools, a total of 113 pupils were consulted out of over ten thousand children studying in Aberdeen City. It is, surely, essential in such a major development like this, that my generation is consulted properly, using a large, valid and representative sample. Taking the views of only 1% of the city’s future tax payers is disgraceful, and completely dispels any myth that we are the forefront of this project.
Aberdeen City Youth Council has released a new consultation named ‘Hear My Voice’ which was launched late last year. By 2015, they aim to distribute this survey around all schools in Aberdeen and get a minimum of 5,000 returns. Respondents have to indicate whether they agree, disagree or are unsure about 64 statements covering a wide range of issues in the city concerning them.
Statement nine in the Transport and Open Space category reads:
“Union Terrace Gardens should be kept and invested in as they are now. Lighting, cleaning and upkeep should be improved to make the gardens more attractive and more events held there to increase usage.”
So far there have been 165 ‘pilot’ responses. 161 of these agreed with the statement.
Another statement is that:
“Young people should be more involved in decisions about how budgets are spent as they are not listened to enough.”
A unanimous 165 agreed with that.
I recently found out that over 60% of cuts planned in the council’s budget will have direct implications on under-25s in Aberdeen.
I struggle to understand how the city Council can afford to commit to such a large project, the funding of which is not yet secure. It would appear that not only will 60% of cuts have such a direct impact on Aberdeen’s youth, but we will now be the generation who may very well have to pick up the bill in the future for something we don’t want.
“This generation, this time, this place.”
ACSEF’s catchy public relations campaign sound bite may appear promising but it is more likely to be nothing more than another hollow gesture.
It’s not your generation. It’s my generation and that of my peers, if not our children, that will have to face the consequences of a decision made today.
It’s not this time. It is in ten or twenty years’ time that the city will really suffer from problems caused by decisions made in 2011. Look at the Bon Accord and St Nicholas Centres – they’ve caused countless traffic problems and have isolated George Street, which was once a prosperous and vital artery into the city centre.
It is now largely abandoned and crime has reportedly increased since the development. The council’s decision in 1985 to support the plan was one pushed through by business interests in the face of a significant level of opposition. The voice of the people was ignored. That is clearly echoed by the council’s actions today. Just because Sir Ian Wood has pledged £50m funding does not mean that the City Square Project is viable and worthwhile.
It’s not this place. It’s a commercialised business venture that will see countless years of history and heritage destroyed, and very likely, at a vast expense to the taxpayer.
If the council wish to represent the views of the people, then they need to conduct a fair consultation, involving Aberdeen’s citizens in the decision-making process.
My main proposal to the council is as follows: Leave Union Terrace Gardens alone.
It is reasonable to assume that the council will have vacated St Nicholas House by the end of this year, and it’s quite apparent that it would cost them vast sums of money to demolish it. Why not hand the area of land that St Nicholas House covers over to Sir Ian Wood, allow him to demolish it and create a fantastic green space around Provost Skene’s House and opposite the beautiful building that is the Marischal College.
Not only will it attract more visitors to the area, it will get rid of the eyesore tower block at no cost to the public and preserve hundreds of years of history and heritage that exists in Union Terrace Gardens today.