Nov 052010

By Richard Pelling.

Golden Square.  Sounds quite exotic doesn’t it ? Despite being a classical granite square just off Union Street in Aberdeen, all is not well in Golden Square as we witness yet another chapter in the shameful transition of Aberdeen from Granite City to Grabbit City.

So what’s the deal this time I hear you ask ?

Well, let us begin by having a wee neb at the Aberdeen City Centre Development Framework and see what it says about this Golden Square (Section 3.6.6 of the document).

“the classical character of the Square has been destroyed with an over dominance of parking. Golden Square should be developed into a space that focuses on pedestrian movement and activity, celebrating the statue of George 5th * whilst balancing the needs of vehicular movement”

[* the statue is of George, 5th Duke of Gordon ].

Sounds good … the framework looks like it sets out to swing the balance in favour of the pedestrian in a city centre that is severely lacking in public open space, but wait, there’s more.

“Better use of Golden Square could be achieved by (among other things)


Removing cars from the central space


Introducing greenery, formal planting and seating into the central space”

Sounds really nice … Now bear in mind that this City Centre Development Framework is “live” and part of the material from the Aberdeen Local Development Plan with feedback invited by 5pm on 17th December 2010.

The document, available on-line, is credited to the Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee of Aberdeen City Council (ACC) – remember the name.

we see from this report that Aberdeen City Council has coveted this car park for a while and has evidently made considerable effort to secure it

Two sides to the tale

Now you would think that the major issue here is that the “central space” in the square is currently used, not as a commercial car park, but as a charity car park by the Aberdeen branch of the Royal British Legion for raising money – through donations – to help ex-servicemen.

A dilemma indeed. It would be a real shame to see the ex-servicemen and their chosen charities lose their revenue, but it would be nice to have the central bit of the square back with a focus on the pedestrian and creating some new public open space with seating in the city centre – especially at a time when the City Council are intent on destroying nearby Union Terrace Gardens, the much loved green heart of Aberdeen.

But …this is Aberdeen.

Oh yes, but this is Aberdeen and things always get more complex.

Now while the Aberdeen Local Development Plan is still a live consultation process, Aberdeen City Council has annexed the ex-servicemen’s charity car park not for creation of a new central square with grass and seats but … wait for it … for a car park! Since Monday 18th October, the Council have imposed their own parking regime on the square at the Council’s commercial rates – far higher than the donations that the ex-servicemen asked for.

From the Press & Journal (15th October)

“Local Authority to get benefit of facility that raised cash for ex-soldiers”

A bit of delving and we see from this report that Aberdeen City Council has coveted this car park for a while and has evidently made considerable effort to secure it … why ? Is it perhaps, to quote the report that :

“There will be a setting up cost of £20,000 which could be funded from the Non-Housing Capital programme for machines, signing etc. The anticipated revenue income from the car park over the period of a full year is estimated at £160,000.”

one wonders what the public will think of the councillors who took the ex-serviceman’s charity car park away

Apparently the council will give the Royal British Legion some share of the money but this will reduce on a sliding scale to zero over a few years.

When I read this next bit of the council minutes I wasn’t moved to comment, I was near enough moved to tears :

“RBL (Aberdeen Branch) uses the monies received from the car parking donations towards charitable contributions to other organisations and to support local ex-servicemen and their families. Recent examples of supported organisations are: Erskine Homes, Gurkha Welfare Trust, local Salvation Army, Air, Army and Sea Cadets, local RNLI, Gordon Highlander Association. The RBL also provide assistance to local ex-servicemen and women, make home and hospital visits and provide a small bereavement grant to families on the death of one of its members.”

But… this is Aberdeen

Oh yes and this being Aberdeen, … lets take another look at the P&J

“Councillor Kate Dean, Head of the Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure committee which decided to take over the car park, defended the decision.”

Hold on … that wouldn’t be the same Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee that are credited with the Aberdeen City Centre Development Framework (dated August 2010) and which forms part of a live consultation with feedback invited by 17th December 2010 ?

You know, the one where it says

“Better use of Golden Square could be achieved by (among other things)


Removing cars from the central space


Introducing greenery, formal planting and seating into the central space”

Is this Aberdeen Local Development Plan consultation set to be just another sham consultation that eats up public funds and delivers feedback that the council ignore and do what they wanted to do anyway?

So soon after a survey of citizens (initiated by the council) indicated that the recent actions of Aberdeen City Councillors had damaged public trust in democracy one wonders what the public will think of the councillors who took the ex-serviceman’s charity car park away … just a month before Remembrance Sunday.

We will remember them.


Nov 052010

This week Old Susannah looks at the important work of Aberdeen City, Shire and ASCEF.  But first she would like to note the international recognition given to the Shetland Islands as a world-class destination.

The Shetlands won a spot on the world’s top ten places according to The Lonely Planet guide.  I don’t see it myself – aside from unique landscapes, diverse wildlife, archaeology, northern lights and an ancient heritage, there’s not much to these isles – not even a shopping mall.  Think how much better it could be there if they’d only build a concrete public square and a few hundred holiday homes.  Perhaps a delegation from ASCEF could help.  And here’s what ASCEF has done for us lately:

Regional Identity

Before ASCEF came along, no one in the world knew where Aberdeen or indeed the North East of Scotland was.  There was no Regional Identity (except for a Scottish history stretching to prehistory, discoveries and inventions known the world over, and both architecture and wild landscape immortalised by artists and writers).  Well, we have a Regional Identity now.  This identity apparently means that finally businesses in the area can compete in the world.  You can almost feel the motivation.  I can hear you asking now, what good is a Regional Identity without a logo, strapline and philosophy?  Quite.

Aberdeen City and Shire – The logo

For reasons of copyright (and aesthetics), I am not reproducing the beautiful logo here – but I do encourage you to seek it out on the Aberdeen City Council website.  Words cannot do it justice, but I shall do my best.  First there is the shape – it echoes the Grampian coastline (if the coastline were a boomerang).  Then there is groundbreaking lettering rendered in a bold, confident yet plain font which announces:  “ABERDEEN CITY AND SHIRE” in full capital letters to emphasise how important we are.  You can almost sense the improving economic investment into the area this lettering alone will bring.

These words make you instantly feel optimistic, and ready to face life head on

There are squiggly lines – sorry waves which not only let people know we are on a coastline ( Did you know that?)  but also demonstrate how connected we are (of course anyone with an artistic streak will immediately get it).

There didn’t seem to be any graphic reference to the beautiful sewerage plant on said coastline, which was no doubt an artistic decision reached after weeks of deliberation.  There is a cityscape just like ‘Sex in the City’ had.

There is also reference to trees in this masterpiece, but no doubt they can be airbrushed out once we’ve got rid of Union Terrace Gardens.   The blue and green colour scheme apparently reflects our natural environment (maybe they ran out of grey paint?).  Strangely neither the Council nor ASCEF seem to respond to my freedom of information requests with any regularity, but if any of you would like to ask how much of our money went into the logo, strategy, strapline and the Identity Team, please let me know what you can find out.  But  wait – it gets better…

Natural Pioneers

No, our governors and business leaders are not ‘Natural Pioneers’ because they are determined to tame any remaining wilderness . This pioneering spirit is the state of mind we are all in according to those who designed our new identity.  Old Susannah admits to being a bit confused by the literature describing this value because it explains that our culture and history show we naturally have a can do attitude .

This seems a wee bit at odds with their previous claim  that we were unknown to the outside world. I am not sure which is true, but I will look through the ‘toolkit’ which the ‘Regional Identity Team’ has created to see if I can get to the bottom of it.  Should any reader be able to explain this to me, please get in touch.

A Brighter Outlook

A Brighter Outlook is what we have in Aberdeen, as the ‘strapline’ tells us.  These words make you instantly feel optimistic, and ready to face life head on.  The outside world will of course totally believe things are great here because of the strapline and the logo.  A few squiggles, a cityscape, and the immortal words ‘A Brighter Outlook’ will have investors queuing up to get their money placed here.  We will have more Donald Trumps. Thank you ASCEF, and thank you Regional Identity Team.

I suggest you write to your elected representative to express how happy you are that a team has been established and money spent to put Aberdeen’s future in this wonderful light.  Or take direct action and contact the  Regional Identity Team directly at St Nicholas House.  Let’s ensure they keep up the good work and that they won’t suffer in the budget cuts.  Best we get rid of the income that charities used to rely on from the Golden Square parking area than we cut a cent from our Regional Identity team (I wonder how many people it took to do all of this fantastic work?).

Only one thing is missing:  we need a photo of a person who embodies all of the things our City and Shire stand for.  Please send your nominations.

Next week:  Budget special:   creative accounting, ringfencing, consultation updates