Archive for ‘City Square’

Feb 17, 2012

The BBC Debate on Union Terrace Gardens V the Granite Web

Union Terrace Gardens debate on 16 February 2012

This BBC debate concerned the proposal to remove Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens and replace them with something called the Granite Web.

As the audience took their seats for the debate concerning the intended destruction of the city’s unique green basin a meeting of minds took place in the shadows of Queen’s Cross church hall between Aberdeen City Councillors, the advocates for the controversial development and BBC staff.

Then it was time to begin. Brothers-in-arms Council Leader, who I had taken for a cub reporter, SNP Councillor Callum McCaig sat next to Ian Wood, the man who stepped in to stop the exciting Peacock development in Union Terrace Gardens with his own scheme and succeeded in changing minds among SNP Councillors and one time supporters of Peacock with his promise of £50million contribution towards his vision. Opposing them were Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP and Mike Shepherd from Friends of Union Terrace Gardens.

From the start it became clear that while the bulk of the audience was a mix of opinions a couple of rows at the back was packed with a phalanx of Wood cheerleaders. It must have been coincidence they were all together and intent on being the most vocal of elements in the hall. No sooner had proceeding got underway than the packed rows jelled into a veritable beast of astonishing intolerance towards opinions they didn’t share.

The opening point raised from the audience was a silly notion which sprang from original literature on the scheme that the development would be the answer to ‘undesirable elements’ that populate the Gardens. It’s a no-brainer – it won’t. As was countered from the audience, any so-called undesirables will not disappear because Union Terrace Gardens don’t exist, they will be hanging about the Web (granite or more accurately concrete).

There was a snort from the back of the room.

McCaig was asked why he had once supported Peacock’s innovative development then switched support to Wood’s project. He did not answer this. But he underlined his support for the Aberdeen millionaire Wood in his ambition.

From behind came a shake of a Rolex on a hirsute wrist and a black forked tongue dribbled long shards of stringy spit in ecstatic anticipation and released a roar of approval.

Someone asked about the glaring absence of democracy surrounding the project.

The beast heaved with indignation and emitted a belch of sulphur.

Wood ducked the question and mumbled something about preserving heritage: balustrades, statues, Kelly cats, arches but altogether managed to miss the point entirely that the sunken Gardens is the main heritage feature, practically the sole remnant of the medieval town.

The beast shifted: tiny red-infused eyes shiftily sweeping the ranks of dissenting voices from the audience. Its man had spoken.

Wood and his family made its fortune from working out of Aberdeen, in fishing and later in offshore energies. They are not alone. There are many millionaires in Aberdeen. You wouldn’t know it. The money is private money. There is nothing to show in the city for the wealth it helped create for these millionaires. This has been a complaint from the city’s people for decades.

Now money is on offer. With strings attached. No such thing as a free lunch. Not for ordinary citizens of Aberdeen. I’m sure there is for some.

Mike Shepherd talked up the park. He was fed up hearing this unique green basin being denigrated by those determined to get their way to pour in concrete by the hundreds of tons to create shabby walkways above street level.

A glint of Rolex and a shudder of mohair.

Someone in the audience mocked the Gardens. He clearly wasn’t from Aberdeen. He had taken a photograph, he said, so he knew what they looked like. They looked frightful. He gave no sense of realising their significance.

Lewis Macdonald disagreed, saying that this green heart of Aberdeen will be replaced by concrete walkways and that the consultation on the 6 shortlisted designs had not come down in favour of this Web.

A long impatient tail beat out a disturbing rhythm and the head turned on the thick neck sighting someone with the audacity to mention that recent architecture forced on the city had been of poor quality – his inference being this scheme was no different.

It listened as its collaborator McCaig talked up PricewaterhouseCoopers promise of 6500 jobs. He referred Charles Landry who had worked in Bilbao and considered this the best transformation project he’d seen in 20yrs. And still no word of democracy. Andwhat are the views of anyone in Aberdeen compared to those of a man who once worked in Bilbao?

Macdonald countered the jobs claim by revealing that PwC job figures were based on its collective experience and not through looking at Aberdeen as a discrete scheme.

The beast drew back its lips and snarled.

Wood protested that ‘we are going through a democratic process’ – albeit a truncated one Mr Wood, for it was a clique which chose the 6 designs and a clique which short listed and a clique which chose the winning design and you who have said it’s this or nothing – forget the years of the city being run down you’ll get nothing unless you let me get my way. I’m paraphrasing. In all innocence he shrugged, I have only ‘made money available.’

The beast snarled. The tail beat the floor. Again and again. The head pulled back and a cold reptilian stare settled on the little people who dared question the great man and his backers.

This Council is closing schools and cutting services to the disabled and yet there is commitment to spend millions of public money voiced an audience member.

The council leader had nothing to say.

A Prada stiletto scourged deep into the grain on the church hall floor and the beast opened its jaws releasing its sulphurous stench.

McCaig was asked to sell TIF to the audience. TIF is the controversial scheme the council hope will eventually pay back the huge sum of money it will have to borrow to finance Wood’s idea. It will be based on two areas of the city being designated as special areas. Whenever a business sets up it will contribute towards TIF and this money will be ring-fenced to pay back the loans. Of course it is pure speculation that enough money will be raised by TIF. It is a new system of raising funds in Scotland. In fact Aberdeen City Council is not even sure it will get government permission to establish TIF sites. There are many unknowns regarding TIF including a description of it from McCaig. The above is my explanation. It might not be up to much but it was more than we got from McCaig who appeared surprised to be asked to sell this scheme to the people of Aberdeen. Sell it? He couldn’t even describe it. Immediately he jumped to the Ravenscraig example, one of only 2 approved in Scotland. Brownfield site developments which as MacDonald pointed out can only add money, unlike this one being proposed for Aberdeen.

A clearly unsettled McCaig was put out of his misery by the chairman who defined it for him. It’s good to know that Council representatives and the Council leader is so well versed in the detail of the scheme he is happy to put his name to.

The beast shifted uncomfortably on legs of iron and feet of clay.

McCaig did confirm the raising of the funding through TIF would be underwritten by the Council.

Mike Shepherd referred to problems with TIF funding as an untried means of guaranteeing cash. Well so much depends on incoming business that no figure can be guaranteed. Fall back on council funding. Council’s borrowing while in debt and the risks to services if that happened.

Possibly the most stupid question of the evening came from the vicinity of the beast. More a statement than a question that young people wouldn’t come to the city unless there was development in the city. This development.

The Beast roared its approval.

Wood spoke of the need for connections: road and air connections. But it’s bus connections Aberdeen City Council is talking about with this proposal. Connections to the bus station. The bus station so recently erected and so badly designed that there is no room for passengers and no seats provided for them, no dropping off and picking up places for vehicles to drive in, forcing passengers with luggage to walk from several streets away. This bus station where buses have to reverse into the station traffic each time they begin a journey. Would you trust the Council to do any better with such a radical scheme for Union Terrace? The same council which has continued to build shopping malls while Union Street empties. It is empty because of shopping malls. It is empty because the council refuses to reduce rates to keep businesses operating. The council has taken an impressive mile of granite architecture and created a desert.

Mike Shepherd reminded Wood that his company, and every company, would not hesitate to set up anywhere, irrespective of what it looked like if there were profits to be had. He cited Wood’s company in Caracas and Lagos and that he doubted they went there because of how they looked.

Don’t know about them but Wood looked confused.

There was a grunt from the beast, a slash of something golden and an angry sweep of the tail.

McCaig had nothing to say.

Businessman Tom Smith, Chair of ACSEF the anti-democratic body given all the cards in this scheme railed at Macdonald for rejecting this multi-million pound ‘investment’ and yelled at Mike Shepherd to be quiet. He accused Macdonald of trying to stop any development from happening.

The beast peeled back it thick lips and yelped frantically.

Mac Donald insisted the divisions which had emerged over this proposal were because there was only one project, only one ambition and shared arrogance of the people behind this scheme.

The audience breathed in the stench of cashmere soaked in sweat.

The panel was not invited to address where anonymous literature landing through peoples’ letterboxes sprang from. The inference was that city businessmen were behind it. Well only businessmen could afford to do this surely. But why not reveal who you are?

Councillor Kate Dean said Aberdeen was anti development and against attracting young people to come and stay in the city. Well it’s a point of view, fair enough but then she had to spoil it by saying how the city has done very well in the past in attracting people in. Really?? Without a totally transformed city centre? Not following that logic.

When he was asked if Aberdeen City Council would spend any money on improvements to the city centre if this scheme was rejected by the people, McCaig initially said no then suggested there might be something. Then he went back to TIF repeating it was designed to pay for itself. That certainly is the plan Mr McCaig. And the point you are making is? Oh and that ACC is not in a position to splash out. Not a great deal of clarity here.

He was asked about the arrangements for the referendum. What would be the winning line? What had been decided between ACC and the government? A harassed looking McCaig said nothing had been worked out. Hello? Nothing? The papers have gone out. Do you have faith in these people to act in your best interests?

Macdonald interjected with the observation which most of Aberdeen have already made that a major reason for the lack of visits to the Gardens was because the Council had not spent anything on them over the years. Have you seen how the beautiful granite has been allowed to go green for lack of a bit of housekeeping? Why has the Council never even put in a set of swings or a climbing frame to attract children and families into the park? This would cost practically nothing. But they’re not interested.

Mike Shepherd reminded the audience that another city businessman was willing to put money up front to make improvements to the existing Gardens,  including better access and a park-keeper but James Milne has not received anything like the same attention in the local media that Wood has enjoyed.

Wood said he regretted the divisions his scheme had created in Aberdeen to which Macdonald replied that it was because people cared so passionately and Wood’s undemocratic way of handling his proposal had resulted in such ill-feeling.

I guess you don’t become rich by consulting with people. Well, maybe that’s not true as some well-known examples from the US suggest. It is clear this is not the Wood nor ACSEF way.

The prospect of Aberdeen borrowing £92 million might be a risk too far for the more prudent Aberdonians but McCaig would have none of it – risk? What risk? He compared it to a household mortgage. Yes, and we’re seeing what’s happening to many of them at the present time. His parting shot was that people should see Aberdeen as others see it. So much for representing the people who vote for you Mr McCaig.

Mike Shepherd urged people to vote against Wood’s backward-looking 1960s style concrete monstrosity in what is the city’s leafy green heart with its 200yr old elms.

The iron legs strained, the stiletto scraped, the nostrils steamed, the beast screeched and cracked its cleft tail.

Wood was given the final word. He emphasised the huge amount of work which had gone into working out the finances of the scheme and that the comments on TIF were ridiculous. Certainly were Mr Wood. He railed at his opponents for what he described as negativism but which they will say is approbation for the most positive development for Aberdeen that which involves retaining the magnificent Union Terrace Gardens.

The beast is a simple animal. It is excited only by profit yields, retail opportunities and exclusive cabals in its determined drive to take the city forward into the past. It roared its approval. It roared and snarled and beat its swarthy chest and licked the fleshy lips in euphoric rapture.

The referendum result will be known on Fri 2nd March if the Council works out how to read the results by then.

TIF info: https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/a-parcel-of-rogues-aberdeen-city-council-chamber-and-the-lure-of-rich-mens-gold/

Wonder why Ian Wood has SO much money?

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Nov 2, 2011

Union Terrace Gardens versus the City Garden Project

The Victorian Union Terrace Gardens in the heart of Aberdeen create an unusual feature which alludes to the city’s historic past around the valley of the Denburn. It is a public park paid for by public money and not private land for a select group to remove. Or is it?

Few of Aberdeen’s historic landscapes have escaped developers. The city has a reputation for failing to recognise what is important to preserve for future generations. The city does not convey any sense of pride in its heritage. It chooses to ignore it instead.

So, Union Terrace Gardens are up for grabs. If you have money there’s a chance you can determine what goes and what stays in the city.

For a moment it looked as if the ordinary citizens would also have a chance to voice their opinions. A questionnaire attracted a big response and when the people gave a resounding ‘no’, the questionnaire was rubbished.

The proposal went ahead despite opposition. Some councillors began to get cold feet; shifting their stance on the subject but only after a working group to push ahead with the plan was set up. Some people have asked who the people on the working group are and what gives them the right to make decisions about the future of a public park. We haven’t been given an answer to that.

So the proposal went out to tender and 6 finalists were selected and the results displayed for the public to see and voice their opinions.  Well, up to a point. The choice for the public was to number the designs in order of preference. There was no box to say they wanted the gardens to remain with a few alterations  – such as improved access. Sleight of hand there.

There was no reference to the proposal by the Friends of Union Terrace Gardens to work with the Council to restore the gardens and improve the space, at a fraction of the cost, were it to stay on budget, which we all know it won’t.

Like the bulldozers of the future ploughing up the grass, the mature trees, this unique urban green oasis the plans were drawn up, models shaped and Perspex-covered boxes built in preparation for the people to look upon.

‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Yes, there are plenty who have despaired.

Firstly they promise ‘A new green space’ but there is a green space there already. They promise a ‘civic space’. It already is a civic space – owned by the people for the people, remember? It will ‘provide a home for an international arts centre’ – what does this mean? An internationally important architect had his innovative design for an arts centre, partially sunken in keeping with the shape of the gardens first accepted, then when Wood came along, rejected by the council. And what is an ‘international arts centre’?

These are old ideas. The difference is the people behind them.

The official document promises the creation of a ‘natural amphitheatre to host events. There already is an amphitheatre, natural or not there. So nothing new in this, either.

There were 55 submissions. All I can say is there must have been some shockers if the 6 remaining are the best. Still it’s not down to me, or you little people, to choose the design. This will fall to – well, see below. `

No matter –  let us take a look at what is on offer.

Number 1 The Granite Web

This is incredible. It’s like someone’s idea of a joke. For starters we have raised walkways, streamlined with figures wandering around. Now call me picky but can you see health and safety allowing people to walk at these heights without tall fences along the walkways? And quite right too, I could take a dizzy and topple onto the folk eating below, or if I was less polite I might… well.

Cutting through the turgid descriptions of nature and culture fused into a ‘vital network’ – what ?  – ‘an elastic web’  – ‘stretching across the historic river site – ’ which river would that be then? No rivers there. The Denburn. Far fetched calling that a river, ‘multi-tiered archaeology’ has anyone checked what this guy’s been drinking? ‘quiet hang outs to meadows’,  ‘the city’s emergent future’.

Cutting though the crap. This design is a mess, misleading in its visualisation and frankly, an eyesore in the making.

Number 2  The Winter Garden

Hmm, sounds a wee bit like the Winter Gardens which already exists in Aberdeen.

This one appears to be most in favour with people who have looked at the plans, perhaps because it looks most like Union Terrace Gardens  – only much, much more expensive.

They want to preserve and enhance the existing park’ – good. So do lots of people.

They talk of decking over the railway and road, hope that doesn’t mean decking as in patio style.

The decking feature is where they build what looks to me like a long glass caterpillar – i.e. the winter garden- singular friends of Spike. Now they compare the caterpillar to the Crystal Palace, uhm don’t think so, or the Kibble Palace, never heard of it. It is to be home to cultural events, a garden, restaurant and cafés. Now can you just see Aberdeen Council paying to heat this place in winter? Can you?

That said, this looks like UTG. It’s even keeping the arches which are wonderful. And hopefully the balustrade which a councillor assures people is rotten – so of course ready for removal. Well the council’s rotten but no-one’s talking of removing  …oh, yes, so they are.

Number 3 Sculpted Landform & Connections

This design is deceptive. I thought at first it was just rubbish – a technical term for substandard design. Then I read the water feature is actually two quartz pavilions and I thought, really? But I looked again and decided I was right the first time.  It says one is opposite Her Majesty’s Theatre – so it’s not Aberdeen ,then? That’s good. There isn’t any Her Majesty’s – some attention to detail.

It goes on about a cairn, more about culture, fine views of the park – must be different from the view I was getting which I wouldn’t describe as remotely fine. Horrible, horrible.

Next!

Number 4 The Flower of Scotland

Nice tune pity about the design. Blah blah ‘latent potential’, blah, blah ‘harmony’, ‘truly rich’ blah, ‘grand iconic space’ Is there anything that isn’t iconic nowadays? Aye, most of Aberdeen.

It’s all glorious and beautiful and – well flat. Floral patterns ‘meanders’ over the site. I can’t tell you how much I dislike this horrible, overworked, disappointing expanse of nothingness.

Next!

Number 5 The Cultural Plaza

This one is not going to simply ‘deck over’ the existing valley’ – thank god for that. It is aiming to created ‘interconnected spaces’ ‘variety of scales’ ‘a ‘Ramblas’ no less-  Barcelona! A city of inspired public art. A spectacular city so like…no. Anyway I don’t like the caged birds on the Ramblas so that doesn’t work.

The impression of multiple slopes which look like it might be decking with some tufts of grass poking through. All over. That’s a helluva lot of decking. How much decking can you buy for £150million? Quite a lot.

Number 6 Cultural Podium

Straight in with ‘arborial wealth’ – didn’t know we had that, did you?

They want to create a promenade ‘framed by an alée (no an alley, I think it’s Frinch) of London Plane trees’ Fit! London! Yer in Scotland! We hiv trees.

References to Aberdeen’s granite heritage – that’s good – even the council doesn’t do that. And they’ll give us ‘visual, tactile and fragrant’ They’ll provide an art and cultural museum – more than the council does. But wait – does that museum look like something out of the Flintstones? I’ve been to Flintstone Park.  I know it when I see it. It really fits into that corner on Union Street. See that guy who designed the Peacock centre – that’s where he went wrong – create an eyesore – and if you’re going to create an eyesore might as well make it a big one.

Now, personally I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know there’s an ‘r’ in Aberdeen should be given any say on UTG.

The gardens from STV

http://news.stv.tv/galleries/city-gardens-project/

The Jury

Sir Duncan Rice – Former Principal Abedeen University

Sir Ian Wood –who began the project

Councillor John Stewart, Libdem

Tom Smith MD of a large telecommunications company

Charles Landry Provides toolkits for urban innovators

Lavina Massie  I have no idea either

Malcolm Reading  a consultant on capital projects

STV’s link to the garden designs

http://news.stv.tv/scotland/north/275128-union-terrace-gardens-plans-unveiled-to-the-public/

The council’s monitoring group.

http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/planning_environment/planning/city_gardens/cgp_city_garden_project.asp

As Shelley might have continued –

‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Thanks Mr Shelley.

Ian Wood’s fortune comes from…

Oct 31, 2011

History is More of Less Bunk: Henry Ford and Aberdeen Council: the sad case of the weaver’s shed on the Denburn

Guest Blog by Textor

Our current Aberdeen City Council is very good at extolling the virtues of wealthy men said to be coming to the economic, cultural and aesthetic rescue of the city. It has shown itself willing to put millions into a crass project at which even Ozymandias might have blushed.

And yet, at the same time as the Council trumpets its commitment to staying true to Aberdeen’s history and sense of place, it allows unique moments of its past to fall into rack and ruin. One glaring example of this is the small stone built shed-house on the south side of the Denburn near Mackie Place. Humble as this building is it is one of the last structures which points to what was once a key industry of the city, handloom-weaving. While there is no definitive evidence that it was a weaver’s shed-house its shape, location and period (c1800) leads to the conclusion that this is what it was. Regardless of proving absolutely that a handloom weaver worked there it was certainly part of the historic Denburn- Gilcomston community.

Some time in the 1980s the sadly neglected, but largely intact building, was made wind and water tight, including new pan tiling to the roof. The idea was floated that the shed might become a small museum marking the city’s important past as an area of textile production. Of course this came to nothing. Funding was never found for it.

It was then suggested it could become a centre for local crafts people to bring it back into use and preserve an important local landmark. It was a great idea but once again it came to nothing.

And so the shed has been left to decay. The stabilisation of it, making it wind and water tight, money spent for nothing. It stands in this most picturesque part of Aberdeen semi-derelict with a great hole in the roof and no obvious prospect of finding a useful life.

The Council has seen fit to restore Marischal College and it must be said that it has given us a sense what the building must have looked like in the Edwardian era. Apart from the rather anaemic mannie on a cuddy in front of the building we now have sight of a magnificent glistening piece of work. But it seems, that despite our civic leaders claims to be concerned with what is today called the heritage of the city they are not willing to maintain, let alone develop, one of the last remaining fragments from the early years of the industrial revolution.   

Of course, unlike garden projects and Marischal College the shed lacks grandeur; it is not a thing of classical beauty nor is it a shrine to wealth. It is simply a record of a central aspect of Aberdeen’s industrial past; a community’s way of life which deserves to be remembered for the vital part it played as the social and industrial backbone of the city.

Until the introduction of the power loom, handloom weavers were amongst the elite of craftsmen. Highly skilled, much in demand, especially after the invention of power spinning which vastly increased the availability of yarn without a corresponding increase in productivity in weaving: the output from the weaver was tied directly to the dexterity and the inclination of the craftsman rather than to the speed of factory machines.

In sheds such as the one at Mackie Place, the weaver would be supplied with yarn by a businessman who would late sell on the finished cloth. Weavers were often assisted by their families, including children who would ensure the bobbins were always at hand when needed. When there was no alternative to handloom production the weaver wielded power. It was never an easy job for it was arduous with long hours spent in cramped conditions which led to health problems. But these men were more than mere machine hands. They were highly skilled and could, at times, command relatively good prices for their output. Indeed, for a time a weaver was a person of some social standing. They had a reputation for being literate and politically active; many of them attached to movements calling for parliamentary reform such as the Chartists. But with the introduction of power looms, the handloom weaver’s income and social position fell away. The productivity from power looms was far greater than the handloom and it was cheaper for employers of factory hands working in the Green in Aberdeen or at Grandholm to pay unskilled rates.

By the 1840s handloom weavers and their families were becoming destitute. The Aberdeen weaver William Thom gave them a voice. In his Rhymes and Recollections in which he described the weaver’s reduction from what he called, “the daisy portion” of the trade to becoming a mere factory hand with no control over his working day:

…weaving, as it year after year declined, became at length an evendown waste of life – a mere permission to breathe…

The gradual changes at the Denburn and Gilcomston mirrored the weaver’s decline and the area became a byword for filth and disease. It wasn’t always so.

In the 1780s Francis Douglas described Gilcomston as a “fine village” and later Dr Kidd of the Chapel of Ease wrote that the area comprised “mostly weavers and shoemakers”. It was a distinct community but with Aberdeen expanding in population and geographically Gilcomston was gradually absorbed into the larger city. In 1818 Kennedy wrote that “the village may now be regarded as part of the suburbs of Aberdeen”. Later this process of assimilation became particularly evident for those handloom weavers forced to look for work in factories in, the Green or further afield, in other words, men were no longer labouring where they lived but were forced to travel to and from work like other factory hands.   With Gilcomston’s absorption into the city there was an increase in its population and an expansion of small industries working the area, particularly drawing upon the waters of the Denburn itself. Tanning, brewing, dyeing all found use for the burn’s once fine water. By the 1860s what had once been described as “clear and unpolluted as a mountain stream” was said to be an “offensive puddle” full of “horse leeches”.

The weaver’s shed is witness to this history. Its decay might be passed off as an inconsequential loss but this is to miss the point. Yes, weavers, and many other workers too, succumbed to the demands of an expansive industrial capitalism but before this they had carved a distinct culture marked by raising families, by attending church, by extolling the virtues of political reform and by practising their trade. There is little enough that remains as material witness to their lives.
Bedazzled by gold on offer from philistine benefactors, Aberdeen City Council turns a blind eye to a more worthy cause. Shame on the Council.

Mar 25, 2011

Closed Aberdeen – just doesn’t care about people – unless they’re rich

In recent times it has become glaringly obvious that rich Aberdeen has long abandoned any concern for its people.  When was the last time the council promoted any popular ideas to develop and create an enjoyable  environment for those it is supposed to represent?  The arrogant, we know best, culture apparent in the Town House takes delight in going against local opinon.  On the one hand it bemoans lack of funding then goes ahead with developing Marischal College as the new Town House (which I approve of – having suggested this several years ago to the then incumbent Chief Executive who resisted on grounds of not liking the building himself, – however it is pretty unpopular with voters),

the olympic-sized swimming pool (necessary it’s said to produce successful swimmers – despite Aberdeen and area having produced more top swimmers than anywhere else in the UK over the past 40 years without a multi-million pool – very unpopular decision), prop up the AECC ( oh, yes very unpopular) and throw untold millions to make Aberdeen the concreted over capital of Scotland through the misconceived and hugely unpopular Union Terrace Gardens fiasco.

I wasn’t going to mention the killing, sorry culling, of the city’s roe deer population at Tullos Hill (hugely unpopular and stupid as the deer killed will be replaced by other deer migrating there, doh! Oh, but the money’s run out for it – hence the slaughter of animals for trees).

My day out in Aberdeen this week confirmed how Aberdeen handles the concreting over issue.  When a previous bunch of councillors – Labour I believe – destroyed St. Nicholas Street and George Street to create a series of shopping centres which cut off easy access to the area there was an attempt to produce a crossing point above the St. Nicholas Centre.

Street sculpture was introduced. I won’t go there. Not today. Just to say – we’re talking small here.

So I did the walk over the centre walk on Wednesday. There was a guy there. Me. A few bits of litter. About it really. Problem is people don’t like it. It’s a nasty place. And it has become progressively more hostile to people.  Railing are erected to stop people congregating – mainly targeting skate boarders.  Skate boarders are people too, councillors.

Well, people have got the message. The council doesn’t want you here.

Take a look at my day out in Aberdeen pics from this week. Does this look like a city which cares about its population?

Feb 25, 2011

Aberdeen Giving it Away – Money – want some?

Skint Aberdeen City Council has been asked to return £1.2million special project money to Cosla because its disgustingly highly paid officials were incapable of coming up with any good ways of utilising the money.

What do we pay these people for?

Is there anyone at the Council who can explain why the jaw dropping salaries these guys pick up is worth every hard earned penny by the people of Aberdeen?

 

Deadlines missed for funding opportunities are nothing new to this Council.  You might think, however, that in these difficult times the Council might just have its finger on the pulse to ensure that whatever funding has been allocated to Aberdeen will not be chucked away.

Well if you thought that you obviously are unfamiliar with just how incompetent this bunch is.  Will they be asked to account for the loss of cash or indeed the loss of services – don’t be silly.   Bottom line is that those ultimately responsible (I use the term loosely) Council officials will never face the sack but will can look forward to a rosy retirement based on their super inflated salaries which will be paid for by the children currently in the schools facing severe cuts.

We are talking here about the crowd who wasted, as it has turned out, nearly half a million pounds on the once viable and popular Peacock Arts building in Union Terrace Gardens –

that was before moneybags Sir Ian Would-you-help-me-build-a-park-in-honour-of-my-vast-wealth asked the Council permission to bulldoze the Gardens and pour concrete into the hole created.  Nice one Woody. Who says you can’t buy taste?                        

Haud the front page – not satisfied with toadying up to Woody, Aberdeen Council dug deep into its fast dwindling coffers and handed over a cool £375,000 public funds to moneybags Wood.  I’ll just repeat that – £375,000 from public funds to enable a vanity project for Scotland’s second riches man.

Sir Ian Wood – his fortune around £962 million.

 

According to today’s Press & Journal – the usual media tarts, John Stewart, Kevin Stewart and Kate Dean had nothing to say on the matter.

NOTHING


Jan 12, 2011

Back to the Future? Oiling the Way Forward for Scottish Energy

Aberdeen Press & Journal journalist Jeremy Cresswell is in a reflective mood as he considers the state of Aberdeen, oil and gas capital or Europe with its ambitions to become the Renewables capital in addition, and yet, and yet…

In one of the best pieces to come out of the P & J, Cresswell spares few punches as he lays out Aberdeen’s credentials for retaining its capital status beyond oil and gas into a new era of renewable energy.   He looks ahead towards developments of maritime renewable and carbon capture…

Jeremy Cresswell’s words are in blue.

‘This is a remarkable period in the story of energy, a time of transition as Hydrocarbon Man gradually realises that there has to be a more sustainable way forward.

An opinion formed by apparently dangerous climate change and acknowledged shortages of premium grade resources, though low-grade, dirty hydrocarbons exist in abundance.

Only this time we’re trying to implement massive change in about half the average transition time, with several times the human population than was the case at the start of the 20th century.

Believe it or not, little old Aberdeen has a rather important role to play in the new future that we’re trying to create for ourselves.

It is a place where the current transition is starting to be felt, and we either embrace it or lose out to others.’

Is there a question mark over the commitment of some from traditional energy agencies that the time to act is now?

‘So, when Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond attended last month’s transition summit in Aberdeen, the city was already a decade up the maritime renewables road, not that much credit appeared to be accorded to that effort by co-chairs Messrs Wood and Marchant at said summit, from what I was told.’  

The 17th December 2010 meeting in Aberdeen, as Cresswell said, included Alex Salmond , Sir Ian Wood and Ian Marchant, during which Alex Salmond reiterated his call for the UK government to allow Scotland access to its £191 million of Fossil Fuel Levy funds from energy generated here so it can be invested in renewable schemes.

‘…Sir Ian Wood, founder and chair of the Wood Group and Ian Marchant, chief executive of Scottish and Southern Energy, the UK’s largest renewables generator, will co-chair the summit on Friday December 17 – to be attended by representatives of leading companies from both sectors.’ Newsnet Scotland http://newsnetscotland.com/economy/910-salmond-to-announce-energy-summit-and-demand-fossil-fuel-levy-release

‘The important thing, however, is that the North Sea’s oil & gas supply chain has now clocked the maritime renewables opportunity and is gradually starting to engage directly, including Technip becoming involved in the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre project, which has successfully attracted 40million euros of EU grant aid.

That same supply chain is also sniffing the carbon capture opportunity which, in a sense, is closer to home, as the petroleum industry per se is already well-practised, albeit for production enhancement reasons rather than anything to do with climate change.

But what a pity it is that the actual carbon dioxide scrubbing systems required for fossil fuel power stations such as Longannet are fundamentally foreign imports, which makes a lie out of government claims that the UK is a global leader in carbon capture when it quite clearly is not. Norway is. The Americans are. We are not.

The past couple of years have also been good for the UK oil & gas international supply chain, especially the Aberdeen-based capability and big-brand engineering houses in London.

The trick is to keep building on that and the London Government had better understand how strategically important it is to back such success, not solely with politicians’ endless prattle, but with tangible support and by putting its money where its mouth is, knowing that the return to UK PLC will be a handsome one. I’ve said this before: it really is time to act.’

According to Scottish Renewables own website, the Scottish renewable sector is exceeding expectations with a rise in all electricity generated from renewable in Scotland from 20.9% in 2009 to over 25% last year.  http://www.scottishrenewables.com

Jeremy Cresswell expresses views widely held across the north-east concerning the troubling state of Aberdeen and its administration.

‘As for Aberdeen and its shire, let us be clear, we must not compromise or squander our energy advantage, wittingly or otherwise.

It disturbs me that swingeing local authority budget cuts could cause immense damage, if they are not already doing so, by impacting on simple things such as thousands of potholes, cancelling infrastructure improvements and not according sufficient priority to economic development.

It disturbs me that the heart of Europe’s energy capital remains so scruffy: where is that sense of real civic pride? Don’t we love Aberdeen?’

I think we all know the answer to that, Jeremy – misplaced priorities from an administration that talks the talk but stumbles over the walk.

‘It disturbs me that if the controversial and very expensive Union Terrace Gardens project goes ahead, Aberdeen will be accused of profligacy at a time when prudence should be the watchword. And rightly so.’

Interesting how Aberdeen has had 40 years as the energy hub of Europe without a piazza but now apparently everything about its future is dependent on it having one. Complete nonsense.

‘It disturbs me that anything to do with educating our young should be compromised any more than has already been the case.

It disturbs me that neither Holyrood nor London appear to understand the need to truly nurture what remains perhaps the most successful economic powerhouse in Britain today; or at least reward that success in some tangible manner on the basis that success begets success.’

Aberdeen’s strength lies in its geographic situation but therein also lies its weakness. Two hundred miles north of the Central Belt and five hundred from London, dependent on an accident-ridden dual carriageway south and unreliable rail links.

‘It disturbs me that, locally, we still don’t seem to understand that, globally, Aberdeen is the brand that the rest of the world recognises.

It disturbs me that, when it snows and freezes, our transport links fall over and chaos ensues.

In my view the railways especially need sorting out – big time.

If we keep on getting things wrong the way we are doing, you can bet your bottom dollar that oil & gas supply chain main and mid-brands which are overseas owned will declare enough is enough, up sticks and leave.’

http://energy.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2065941/?UserKey=#ixzz1Al5HS5qm


There is the promise of a rich future for Scotland in the creation of energy through renewable and its associated jobs.  But success is not guaranteed and is dependent on the swift action of the Scottish government, the London government, business leaders and local authorities to recognise the parts they must play. For Aberdeen City Council that means getting the basics established.  Clearly and disturbingly it has no clue as to what these might be.

Nov 19, 2010

Pulp Art

Pulp Art?

Jack Vettriano,

The Councillor

and the Art Gallery

You will have seen Jack Vettriano’s work – it is frequently represented on greetings cards, posters and mugs.  The self taught artist attracts a great deal of attention and a great deal of criticism from the art world so when an Aberdeen City Councillor took it upon herself to determine Aberdeen Art Gallery’s acquisition  policy by insisting it acquire a work by the Scottish artist she caused a sharp intake of breath in some circles in the city.

It has to be said that in the main Vettriano’s critics come from people with a background in fine art – the sort who know their Ingres from their El Greco.

As for Vettriano himself he points to Caravaggio and Monet as his main inspiration.

Italian painter, Caravaggio, who has a look of Kirsty Allsop about him in Ottavioi Leoni’s portrait, was a giant of late Italian renaissance art.  His pictures are heavily theatrical partly due to his liberal deployment of chiaroscuro: the use of strong light and deep shadows.             carravagio

Despite leading a disreputable life Caravaggio’s paintings were intended to inspire religious devotion in the viewer, as emotional vehicles in which familiar biblical themes and symbolism were strikingly depicted through dramatic diagonals which energised  scenes, suggested movement  and directed the eye around the action punctuated by bold  luminosity set tight against gloomy blackness.  As a figurative painter, Caravaggio’s mastery of investing his subjects with character is instantly apparent – real people, flesh and blood, warts and all with complex emotions written into their faces and actions.

 

carav

By contrast, Vettriano’s other influence, the French Impressionist Monet, is associated with what is known as the en plein-air movement meaning the artist painted swiftly outdoors, capturing the transience of natural light on the landscape.   Monet’s art appears tame by today’s standards, chocolate boxy and easily acceptable to most tastes.  However there were ructions in the art world when Monet’s lyrical picture, Impression, Sunrise was exhibited in Paris and earned the movement its name.

Many of Monet’s works have the brilliant light of Caravaggio’s but not his depth of shadow. There is none of the melodrama of Caravaggio although he employs staged settings nonetheless.   By the time Monet was painting, photography was increasing in popularity and some of its influences can be seen in his compositions however they are scenes from D’Oyle Carte rather than Wagner.

Jack Vettriano’s paintings share the studied compositions of both Caravaggio and Monet.  He shares Caravaggio’s love of theatricality but it is a stilted version and lacks the innovation of the Italian.  Vettriano’s The Singing Butler work, butlersurely his most famous, may be set on a beach but this is no real beach but the artist’s studio, they may be populated by figures but they are comic-book characters lacking depth or insight.  We can imagine what they are thinking only from the accoutrements that accompany them.

Vettriano has applied extremes of light and dark, the  murky and portentous sky is a backdrop for his translucent foreground with its sun high overhead reminiscent of Monet yet this is no neo-neo-Impressionist

or neo-Baroque work – more Greco Roman with its frieze-like foreground of activity.

There is no doubting Vettriano’s popularity but in the snooty world of fine art popularity can be a hindrance to reputation.   So was the Councillor right to push for having this Fife artist’s work in her local gallery?  Why Vettriano?  Because he is Scottish?  There are hundreds of highly talented Scottish artists who would love exposure in Aberdeen’s gem of a gallery.  Because he is particularly talented?  Well he has a talent, no doubt about that, and is very popular – is that the criterion for including his work in the Aberdeen gallery?

So what are the factors which determine a local gallery’s collection policy?  How much influence should a Councillor have in the day-to-day running of any museum or gallery?   Is this a role for a Council committee?  Is there any need for expertise or just what appeals to whoever is there at any time?   Should such decisions be trusted to the fine art professional in the gallery?  These are real questions.  Who should the casting vote lie with?  The gallery is, after all, a public body, paid for by the public and so should be sensitive to public taste but does the logic of this lead us to suppose that its collections should be determined by the citizens of a town or city? Where then does the value of professional status of the gallery curator start and finish?

The person so keen to influence what hangs on the walls of Aberdeen Art Gallery is Councillor Jennifer Stewart who has a BA Hon Social Science (Public Policy) Politics and Economics . But while Ms Stewart has no formal qualifications she is recorded as a ‘passionate supporter of the arts; her personal vision would be to increase arts, culture and museum participation in the hard to reach group and remove the myth about snobbery within the arts culture in order to show that galleries and museums are there for everyone to enjoy.’

Councillor Jennifer Stewart  is the Lib Dem  Member for Hazlehead .  On the Register of Members’  Interests her commitment to the arts is clear:

  • Treasurer of Aberdeen Liberal Democrats (Central)
  • Director of Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre – membership ceased-effective October 2010
  • Director of Aberdeen Performing Arts
  • Trustee of Aberdeen International Youth Festival
  • Member of the Board of Museums & Galleries Scotland
  • Aberdeen City Heritage Trust
  • Occasional voluntary work for Cancer Research (commenced March 2010)

In  May this year C. Stewart introduced a motion to:

“Instruct Council officers to explore all potential sources of external funding, including the McDonald Trust, which would allow Aberdeen City Council to acquire an original Jack Vettriano painting to be hung in Aberdeen Art Gallery.”

And so it was referred to Education, Culture and Sport Committee.

On 18th November a meeting of Aberdeen Council  Education, Culture and Sport Committee discussed a report from the Art Gallery which included –

‘Jack Vettriano was born in Methil, Fife in 1951. He left school at sixteen tobecome a mining engineer, however after he received a set of watercolour paints for his twenty-first birthday he taught himself to paint. His earliest paintings, under the name “Jack Hoggan”, were copies or pastiches of impressionist paintings – his first painting was a copy of Monet’s Poppy Fields. Much of his early influence came from studying paintings at the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery…’

As is generally known, Vettriano’s work sells for relatively big money.

‘ …The Singing Butler was sold at Sotheby’s for close to £750,000. More recently prices have levelled. The highest seller at a Sotheby’s auction sale of Scottish Art in April 2010 was a 15 inch by 12 inch painting entitled Game On, which fetched £49,250.

…Currently he is not represented in any of Scotland’s national collections. Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery owns two paintings and is the only local authority funded public collection to include his work. One painting was donated in 1997 and the other, a self portrait, was a gift of the artist in 2002. Vettriano’s known collectors range from lyricist Sir Tim Rice and businessman Sir Tom Farmer to the former motor-racing champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who commissioned a triptych of himself and his wife. 

…Purchase prices for Jack Vettriano’s work have fluctuated over the years,ranging from the record price reached at auction for The Singing Butler (£744,500 in 2004) to an auction sale at Sotheby’s in 2010 where seven out of ten paintings failed to find a buyer. The highest seller was Game On which sold for £49,250. A selection of images and their purchase prices is attached for information.

The Museums and Galleries purchase budget is £26,376 to cover works of art and artefacts from all disciplines, dating from earliest times to contemporary work. The budget for the year 2010-11 is already committed. If the acquisition  of a Jack Vettriano painting was considered in future years external match-funding would be required. Many grant-giving organisations require a percentage of local funding to match the grant given. Museums Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland or the National Library of Scotland. Advisers will base their recommendations on evidence given in the application under the following headings:

significance of the proposed acquisition

relevance of the acquisition to the applicant’s collecting policy

whether the price quoted for the acquisition is a fair one

evidence of public benefit demonstrated by proposals for display,

learning/public programmes, study or research, or loan to other

organisations

objects of great local interest judged to be of good museum quality objects which will aesthetically enrich collections and support the expansion and development of new areas of collecting…’

I find it interesting that the report mainly sets out the cost of acquiring a Vettriano rather than a critique of him as an artist but then if this Councillor gets her way she blows the entire annual budget of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums for how many years?  Is Vettriano worth it?  Is this kind of intervention in the running of art galleries likely to reduce collections to the lowest common denominator?  Will galleries run the risk of being flooded with exotic green ladies

lady

or the ubiquitous cute tennis player scratching her arse (as a fellow tweeter suggested) or any of the anodyne prints designed to co-ordinate with your sittingroom décor on sale in furniture stores for far more than a good original piece of art?  It cannot be denied that this type of print is very popular with the public so why shouldn’t they be hung in public art galleries?

For images of Jack Vettriano paintings try:

http://www.jackvettriano.com

http://www.diytrade.com/china/4/products/4093383/Dancer_for_Money_Jack_Vettriano_Oil_Painting_Reproduction.html

Nov 15, 2010

One Aberdeen? Pure Pîche

It is said that life is stranger than fiction. Certainly is if you live in Aberdeen.

What appeared wildly exotic fantasy in John Aberdein’s marvellous satire, Strip the Willow has come to pass. Yes, really or should I say, Aye, ken fit I mean, min?

If ever there was a misbegotten name it is surely One Aberdeen so let’s improve on it – how about LeopCorp?  Hang on, it’s not a million miles from Aberdeen Pure – the joint venture water bottling plant on top of Brairiach – ‘A Peoples’ Water – Aberdeen Pure’. (STW)

I don’t think so.  One Aberdeen.  Live in hope dear council.  It has been a very long time since the people of Aberdeen were at one with their council.  Given the debacle of the consultation and ultimate decision to trample over the views of public feeling and push through the hugely unpopular Union Terrace Gardens programme largely determined by one man, albeit a rich one, Aberdeen citizens know exactly where “their” council stands – on the opposite side of the chasm from them.

Council officials fish about in their in-trays marked ‘panic’ and out drops such crisis coping gems as:  close all public parks, all art gallery and museums and as many schools as we can get away with.

Okay council officers are just playing silly buggers so that when the sensational headline proposals are junked there will be a collective sigh of relief when the axe really does fall on services once regarded as essential.

But wait, wait a bit – how then is One Aberdeen still in the reckoning?

It runs along principles along the lines of – Aberdeen City Council is incapable of handling the city’s multi-million pound assets so there will be shared responsibility for developing them by linking up with local businesses.  Once there has been a transfer of such property and land to One Aberdeen wave a magic wand say abracadabra and watch money rain down on Aberdeen and what remains from the profits after the private companies had taken their whack will be invested into ‘less affluent’ i.e. poor areas of the city.  Land values will rise, Aberdeen will attract outside investment and jobs will be created.  That is the sales line.

Among the 14 or so targets of One Aberdeen will include the area surrounding Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC is losing money hand over fist), the Bon Accord Baths (closed down under great controversy despite being well used), Union Terrace Gardens (even more controversial with its rich man’s vanity project utterly rejected by the people of Aberdeen but steadfastly supported by the Cooncil).

Er, why does the city hold properties and control certain services in the first place?  Perhaps something to do with not being able to trust private enterprise to preserve and value them and so they are held in trust by the people for the people.  Along comes some whipper-snapper official who thinks a trouble shared is a trouble halved and so big business is in.

Perhaps with a joint holding organisation in charge of public assets it might be expected that the peoples’ representatives will hold the chair and casting vote but, wait again, this is Aberdeen – no, the council is to hand over the final say to the chair- a city businessman – or woman. I can only imagine the Cheshire cat grins on these men’s face as they rub their hands and lick clean their cream-laden whiskers.

The jargon promises maximising the city’s unused assets and promoting regeneration – well blow me down, isn’t that kind of what council’s should have been doing these past years?  What’s the matter with these people?  What do they get paid for?  Anyone out there who can answer that?

Hello, hello, hello what have we here – ah, Kate Dean – why do people smile when they hear that Kate Dean is up for something?  So, as convener of the Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee Ms Dean – is it too intrusive to ask just what have you and your committee been doing for the city?  Can’t hear you. Oh, you have nothing to say. Ever have self-doubts? No it’s fine, just a rhetorical question – I’m not that naive. A quote from Councillor Dean, “I welcome this. Moves to create a company like this have been around for a long time. We have assets at the moment which are not working for the people of Aberdeen and that’s not what we are about. We want to make our assets work for the city.”

No, Councillor Dean – this is precisely WHAT you are about – a plan around for a long time, assets not working for the people – this is YOU and the rest of the COUNCIL that has created and sustained this situation – nobody else. Still no self-doubts?  Okay, can’t criticise me for trying.

Vice-convener Callum McCaig gets to the nub of the issue.  Public private partnerships have been around for some time and not always very successfully but an optimist, McCaig states, “…this is a public private partnership which will actually work for the public, not just for the private sector and I look forward to seeing it moving forward.”

Well it’s a point of view but not a guarantee Mr McCaig.  You recognise that not all PPPs work but assure the people of Aberdeen this one will – and not just for the private sector – is there an inference there that in the past that’s what PPPs have done? Just pause a moment Mr McCaig – what if it turns out like the rest of them? What happens then?

It is not only Aberdeen facing this type of quandary and more councils will be looking at PPPs as the economic climate continues its downward spiral.  There will be many more moves to use public assets to attract private finance for regeneration programmes.

http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/

“…concern has been exacerbated by the structures being classified by Treasury as “novel, contentious and repercussive”.   There we have it – chances are all the optimistic talk is just that.  What happens when reality sets in?

Whatever the name adopted by this type of joint venture arrangements between public and private sectors, PFI/ PPP/LSP, they aim to reap rewards but the risks are substantial.

http://www.european-services-strategy.org.uk/outsourcing-library/pfi-ppp/private-finance-initiative-and-public-private/what-future-pfi-ppp.doc

While there are recorded successes for such partnerships that is not the whole story.  Yes shareholders and mangers of private companies involved may see higher profits but public assets are often sold off for less than their full value and public services fail to reach required standards.

“Far from constituting partnerships in any meaningful sense, PPPs provide for the contracting parties to pursue their separate, diverse and potentially conflicting public and private interests.”

PPPs – It’s time to take the PIIS by Christopher Sheilhttp://evatt.labor.net.au/

PPPs emerged as a result of the economic crisis of the 1970s when major cuts in public spending were being introduced by successive UK governments and investment in the public sector dropped significantly.   Interestingly this was during the period when many private fortunes were being made with North Sea oil and gas extraction at its peak.

One Aberdeen has materialised from a council incapable of running its own services, a council devoid of imagination and ability. There is an expectation that private sector managers will be able to do better than the ranks of officials on salaries ranging from just under £50K to well in excess of £100K. If PPP is the extent of their combined deliberations then shouldn’t they all be offering themselves up as sacrifices for the sorry mess they have made of governing the city?  But perhaps it may be a crumb of comfort to these fat-cat officials that when private is mixed with public such as hospital cleaning, the results have been a decline in standards and no-one needs reminding of the current dire state of our hospitals with regards infections.  The private sector will squeeze and squeeze profit from joint projects, cutting staff – cutting service.

Where there are partnerships between a public body and the private sector where does the latter influence stop?  What level of responsibility does the private sector carry, e.g. for dirty hospitals?  What influence will private investors have on the running of schools, allocation of resources, teachers employed when their money is being spent on building and refurbishing them?

One Aberdeen is the private sector’s Christmases and birthdays rolled into one providing them with access and influence over empty buildings and land which will result in ‘surplus’ public assets being sold off for private development.

Lack of democratic accountability

When councillors mismanage they can be rejected by the electorate at elections, oh alright this does not apply to the mediocrity that is often the council officer but what about the accountability of the business partners represented in One Aberdeen?  Who do you think they will be more accountable to – the amorphous mass of Aberdonians or their shareholders and company boards?

Which officer from the council will turn out to be Guy Bord? (STW)

‘UberStreet’s hitherto hidden quality as a street, said Guy, as a long street, a long and very straight street, was it aptitude as a giant ball alley.’ (STW)

Public and private interests very often clash

‘Planning controls will need to be more imaginative, agreed Swink.’ (STW)

Commercial confidentiality is vital to private companies who are hot on protecting their intellectual property rights. How does this tie in with public accountability?  Will there be limited public accountability because of the strictures applied by private business interests in One Aberdeen.  You can bet your bottom dollar there will be.

100% retained by the public or lost assets?

According to HM Treasury in 1999, PFI/PPP assets should revert to public ownership at the end of the contract where it is in the public interest and when there is no alternative use for the assets. So there you have it – assets ‘should’ revert, ‘if in the public interest’ – who determines that? ‘When there is not alternative use’ – if a private company cannot see a profit in them.  Not many guarantees there then. And what will be the state of public finances at the end of the period One Aberdeen will be set up for?  Will the city then be ready to take back and run these public assets or will it have to continue down the road of another similar scheme?  Like the Kaimhill ski centre, this is a slippery slope leading straight to the bargain basement box of ‘public assets clearance sale’.

One Aberdeen as with LeopCorp’s Aberdeen Pure is unadulterated Pîche.

Sep 24, 2010

Skint Aberdeen City Council willing to gamble all on a maybe. Tif scheme comes closer.

Aberdeen City Council maintains the reasons for its slash and burn policy of closing facilities and services for the people of the city, especially the disabled, is because it is deeply in debt and a victim of COSLA’s unfair distribution of local authority funding, not because it likes to pick on easy targets. (See examples throughout my blog pages.)

Well, it has a strange way of dealing with its debts. Upping the already huge salary of its Chief bureaucrat to £142K the Council shows once more it cannot be trusted with public money.

Cash support and premises withdrawn from day centres for the elderly, the deaf, the disabled in moves which are an affront to this Council’s responsibility for social inclusion and underline its lack of any sense of decency for the well-being and independence of its most vulnerable of its citizens. And yet and yet . . . the escalating costs of the AWPR (bypass) – £90 million already spent on initial costs and compulsory purchase of land and buildings on the proposed area. If it ever gets built the initial forecasts of £350 million will undoubtedly be shown to be way out. Possibly that much will be spent without a yard of tarmac being laid. Inevitably, Aberdeen City Council’s contribution will also rise substantially. And how many millions more will the Council pour into the AECC, already £28 million in debt?

But let me get to the point – the highly controversial proposal for the Ian Wood Memorial Park aka Union Terrace Gardens aka City Square aka Piazza Woodii etc etc. This ego park and associated development is estimated to come in at around £200 million.

Easily flattered Councillors kow-tow to Sir Ian Wood over his pet project yet there are no guarantees it will make a jot of difference to the revenues coming into the city but what is guaranteed is the city will lose its one remaining distinctive feature of the sunken gardens.

How can the Council possibly find the cash? The saviour is to be Tax Increment Financing -Tif.

This is a system used by some LAs in the States to pay for urban infrastructure improvements by designating an area a Tif district from which taxes are collected for the specific Tif scheme. The idea is that the regenerated areas will attract commerce and housing, pushing up property values and the amount of local taxes collected from these will continue to grow. Interesting how LAs are all so optimistic when it comes to pet schemes and their projected successes.

It is also worthy of note that the discredited ACSEF consultation exercise on Union Terrace Gardens threw up several, similar, references to Chicago’s urban renewal in support of the proposed development and surprise, surprise, Chicago has adopted Tif as its means of paying for much of this regeneration. But while Tif has its devotees there are others who are more dubious about it. Tif schemes not only create funding opportunities, they can also tie up money.

Is Aberdeen City Council happy to take a huge gamble with taxpayers’ money that Tif will be a success? Of course the Councillors who take decisions today will not be around when the criticisms come in years down the line. So yes, possibly they will be happy to gamble with this US-style infrastructure funding tool to help pay for the city-centre project. The US is not known for diving head-first into financial experiments, is it?

So what exactly is Tif? It is a scheme by which an LA borrows to implement a development, against future tax revenues resulting from the regeneration. A Tif district aims to raise property value in one of three ways: 1- new buildings can be built on vacant land, 2-improvements can be made to existing buildings or 3- existing buildings without improvements can be assessed at a higher level.

A feasibility study carried out by consultancies CB Richard Ellis and PricewaterhouseCoopers for Scottish Enterprise examined the potential for using Tif to help finance Aberdeen’s proposed new city centre development. Estimates from the study projected £7.2 million of additional business rate revenues each year. On top of this it suggests housing developments in the city centre capable of creating £2million annually from council tax. Aberdeen Council is looking to fund around half of the £140 million proposal from Tif with the other half coming from the private sector.

Now with Tif the area revenue is preserved for the development it is supporting for the duration of the term of the scheme. I have seen examples of 23 years which means that for around two decades the Tif site holds onto the revenues it raises to cover its own costs.

As the point of Tif is to attract businesses into the Tif area then this will deplete the amounts of revenue raised by businesses outwith this area. For the duration of Tif, the Council will have less money coming in to pay for essential services such as schools, libraries, parks etc. If Tif becomes successful and attracts more and more companies into its sphere so the other revenue for the City’s essential services will decline for the two decades or whatever term is determined for Tif in Aberdeen. Either that or Aberdeen citizens will have to dig deep into their pockets to make up lost income to the City through increases in Council Tax.

 

A study by NCBG ( a coalition of around 200 community organisations in Chicago) has shown that, contrary to the argument that there are no negative costs to Tif, the opposite is true. There tends to be a trend of Tif extending to embrace other areas of a municipality, and remember within these areas the revenues are reserved, so that across the whole City there will be less coming into pay for essential services for the whole duration of the project. X% of Council revenue will therefore be tied up in Tif districts, meaning all new growth in these areas will not contribute to the funding of basic services.

Where essential service costs rise there will have to be revenue raised from sources other than the lucrative Tif area. The most profitable areas covered by Tif will not be able to add to the revenue required for essential services – for the duration of the scheme – which you can count in tens of £millions. In the longer term this will lead to an overall depletion of monies raised within the City for essential spending.

Those who are sceptical about Tif suggest it can be costly to run and it is the politics of madness to borrow large sums of money to support development projects through Tif unless it can be shown absolutely that Tif will deliver what it promises. Not all US cities have found Tifs plain sailing: smaller than expected revenues, none of the expected rises in property values resulting in short-falls in the amount raised to cover its annual payments.

What then for public services? More and deeper cuts and lay-offs, and the spectre of raising specific local taxes to cover the expenses accruing from non-contributory areas such as a Tif funded Union Square. And remember, the projected benefits of this rich man’s vanity project will not be proven until the end of the period of Tif while the loss of income into the City from the Tif areas will be a reality that has to be paid for by Aberdeen’s citizens – and those in the shire, as no doubt by then Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will again have become one local government body.

It does not inspire confidence in the future of Aberdeen with its tendency to splash out huge sums of public money on unpopular and questionable schemes that its Chief Executive of two short years has already found herself a new job, in Edinburgh.

Three other Scottish councils are also looking at Tif to finance schemes: Glasgow and North Lanarkshire and Edinburgh.

Check out:

http://www.progressillinois.com/posts/content/2010/06/16/chicago-teachers-increasingly-complaining-about-tif

Tags:
Apr 26, 2010

Does this look like yes to you, Sir Ian Wood?

Ian Wood is rich because…

 

Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF) is a partnership between the public and private sectors in and around Aberdeen, Scotland comprising:-

Tom Smith -Chairman of ACSEF – Managing Director, Nessco Ltd
Dave Blackwood – Non Executive Director, Valiant Petroleum
Melfort Campbell – Managing Director, Imes Group
Michael Clark – Chairman, International Fish Canners (Scotland) Ltd
Colin Crosby – President, Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce
Russel Griggs – Scottish Enterprise Board member
Professor Stephen D Logan – Senior Vice Principal, University of Aberdeen
John Michie – Partner, Michies the Chemist
Stewart Milne – Chairman & Chief Executive, Stewart Milne Group
Councillor Anne Robertson – Leader, Aberdeenshire Council
Mike Salter – Non-Executive Chairman, ASCo Group Ltd
Stewart Spence – Owner, Marcliffe at Pitfodels
Councillor John Stewart – Leader, Aberdeen City Council
Andy Willox – Owner, Goldstar Cleaning Services

The responses below all counted as YES!

In response to the offer of £50 million from an Aberdeen businessman, Sir Ian Wood, a proposal was presented to the people of Aberdeen to rejuvenate sunken Victorian gardens which previously had been a busy working area with bleach greens and a social hub. Further back in time it had been a wood, the Corby Haugh. Corbies are crows. Significant parts of Aberdeen’s architectural and topographical have been lost by successive ‘improvement’ projects which have created the city many supporters of the City Square project castigate with damning phrase. Notwithstanding they are looking to encourage Sir Ian Wood to obliterate the gardens and replace them with a stretch of concrete from Union Street to Schoolhill which is more resonant of the 1960s and 70s than the 21st century.

The project is costed at £140 million so the remaining monies would have to be raised from private contributions, businesses and the local councils.

Sir Ian’s plans came on the coat tails of an existing plan by a Peacock Printmakers to have an architecturally interesting studio built into the bank of one corner of the gardens, retaining the amphitheatre which would remain a park and space for performance. Where people mention Peacock in their responses it is in connection with this project.

ASCEF made it clear that despite Peacock’s project having funding in place and planning permission it would have nothing to do with it.

ASCEF’s plans can be seen at: http://www.thecitysquareproject.com

ASCEF initiated a questionnaire on the promise that if the people voted their proposal down Sir Ian Wood would walk away. Leading PR specialists, Weber Shandwick carried out the questionnaire which was set up in such a way that many find it almost impossible to complete with any certainty that their views would be accurately recorded. It was revealed that despite recording opposition to the project, some of these responses were counted as ‘yes’ in favour. Confusion over completing the online questionnaire meant that many failed to notice the question which appeared to have counted most, approval of the scheme, was defaulted to ;yes’.

The questionnaire has now been published and I have made a selection of some of these responses which boosted the votes for Sir Ian Wood’s concrete vision – although the numbers still amounted to fewer than those opposed to raising Aberdeen’s gardens to street level.

See what you think
The comments are recorded as they were on the questionnaire. I have not corrected spelling/grammar.

1. Don’t destroy Aberdeen’s green space in the centre of the city. Never promote walking and cycling. Incoming reference number 131.

2. I would not like to see commercial / retail units there as it would take away from existing business and would spoil the green element of the gardens. An artisitc and peaceful oasis in the city centre would be loevely. Incoming reference number 164.

3. Whilst I support the notion of something being done to improve Aberdeen City, I believe that the many money may be better spent on alternative initiatives ie. Pedestrianisation of Union Street. I

4. I WANT SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY SOMETHING WE CAN BE PROUD OF. NOT ANOTHER BOG STANDARD SHOPPING CENTRE DEVELOPMENT.

5. please no concrete jungle

6. the council have already over spent who is going to lose out next.

7. in this econic slump the money that would be spent could be used elsewhere

8. please leave it as an open space

9. i would be against anything that would mean cutting down trees

10. there is no need for the expense of raising the area

11. no need to raise the square waste of money

12. Garden and greenery not overdone with concrete

13. We have enough concrete shopping in the city centre

14. the current picture shows a space with fart oo much concrete and stone and not enough wildlife. It looks like la defese just outside Paris which is a fairly depressing urban environemtn. Consideration should be given to how the place will look and feel on a cold and miserable day in winter not just a nice spring or summer day.

15. No more concrete or designs from peope who have no idea about Aberdeen. Cafe culture but no more bars

16. I think most people in the city and surrounding area agree that something needs to be done to modernise the gardens and to enhance the facility. Typically, the business community has swung behind Sir Ian to support his vision and potential legacy, just as they did with Donald Trump’s golf development. However, when the local representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses also added their weight in support, it appears, from the response in the media, that this was done without the wider consultation of their members.We live in a democratic country and as such there needs to be compromise between all the parties involved, Peacock, ACSEF and the general public. I have been fortunate to have travelled the world and I have seen numerous parks, gardens and civic squares. The existing gardens occupy a unique location, marred by the existence of the railway and Denburn dual carriageway. I do not wish to see a square built at Union Street level, I can’t imagine anything less exciting than a wide, relatively flat, concrete jungle as portrayed in the project’s illustrations but perhaps the area could be developed as a “BOWL”. The dual carriageway, railway and lower

17. Sir Ian Wood’s desire to leave a legacy in the face of his own mortality has threated to bury exquisite plans for UTG under hundreds of tons of unenvironmentally friendly concrete. UTG should be a space for the citizens of Aberdeen to enjoy an all too important green space; experience cultural events; and enhance the beauty of the city centre. Street level shopping plazas, bars and cafes will only contribute to the soulless feeling of the city centre. UTG should be saved not destroyed.

18. I strongly feel that we should keep a mostly green space in the centre of town, however, I also think Union Terrace Gardens would benifit from expansion, and upgrade. It is a pity the Gardens as they stand have fallen in to such shabby state. I would hate to see some concrete monstrocity built, with all the old trees and the old granite work and even the period toilets (I like them) being lost. Let the space keep some of its history.

19. Given Aberdeen’s climate, we feel that a large undercover space would be far more utilised than Union Terrace Gardens are at present.

20. The gardens should not be aloud to be turned in to a sprawling concreate mess.

21. I strongly agree that an arts cintre would be the most sensible option in promoting Aberdeens budding arts students. Currently there is not much supporting Grays School and young potential arts students. I dont see the point in raising the gardens to eye lovel I think it woul be a waste.

22. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Union Terrace Gardens ain’t broke, and is a beautiful green lung in the heart of of the city. Castle Street on the other hand is broke. It is underused, deserted, isolated, and utterly shabby, despite being at the heart of the City and at the culmination of a once iconic street that is heading the same downward spiral. It desperately needs to be brought back to life, and this could be done at a fraction of the cost.

23. Given that the council is in such dire financial straits I don’t think Aberdeen City can afford to embark on a hugely expensive project that requires substantial public funding. It is much more important to retain services to schools and vulnerable people than it is to spend huge amounts of money on this project.

24. I am not at all excited about the proposals put forward by sir Ian Wood. I feel that his plan will do exactly the opposite as is intended from the city square project. Use the exisiting templates and create something that aberdeen will be proud of. If Ian woods plan goes ahead i will leave this city.

25. The proposed paved-over plaza by Wood is a huge step backwards and belongs to bad old 1960s and 70s urban planning. Since it seems that some development will go ahead, it must be very green and park-like. The student proposals are all way better than any sketches for the Wood scheme. The big problem is that they all level the glen, whereas the dramatic changes in levels and perspective give Union Terrace its charm. Think how much Edinburgh gains from the multi-level streets and bridges. Why not do a compromise? Keep the glen and big established trees and use the money to cover over the railway and dual carriage way. This new construction would be level and permit gardens, water features, cafes etc without destroying the best of what exists.

26. The peacok visual arts project seems a better plan landscape wise but a propper conection to railway station and bus station should be provided or alternately a halt for trains /bus under the planned gardens. A large glass roof might be a good idea with the Aberdeen climate

27. For years the gardens have been underused, great space sadly only used by a very small amount of people. Most people watch round it but rarely venture through it. It is about time the space was better utilised, the area doesn’t need shops and lots of cafes and restaurants – some fine but not too many, plenty nearby. The gardens were always a place to relax so important to keep this ethos, would like to see some space allocated for the arts – art exhibitions, performing arts hopefully with the emphasis on promoting local art / artists.

28. Sir Ian Wood’s plans to level Union Terrace Gardens and provide Aberdeen with another concrete vista is not what the city needs. Union Terrace is a gem in the heart of the city and anything that can be done to increase usage of this landmark should be. Concreting it over is not the way forward.

29. The plans for redeveloping the existing gardens appear to be half finished. Had the architect considered covering over the road and railway with a sloping or stepped construction it would have allowed the full potential for the gardens as an open-air theatre/concert venue. This would have the benefit of maintaining the existing topography which is the only place where the original historical series of hills on which Union St. was constructed can be seen. One of the reasons the gardens are under-used is that they have been largely neglected by the council. I can remember playing giant chess and draughts in front of the arches many years ago. This was one of the first things to be removed from the gardens and while I do not necessarily advocate their return, it is the attitude involved in their removal which is indicative of the greater malaise. I note in the reports that 78 mature trees will be removed as part of the other options and that, since they are in the region of 200 years old, their replacement will certainly a matter of many decades. This is hardly in keeping with need to maintain the planet’s lungs. We can hardly lecture the Third World on conserving the rainforest if we chose to remove those few mature trees we still possess ourselves.I like the idea of refurbishing the gardens; I like the idea of

30. Peacock’s idea, its sensitivity to the historic landmarks in the locale, its relative cheapness and its innovation are superb and to be supported.

31. As part of the Aberdonian ‘diaspora’ I live and work in a foreign land, coming home to recharge regularly. Over the years I have witnessed so much ugly development in the city. There are more than enough shops and cafes already! UTG is a vital green space in the absolute heart of my favourite city. Don’t bury this jewel under concrete.

32. We don’t want Aberdeen to turn into a concrete jungle

33. I wholeheartedly support the Peacock proposal, which should be the starting point for a continuing improvement of the use of UTG. I do not support concreting over the gardens and putting some plants on the top level.

34. Really need to develop what we have when one looks at what was done at Covent Garden would be sad to rip the gardens apart the basic layout is there – Aberdeen has had the heart ripped out all over like old market in Market St and Co-op Loch St the opportunities were there but just put up more concrete malls we need something special which we already have just needs some TLC and need it utilised so every member of the family can use

35. This consultation has been presented in a very onesided way – ie as if it were a given that the citysquare project is what should happen and you are being asked what is wanted in it. The timing of the proposal by Sir Ian Wood and his offer to partly finance appeared to be very cynical in stopping the Peacock Arts Centre project going ahead. I was very happy when the Peacock project was first mooted as it would give Aberdeen an exciting, beautiful contemporary building set in the lovely green space we already have; this would give Aberdeen and the North East much much more both for the present and future population as well as making the green space accessible and used by people as it should be. The prospect of a huge square in place of the gardens is a terrible prospect and I have yet to understand the contention that this is necessary for the future well economic welfare of the city. It may well benefit the construction industry and other businesses in the short term but in the long term I cannot see what benefit it will have – I just do not see that visitors and businesses are going to come to Aberdeen because there is this huge out of proportion space in

36. With the only few remaining green spaces in the city, considering the importance of making Aberdeen greener and regenerated, the Peacock ‘s scheme will definitely benefit. As it is, the gardens are almost in abandonment and a cultural centre are both educational and it integrates the people of Aberdeen, rooted into its heritage and culture. If profit is the main consideration, imagine not having maximum usage – causing less profit. Moreover, if retail is main priority I can’t imagine not able to get what I want from Union Street outlets and also the new Union Square. Sustaining existing shops would be most feasible especially in light of the economic situation.

37. This valauble grenn historic space must not be lost to yet another concrete slabbed mall or wasted “arts” space – what’s wrong with the Art Gallery – if there’s no money to keep it open as it once was where’s the money coming for this stupid idea? Aberdeen has enough malls (many not full) and daft projects without anymore – Union Street is a disgrace! Empty shops, litter – need I go on?

38. i am completely against Sir Ian Wood and his attempt to construct a monumental eye sore in Aberdeen to sustain some kind of legacy for himself. I fully support Peacock’s visual art centre and believe that it will bring a new dynamic to the city centre. I have incredibly fond memories of Union Terrace Gardens from when i was growing up in Aberdeen and would hate for the gardens to be ruined. It is currently the only central green space in aberdeen.

39. Union Terrace gardens is a beautiful relaxing place that I have enjoyed since I was a child. I still meet friends there for lunch, and the gardens are a must see in the Spring/Summer. It should be left as it is… there is plenty of centres etc in the city centre as it is.

40. Any short term economic benefit to Aberdeen will be strongly offset by the un-reversible destruction of one of the city centre’s iconic spaces, and one of it’s few green areas. The last thing Aberdeen needs is more cars in the centre, more high-street chains, and more coffee shops. We have just got Union Square, we don’t need another similar development.

41. what a totally appalling idea ian wood’s is: the city does NOT need more souless buildings or concrete in its centre: open green spaces are what is needes.

42. Confusing request….eg do we mark every option or just rank top 5 which I have done.

43. I supported the original proposal in which a contemporary arts centre was a prime target for the development. I WILL NOT support any development which includes yet more RETAIL outlets.The photographs showing the area around Union Square show one with the roads and railway tracks and another poor photograph of the gardens making the area look worse that it actually is at present. Artists’ impressions of the area after development do not show these which implies they will no longer exist rather than are not longer visible.

44. I support this project – provided that it incorporates the proposed new centre for Peacocks Visual Arts. In the case that it does not, I do not support it.

45. I would think in the current economic climate, and the shortages of money which Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire council are facing then this money could be better spent elsewhere. ie. gritting the areas roads in this current winter has been a disgrace. I travel 50 miles everyday between my house and work and have seen only two gritters passing on the road this winter…!!!! Leave it as it is

46. Not sure about whether I support the CSP, but no not sure box to tick!!It is not clear if this project is the Peacock Arts proposal or that which has been proposed by Ian Wood. If there are 2 proposals, then both should be given the opportunity to be surveyed and the public decise on which they deem the better option.

47. Aberdeen needs CULTURE. The answer is not always about money like Sir Wood has. We have enough shops thank you. I say get involved in Peacocks plans or get Sir Wood to NOT CONCRETE our ONLY GREEN and CUT DOWN our beautiful ancient trees.

48. Aberdeen doesnt need more shops and concrete-Open residents eyes to new things. Let community flurish with new ideas and visual inspiration before it’s too late.

49. It is very important to protect the very limited green space we have,also that it fits in with Aberdeen’s heritage.

50. do we need another concrete jungle with rubbish themes cafe bars and retail outlets?

51. I just wish to point out that many people may have filled this in wrongly, as my husband did initially, believing that 5 and not 1 indicated what was most important !

52. I grew up in Aberdeen and still spend a great deal of time up there as my family & friends still live there so l care a lot about what happens to Aberdeen. The thought of Union Terrace Gardens being raised and paved over makes me very both sad & angry. Its such a beautiful area of the city and while I agree it is not being used to its full potential, the plans to raise it all is quite frankly shocking. I have seen the Peacock plans for the arts centre which sounds like a much better idea for what is such an important part of Aberdeen’s city centre.

53. The gardens are lovely. I have often spent my lunch hours there and would be upset to see tem buried. I think money should be spent on extra lighting and maintenence to ensure they are a safe place to visit but that development be kept to a minimum. It would be nice to have the public toilets back in order though and well maintained!

54. leave union terrace gardens as it is.Have wardens patrolling to keep it safe and a coffee stall like the ones outside marks and spencer with some seating

55. We do not need ANY MORE SHOPS in the city centre. We need a space to relax, with not too many nasty fast food outlets. The arts are suffering in Aberdeen. Union Terrace Gardens could be renovated. there are plenty play areas for children in the town. We need an adult space. Bring back the toilets, the outdoor games. Do not cover it over.

56. Having lived in a town with, what can only be described as, a vast concrete scar in the middle of it I know what the realities are of having such an area. Most people will use it as a quick way to cross from Union Street to the Schoolhill area paying little attention to the ‘outdoor auditorium’ or concrete benches. At night the area will be a target for teenages to drink and smoke and every morning the space will be littered with cans, bottles and cigarette butts.Essentially what this proposal means for Aberdeen is the loss of a unique and beautiful park and garden. Many summer afternoons have been spent in the park enjoying the last little green space in the heart of Aberdeen by myself, my friends and countless others. People play games, laze on the grass, enjoy themselves in a space that is an integral part of Aberdeen.There is nothing more relaxing that lying on the grass in the sunshine and having a place like Union Terrace Gardens bang smack int he heart of the city centre is an amazing gift one that we should not concrete over or turn into another shopping centre

57. Concrete and the usual high street shops above a car park would be the waste of a tremendous opportunity and would be a discredit to the city

58. I have only said No to supporting the Project because you have given no 3rd option. No sane person can support something we cannot see. They can only support change in principle but not at any cost just for the sake of change.Your artists impressions are irrelevant at this stage and drawn by someone with little imagination. They look like typical newspaper style impressions to try to steer people. If you come up with the right and comprehensive designs then I am likely to support it. If you stick with those I wouldn’t. A great gray, flat area of paving is not what we need. Something iconic and inspirational which puts energy back into the centre is what is needed after the insensitive city centre crass treatment that has gone before it. Take a look at what Dundee is doing with the V&A. This town will lose its way in Scotland if we botch this up with half hearted parochial measures like so much else that has been done in recent years by the council. If shops are to be included in the concourse area then let them be smaller, speciality shops which are not already in Aberdeen. The repetition of big brand shops in the various centres is becoming extremely boring!
59. Please don’t fill the gardens with Granite as Aberdeen is quite a dull depressing place on a dull grey day of which there are plenty! Plenty of greenery please!!!

60. I cannot understand why the Peacock project can be discarded in such an off-hand manner when it was passed in prinicipal? Along came the Wood plan which leaves a cost to the tax payer of £40,000,000, this at a time when the services provided by the council are already declining. The closure of day centres and homes for those with learning difficulties, the inability of the roads department to clear snow or repair pot-holes, the closure of local libraries; the list is endless. Let us hope that common sense will prevail and Union Terrace Gardens are enhanced by the Peacock project, reinvgourating a sadly neglected city centre gem.

61. Would prefer to see the gardens preserved as they are but possibly with easier access and no hidden nooks and corners where drug users or drinkers can congregate. Would like to see the public toilets reopened. Definitely no concrete, contemporary structures or plazas.

62. I think that the art centre and gardens project is far superior. with union square we really dont need another mall and union terrace gardens is one of the few scenic places in aberdeen and that should be maintained as much as possible. also aberdeen desperately needs a cultural centre. Lets promote creativity not consumerism!

63. Please do not build a concrete jungle, there is enough grey miserable granite around, inject some life and colour into the city centre.

64. Road upgrading should be an essential feature so as to minimise travel disruption during construction. Infrastructure upgrade should be in place BEFORE start of Gardens redevelopment, otherwise we risk creating yet another traffic blackspot. We’ve had enough of these with the inaction on infrastructure upgrading over the past 30 years!

65. I think Sir Ian’s scheme Is a bit over the top I think the gardens need a bit of a more low key redesign. I think the Peacock Visual Art’s proposal is more of a fitting and less expensive option.

66. I do not want more parking in the city centre. This will make traffic congestion and air quality worse, not better.I think it is an appalling idea to destroy mature trees in the city centre, as this proposal will necessitate, as the raised floor cannot support them..We do not need more retail or eating outlets.I think it is wrong that the public are not being given the opportunity to see and express their views on alternative proposals. It is not a real consultation. Having the default button set to “yes” for question 3 is dishonest.I think this is very expensive for a council that is cutting staffing in schools. Other schemes being mooted have funding in place and would cost the public purse less.I will do everything in my power to oppose this proposal.

67. I like the current gardens, trees and quiet atmoshere where people can sit and enjoy a nice day. It provides a pleasent green but small oasis in the middel of all the buildings, albeit that access is not the best. I have no confidence that any design will do no more than produce a sterile concrete and stone atmosphere found in dozens of amorphus city centres. In our climate it will probably end up as a windy litter ravaged and chewing gum covered bleak and depressing area with few trees and green areas. The problem is that any project done in Aberdeen in the last twenty five years that I know of has always gone for the most basic cheapest, smallest most minimal design and has never produced anything outstanding. There is no real broad vision in Aberdeen to make it a great city, it is all piecmeal development eg the various shopping developments.

68. I do not currently live in Aberdeen but it is my childhood and home town, and I will be moving back there soon. I fully support the Peacox Art Centre project

69. I think that Aberdeen city centre has very few open green spaces and in a city that is known for being grey already green spaces are important. It gives people who live centrally somewhere to walk their dogs, sit outside as most city centre housing do not hhave a garden. Green spaces are supposedly associated with better mental health and people being happier, when Aberdeen was voted something like happiest place to live (or something along those lines) a couple of years ago apparently green spaces are key to this. To get rid of this to turn it into yet more grey space and shopping would not only be destructive towards the environment but would have a negative impact on the culture surrounding the city centre.

70. There is a shortage of green spaces in the city and to destroy this one would be unethical, and trying to cover it up as a project for the people when in fact it is a another way for rich business people to exploit the environment and make more money.Save Union Terrace Gardens

71. I like Union Terrace Gardens as it is, a sunken space, I’m not keen on bringing it to street level – the pictures / ‘ideas’ look horrible!!! I think more should be done with the space we have already, it is a waste and people are unaware of it, but it looks like it will end up being a ‘concrete jungle’…..

72. I am not for this City Project, the money donated and required should be used to improve on the road and transport infrastructure of Aberdeen. It currently takes almost 2 hours to get from city to Aberdeen Airport by road and bus, a major road runs through Aberdeen as well. As well as reducing the crime during the night and weekends, improve on current council services. Consider other alternatives to improving Aberdeen, other than destroying an already open area.

73. The presentation video depicts happy smiling people in a warm friendly environment.These are all the things Aberdeen is NOT. This will be a new refuge for drunks drug addicts and beggars.It is not the city that needs transforming it is its people.A betetr legacy is to spend all the money on improving our footpaths , roads and existing parks all of which have been neglected for too long.

74. Although it says I am against the Project I could be persuaded – i.e. I am actually undecided but that option is not there. It will depend on the proposals that I see.

75. I fully support and endorse the Peacock proposal which will offer the best to the people of Aberdeen without having the loss of many mature trees that lend so much to this oasis in the city centre. To fill in and concrete over the gardens would be appalling. Imagine the outrage if this was proposed in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. The Peacock proposal is sympathetic to the existing site, 75 % of funding is in place and it will not create a huge debt on the public purse of Aberdeen residents.

76. I feel that the vast amount of money required to complete this project is a waste.If this money is available then spend on hospitals, Schools, Emergency services and get more Aberedenshire people into work. More care in the community, more police on the streets more nurses in hospitals. The list is endless.This project should not go ahead but spend the money more wisely. Pleas3.

77. Aberdeen does not need more retail space. The number of empty retail spaces in the City Centre already, even in the new Union Square development reinforces this. As a City Aberdeen lacks a cultural focus point.

78. I was brought up in Aberdeen and lived there for 40 years. Union Terrace Gardens [Trainie Park] has a wealth of happy memories for me. Now my grandchildren play there and I would hate for that to change. It provides a much needed little green oasis in the middle of town.

79. The present gardens should be left as they are. They need money spent on them to make them cleaner and safer. They are an important place to relax both for visitors and Aberdonians. (When we get sunshine). The design with concrete paving would look tatty and dirty in no time and can not be rejuvinated in the same way grass can.

80. What we have right now is an amazing, unique space which has so much potential to be improved without wasting money on things which Aberdeen already has.There are enough beautiful, UNUSED buildings, in and around Aberdeen (which are just sitting empty), to transform them into an Arts Center. It is not necessary to rip out the lungs of the city to do that. Union Terrace Gardens is ALREADY unique and beautifully placed in the heart of the city, why not USE that instead of covering it up? Regular maintenance from the council would go a long way, along with some decent toilets. The archways on the mid-level walkway are perfect for market stalls of unique clothing, fruit and veg LOCALY produced, along with some NON commercial or chain based cafe’s, coffee shops and restruants open till late with all year round outside seating and some live music or live theatre from LOCAL artists. A good area for some of the suggestions that are being put forward for what Aberdeen ‘needs’ could be placed where that hideous council building is, beside marshal college. Take that down and the city would be improved immediately. Put some gardens there, which is ALREADY street level with some nice hang out areas and wonderful views of Marshal College and LOCAL citizens can go there to eat their lunch, instead of going to a grave yard or (at the moment) uncared for gardens.I think you’d find that many citizens of Aberdeen live here, and enjoy living here, because it is not an overly busy city. Many …

81. Rather than obliterating what is already there, the current space should be enhanced by Peacock visual arts development and Steve Bothwells plans to renovate the old Victorian toilets to an eating place.Don’t let the same council who allowed the design of the flats at Kepplestone and Union Square, decide on what happens in this space. Aberdeen has a history of ruining beautiful places and buildings instead of appreciating and maintaining them, have you ever seen the old ‘new market’ building, the entrance on Market street (which was allowed to be demolished) was by Archibald Simpson – criminal waste of amazing architecture. Our council allows the city to be cheapened more and more every day. We should also be saving Bon Accord Swimming Pool and not allow the council to leave it shut until everyone forgets about it and them make a killing selling it to a developer!

82. I think £50m is a lot of money to spend on a garden that already exists. With the beautiful gardens that already exist in the area and the severe lack of professional sporting facilities this extreme amount of money could easily be used, more usefully and to benefit the next generation within Aberdeen, elsewhere.

83. Keep the trees and the sunken gardens, light them up, do them up don’t destroy what we have, but build on the elements already there.

84. Culture, not concrete, for the good of the people

85. Make Woody moody – Aberdeen is not his plaything.

86. I would like to see the gardens kept as a ‘hidden gem’ but made more accessable to everyone. Take away the fear created by junkies,drunks and ‘wierdos’ who have been allowed to use the gardens as a toilet/doss house. I would like to see a place that is pleasant to wander through; with entertainment, cafe’s, space for kids to safely let off a bit of steam, a ‘cool’ place for teens to hang out and a place the responsible drinkers of Aberdeen can enjoy without fear. But please don’t spoil another part of this beautiful city trying to create an “iconic/modern/world class” mess of concrete, steel and glass that nobody Aberdonian wants.

87. WE DESPERATELY NEED A CONTEMPORARY CULTURE ART CENTRE IN ABERDEEN AND WE NEED TO KEEP THE GREEN SPACE. YOU JUST NEED TO THINK OF EDINBURGH AND THE NATIONAL GALLERY LEADING IN TO PRINCESS STREET GARDENS AND HOW SUCCESSFUL THAT IS

88. I would not wish to see the gardens raised as i think that is what makes them unique, I would just like to see some TLC administered. I would like to see it transformed into a safe environment that could be enjoyed by young and old alike. It desperately needs to move with the times and needs to incorporate nice cafes and bistro type establishments.

89. Now is your chance to breathe some new life into the beautiful green space we have right here in the heart of the city. Below street level, away from the noise of the traffic, we have our very own Princes Street Gardens of the North. Take this chance to open it up again with the Peacock Visual Arts Centre. You say it yourself – “An iconic contemporary arts centre”.What you really should not do is fill in our last remaining area of Mediaeval Aberdeen and pave it over. This is the equivalent of digging up your front garden to park on. We will have no need to rent an ice rink in the winter, as this is what it will become. In the summer, the people of Aberdeen can enjoy dodging out of the way of skateboarders and the council can spend a large chunk of its budget on removing the vast swathe of chewing gum that will coat its nice new paving. Don’t be sucked into the scheme of a rich man, think of the future of this city and how future generations will look back with regret at a bad decision.

90. How can you justify spending such a huge amount of money into a concrete slab when the council dont even have enough money to repair pot holes in the roads…enough sand/gritters during the crazy snow we have had recently, and when the likes of the Glencraft Factory was closed down last year due to lack of funds.I would hate to lose a beautiful green space where me & my friends enjoy spending days in the summer time for a ‘civic space’ that will prob not live up to its expectations.We should be making better use of the gardens rather than concreting over them.

91. I have to add, that, to be honest, I would rather the money was spent on Education. However, Aberdeen city centre has become ugly enough (with the amount of anti-social behaviour & cheap nasty shops), and I would rather see gardens, greenery, arts centres & all age groups using the space- instead of Junkies and young drinkers. To cover it in concrete and make the taxpayers of Aberdeen be forever in debt is criminal & unthinkable.

92. I’m in support of developing the park however I feel that the way in which this is done could result in the loss of a valuable tranquil green space in the centre of the city. I work on Union Terrace and use the park for my lunch throughout the summer months. If it became a bustling contemporary space i.e. devoid of trees and grass I’m sure I would have to find elsewhere for some peace and quiet whilst lying on the grass and eating my lunchI’m a supporter of modern design and architecture however it‚Äôs not hard to find similar developments that rapidly become grey, sterile short-cuts and attractive only to pigeons, gulls and skateboarders. I would certainly feel upset about losing any of the mature trees and would be deep upset by caf√©‚Äôs and retail outletsPlease don‚Äôt delete a lovely park in favour of fickle fashions

93. I am 57 years old, and remember the gardens as a child, my beloved mother, god rest her soul, loved the gardens and would often take us there for picnics, and to watch the entertainment, mostly dancing and bands, it was always packed, and you could spend a whole day there, I used to long for the day I was old enough to play the gigantic draughts. I remember it as being vibrant back then, and was disappointed when it started to get misused over the years, and the powers that be allowed it to happen. I would support most ideas to restore it to its formal glory, but wouldn’t like to see it raised and concreted over completely, that would be sad, we live in a concrete jungle as it is. Whatever the changes I would trust you to treat it with love, care and the respect it deserves.

94. I feel that it necessary to have green space in the city centre – I heard someone describe the gardens as the ‘lungs’ of Aberdeen and I thought that was very appropriate. Who wants to see stone everywhere? I agree Aberdeen is a very beautiful city with its granite buildings but nature is alive, vibrant and refreshing and a welcome change amongst all the commerce and trade.

95. Personally i’d prefer to see the gardens as they are right now, BUT given a major overhaul, making them much more accessible, cover over that dual carriagway and railway line, i seem to recall something like this in the EE/P&J a few years back and thought it was one of the better ideas, i’d be much against raising them, preferring them as they are but looked after and modernised slightly with cafe’s and markets, and much more accessible from all sides, and i believe covering the road and railway would help this and create a sort of lowered “Amphitheatre” with direct access from all sides, Union Street, Union terrace, and the theatre side removing all the walls around there so people will naturally enter the area, as it stands now there are 3 ways in so people mostly walk right past it. I recall playing in the gardens in the 70’s, and there were trampolines and many other things to draw families in, this has to be the focus in my opinion, an outdoor theatre in the summer months, and USE the gardens. Everything nowadays is CONCRETE, don’t follow this path with the gardens.

96. I think the Peacock’s plans are dynamic, inclusive and just what Aberdeen needs to spark its city centre. Economically it’s also the best choice for a city that is looking at such a shortfall in its public fincances.

97. I am in favour of responsibly revitalising the UTG, In principle at least. I am concerned that the proposed scheme would destroy a Historic architectural landmark, a beloved island of peace and quiet in our city and kill many ancient trees.This could easily become little more than another shopping mall roofed by a folly.That would be an absolute tragedy.

98. Leave the Trainie Park as it is. If an Wood wants to give away 50 million let him give it to this incompetent council, maybe it will help sort out their woes.

99. Not in agreement with the project. I do not wish to be consulted at any time.

100. This plan must not go ahead. Although some there is a need and an opportunity to do something great here, this plan fails to meet the needs and does not make the most of the opportunity. Let the Peacock plan go ahead, and then come back with a better idea later.. The right idea will get the support it needs, this is not it.

101. I wholly oppose the Wood group proposal for the obliteration of Union Terrace Gardens which embodies most that is bad in “civic” planning. It has no sense of history or place, no recognition of how the topography of central Aberdeen is part of the uniqueness of the city. There might well be problems as to public use of Union Terrace Gardens but as the Peacock proposal has shown these can be addressed without removing the dramatic green space that is the gardens. To suggest as Ian Wood has done that his bland design will be a “cross between the Grand Italian Piazza and a mini Central Park‚Äù is like saying that building a pyramid in Las Vegas makes Nevada Egypt. At least the “pyramids” of Las vegas can be easily removed not so easily restored would be the natural defile of the Denburn Valley. And its loss would be to what end? To make Aberdeen attractive to new energy business? How exactly this will work we are not told. Was the sad decline in Union Street a function of poor old Union Terrace Gardens being at times in the shade, being below street level or had it more to do with the …

102. i really feel that the area should be kept as near to the way it looks just now. changing it and bringing it up to street level would ruin the whole effect. the depth of the area allows you to feel like you are a million miles from the city centre. the floral displays in the summer bring happyness to all who see them and it would be a real shame to remove the only shining delight that our city centre has to offer.

103. I personally think that we should be preserving the landmarks which we already have, such as Union St. Aberdeen city has a history of destroying the heritage that it already has and building monstrosities in their place (e.g. Bon Accord Shopping Centre – instead of doing something to retain features of George St) Would we not be better spending this money on other things like – a) pedestrianise Union St and perhaps cover it with some sort of transparent weather protecting cover; b) trying to get a tram system for the city (something which we also used to have until our wonderful city fathers ripped up the lines)

104. Aberdeen over the years has been ruined with very bad planning this plan would only add to it aberdeen city council have over the years let the gardens deterate i totaley appose this project

105. I love everything about the gardens going down the steps and the views from all around, but I do agree that they are under used. I would still like to see lots of trees, shrubs and greenery not lots of concrete also sheltered areas as we get cold winds blowing down Union Streetcafes/bars/rest. are fine as long as the area is not full of litter.

106. This plan looks horrendous, the costs involved are way too much and the Peacock centre looks a much better plan. This may seem to look sparkling and contemporary on the artist impressions, but very shortly after opening it will start looking tattie and worn. Also, an ice rink? We should be concerving energy, not wasting it on an outdoor icerink. And Sir Ian Wood may look generous, donating all that money, but the public is required to put in more than we have and he gets to make his money back with the underground scheme. That is not generosity, that is a business deal, so don’t make it look like a donation.

107. I think the survey is too complicated and biased towards the City Square Project. I am in favour of the Peacock Arts Project because they already have funding.

108. I do not support the proposed project because it will ruin the city by making it a boring, flat space. The city needs to take as its examples other great European cities or Melbourne or Seattle, where heritage is treasured and retail and flat concreted areas are not the be all and end all of city life. Keep the diversity; go for something classy and cultural. The Peacock Visual Arts Centre proposal is a better option for this and the future generations of Aberdeen. It could be supplemented with a flat area over the dual carriageway and railway line to be used for farmers markets and performing arts. The last thing Aberdeen needs is a flat, barren, windy, concrete centre; what the the city needs is a diverse, vibrant, beating, cultural heart!

109. Lets keep it the way it is. Also lets get rid of the junkies and alchoholics from the gardens.

110. Sir Ian Wood’s project would ruin the only real green environment the city centre has, and remove any sense of non-urban landscape the city has left.

111. Aberdeen has many retail outlets.. this is a unique, green, centre to the City..if it is lost it is lost for ever. I’ve lived in Aberdeenshire for more than forty years and seen one development after another produce unattractive retail outlets and shopping centres. The character of Aberdeen city has been overwhelmed..We need green space more than we need shops and bars and in future years as green space becomes less and less accessible, future generations will value it even more than we do today. It needs to be cherished and valued.

112. Ian Wood’s proposal is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard of. I have lived in Aberdeen all my life(53 years) and if it goes ahead I will leave Aberdeen all together. Peacock have the most exciting proposal that this city has seen in years and Aberdeen City Council are selling themselves out because of who Ian Wood is and nothing else.

113. I do not think there is any need to cover the Union Terrace Gardens in, but to make the space more user friendly. The new Peacock Visual Arts Centre will bring people into the gardens, who would not normally venture in as they currently feel threatened. A Restaurant, and Cafe would be useful for tourists, and the opportunity for shop & office workers to use the space in the summer to eat lunch and relax in the open air. There is a similar sunken garden in Bath, which is well used by the public. Mothers take their children to play, workers use it at lunch time, and tourists use it as a pleasant place to relax when sight seeing. I do not support the city square project

114. How many sterile, wind blown, “people squares” have to be built in cities the world around before it is realised that it doesn’t work!? Oh, wait a minute, the profits for the developer are in anyway aren’t they…so what does it matter.

115. Please, please, please lets – not lose out heritage!! The oil industry has done nothing architectural in Aberdeen – The oil industry is by nature transient. How can it be allowed to create something as long lasting as a city square!! The oasis of Union Terrace Gardens must be maintained, preserved and championed – Do you think New York would give up it’s heritage of Central Park so easily?? No way – Union Terrace is our Central Park. I was art the meeting at the Citadel – stunning – Especially Elly Rothnie. Tom Smith got loads of publicity for his ‘Ronaldo’ quote but we should use her citizenship quote more effectively!! She said she had learned a great deal about citizenship – I believe we should argue as citizens for our rights!! xx

116. I question the logic of raising the current land to street level (which I hear is a proposal) for any reason other than accessibility. Would deciding against this not provide a much larger pot of funds to realise even more of the proposals in the current space. Also, I have read reports of proposed local library closures, unless this is a privately-funded venture, should we not be diverting funds to keeping these open rather than embarking on large vanity projects?

117. The last thing I would want to see is masses of concrete. I think it is important to retain what is essentially a garden area.

118. I support Peacock Visual Arts proposal – nothing more. Aberdeen does not need more retail facilities!

119. I fully support the proposal put forward by Peacock Arts. They have managed to find the balance between keeping a beautiful part of Aberdeen’s heritage whilst the Arts Centre will bring it a new lease of life.

120. Union Terrace does not require big changes it is always been known as a meeting point in Aberdeen to relax and the Gardens are to be kept as Green Space in Aberdeen City Centre is very limited, it is also a great place for photographs during Graduation Season

121. I do not wish to see the gardens filled in and utilised as development space by Sir Ian Wood. I feel that the Peacock project is by far the better option as it will limit disruption and create an exciting area without regeneration and loss of heritage.

122. please dont destroy another beautifull place

123. An alternative to this laughable project is a ¬£50 million statue of Sir Ian Wood somewhere in the City that can be his ‘legacy’ that he desperately craves.The rich are never satisfied.

124. As a visitor to Aberdeen in 2008, I absolutely loved the Union Terrace Gardens. What a wonderful green space that already had a great walking and biking trail. It is a great place to showcase the history of Aberdeen with it being within walking distance of the theater, shopping and dining. The apartment that I rented actually was within walking distance of the park. Too many places are tearing up and developing their green space as shopping venues. I live in Tulsa Oklahoma USA, where there are 45 miles of riding, running and walking path’s following our river. It is a great green space and a great place for exercise, meeting friends, family, or just a great place to sit and read. Our river parks actually has an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and fireworks. Including numerous races both running and biking. It would be a shame to hear that Union Terrace Gardens had been filled in and had retail shopping put in place of such a great visual and public green space, with so much potential.

And 24 of many bizarre ones which were counted as YES!

• Make a full size football pitch for the kids with goals and nets. A hairdresser. A Liverpool F. C club shop.

• I wonder how many people who would have objected to the square ever visit the gardens. It has always been a cold place (life long Aberdonian 72 years). Incoming reference number 56.

• I am a 76 year old disabled pensioner and all leaving it lets get on with it. What will you do with all the granite shops it is used and sat dumped. This ist he grantie city. Lets keep it.

• My wife and I used to love Union Terrace until we became old age pensioners and became wheelchair bound. Come on Council! We say 100% City Square proposal. Jimmy Shand should play in the concert / theatre space. There should be more space available for leisure.

• At the moment that area is wasted. Lived in Aberdeen all my life, and never been down to the gardens!

And again …

• lived in aberdeen my whole life and never been to union terrace gardens if it goes ahead i will use it much more.

And again…

• I have lived in Aberdeen all my life and have never gone into the gardens because I believbe them to be unsecure. I would like to see the gardens raised to street level so they are more accessible and safer.

• Police present at all timesto make it safe.

• the gardens are wasted as people do not go to them as waters are hanging arounf=d

• the pies in the brochure are impressive some similarities to Manchester City

• why does inverurie and peterhead get a say

• In response to the question-do you support the City Square project I ask the question-what is the City square project?I do not support the visual representations of proposed development which I understand do not represent a design solution.

• No Junk Mail Please, Anonymous Surveys get a lot more feedback than this.I seriously think you should consider the Lord Provost Fight Club idea, or if you want a bit more competition use Kate Dean, she looks like she would come out top in a pub brawl…

• I am disappointed with the lack of response from true Aberdonians who want the best for their city. I feel the peole against the project are those of an older generation for nostalgic (and selfish) reasons wish the area to remain much as they are – which is a vastle underused area. Omlu a very low % of locals/visitors use/take in Union Terrace Gardens as they are but a new civic square would be used by everyone and give us something to be proud of – unfortunately Aberdeen city centre currently lacks s ‘showpiece’ area that larger and smaller cities (domestically and internationally) have, which is a shame to say the least!

• I would like to see the gardens being changed fairly quickly. The idea needs to be developed and actioned as quickly as possible. I have only ever been in the gardens once in my nearly 13 years living in Aberdeen. They really do need an upgrade. As a parent with children, I may venture into the town centre more often if there was a nice green place in the town centre with play facilities that I considered safe to take my children to. The markets which are usually in Belmont St and Union Terrace would have more space in the renewed gardens, I like coming to the markets when they are on but they are so crowded I hardly stay long enough to look at everything. I am not an “arty” person and I haven’t heard enough about the proposed art centre to be able to comment on that.

• I don’t think massive changes are needed. Leave it as it is and re-vamp it. Shops/cafes where arches are. Lots of flowers, nice toilets, auditorium, childrens play area. Do we need to spend millions?

• Need to retain green space

• I think this is a fantastic opportunity, fantastic vision and also fantastic challenge for the city. I believe that the square can be absolutely world class and a real centre point and attraction for visitors and locals alike. However, I think the key to success for the project (notwithstanding the technical challenges) is to have a square that has many focal points and many uses and attracts families to the city centre even late at night. In my opinion it will be of no use if it just feels like a large communist square as suitable for displays of tanks and rockets.

• The guff and language associated with this is nauseating and does the project no good. The Facebook video is irrelevant and trite. “This…” threesome is cringeworthy. For goodness sake retain some of the culture and history of the North east and forget about being “vibrant”, “thrusting” and generally “hip and trendy” in a “quarter”. There is enough of that with Onion Square and the silly inverted naming of The Mall Trinity etc.Your sources of inspiration are pretty awful for the most part – metallic and concrete.

• When I say I support the City Square Project I support it only if Union Terrace Gardens are NOT raised to street level!

• Possible slogan for the campaign: ‘Aberdeen’s Grey Enough!’

• I sent in a response previously but scored it the wrong way round i.e put 5s instead of 1s!!Previous comments still apply!!

• All i say is…. Its about time!!!!!! Come on people.. We NEED this to happen… Its a long time comming.Yes there has been so many idea that never saw the light of day and some that never happened..What a waste of time and money.Union Gardens is past its sellby date.Yes the greens and flowers still look pretty when in bloom.. but u cant really see them properly from the streets and there is no insentive to really go down into the gardens to look at the hard work that good gardeners have put into the current green areas also its full of intimidating people from homless and alcoholics (no offence to either party) If this project go’s ahead it wont be such a dark hole in the ground but a bright open place where all the beauty can be seen from streets and within.Also it will bring the city into the 21st century with design and architecture insted of living in the old days … its 2010 not 1910 let us modernise our city and bloom like the flower we are meant to be.

• I would like it if Pecocks idea went through as I dance at Citymoves Dance Space and where it is situated is not really sufficient to the activities we participate in. Also the changing rooms and toilets are very small.

Many responses had neither yes or no attached – was the default Yes? Suspect it was.
Do the following 25 look as if they are in support of Sir Ian Wood’s proposal?
1. aberdeen does not need this there are more important issues
2. flowers and nature not buildings
3. the gardens do need renovated however the proposal is way over the top
4. would like to see an alternative proposal
5. peacocks centre
6. don’t think that the area needs to be raised but would like ti see more things happening
7. we need grass and plans no concrete save our gardens
8. keep the gardens green
9. would like the gardens to remain green
10. wish peacocks arts go ahead
11. would prefer the peacock option
12. think that development is needed but not convinced by the current plans
13. please do not close market street
14. flowers and nature not buildings
15. aberdeen does not need this there are more important issues
16. please we do not need need another while elephant concrete jungle
17. None of the aforementioned. Leave the gardens as they are and promote outdoor concerts, caleigh bands, dancing in the open air, picnic area etc
18. You should be preserving aberdeens heritage not destroying what we have and cover up with suppossed new business. All centres built have never been fully occupied. Enhance what we have colabrate our history.
19. This city cannot afford to spend money on important things such as leasure, homes and all the other things closed down. WHY? Waste money on spoiling our fore father heritage.
20. No destruction of gardens
21. Aberdeen council is systematically incapeable of successfully implementing this project. Just look at the pavements, look at union Street, look at the beggars, look at the seagulls, would Edinburgh conceret over prices street gardens?
22. The proposed plan wouldbe very small compared with other cities mentioned. It would make Aberdeen look like any other city. The exciting gardens are different. They are uniqely Aberdonian. Keep them.
23. I like Peacocks design and would otherwise leave it as it is
24. Idea of open space is good but it seems to be too big for such a small town. Think will be mostly empty. What’s the point?
25. The existing gardens and trees are an important element in the evolution of Aberdeen city centre. Views over the valley are outstanding. Last vestiges of medaeval topography must remain.

Then there’s the Chicago element for a YES

1. I have visited Chicago on a couple of occasions and the Millenium Park there should be used as a basis of what is created as it is such a great use of space and can be enjoyed by all ages and cultures. The features they have with the sculptures and water features make it a fantastic public space.

2. We feel that cycling amenities would not enhance the square and would endanger public safety and lead to abuse of the open space.The area should be for benefit to all Aberdeen residents and visitors as it stands the gardens are little used compared to the Millennium Gardens in Chicago, which we visited recently. It had free access and was well use by the residents of Chicago. And as a visitor found it complemented the city and its enterprise.

3. Something like millenium park in Chicago would be great – especially the concert area there. The focus should be on licensed cafes not bars/pubs

4. While I am for the regeneration of Aberdeen it must be done in a sympathetic way. These plans draw inspiration from Chicago, I dont think there is a better city to draw the inspiration from but this cant be a half hearted effort and needs the full commitment of Aberdeen City Council to follow up and run the area properly. By that I mean proper security/policing in the same style as the parks in Chicago, you know they are there but they are only seen when needed. It has to be kept clean, tidy, maintained properly and further funding will have to be in place to ensure the follow up is as good as the actual scheme itself. I trust the designers, I trust Ian Wood’s idea and drive, I trust the intentions behind this are correct but I do not trust Aberdeen City Council not to royally screw the whole thing up within 5 years of completion. I do not want thins turning into an eyesore in 15 years time due to the upkeep not being performed properly nor do I want thins to turn into some sort of fancy retail park with high rents paid to the council so they can use that for upkeep. This park has to be a business free zone that is easy to use, feels safe and is for the general public, in …

5. The artists impression are not very inviting. Something along the lines of the examples given in Chicago would be good, or Central Park in New York – a green centre, easy and pleasant to use , that people will naturally gravitate to. We do not want a concrete space and barren empty square.

6. The city square should be at a human scale, where people can have respite from the business of the shopping and street areas. It should also be of a style that works with the Aberdeen weather and not modelled after projects built for climates that have sunny warm climates. Aberdeen doesn’t come close to having a similar climate to the examples depicted. Chicago was the coldest climate of the examples but its summers are hot, Aberdeen has a Northern European climate and examples from our northern neighbours would be more appropriate.

7. I am an architect and urban plannner specialist from Warsaw who moved to Aberdeen few months ago. I strongly support this type of development of Aberdeen City Centre – to connect cultural institutions like Royal Majesty Theatre and Art Gallery with more commercial zone of Union Street. At the present those two valuable zones seem to me as disconnected by a “valley of shadows” – beautifull but not used by public green area of Union Gardens. I believe Aberdeen City Centre demands certain changes and should be developed in contemporary way, using modern architectural solutions, in accordance with this type of public consultation. However due to the north climate the open space solution will not work as at the inspirations shown from Chicago or Melbourne. I guess for 3/4 of the year people will still gather rather in the closed water-proof space than in the green open gardens and therefore they are not using the Square Gardens space at the present! I would suggest some kind of a shelved and open-space tent-like light structure to create a place for open public performances, concerts etc. The green area should be somehow preserved as it might be an important feature for Aberdeen citizens. To preserve some of the most valuable trees in the area you could 1. move them to some other places; 2. built-in the new commercial structure, leaving some kind of open atriums with the trees in the new-built. In Warsaw we have such an example of a nice public space created by a private, commercial developer, which is called Zlote Tarasy. It connects a huge retail center with Main Train …

8. I think it’s important to remember that we live in Aberdeen – not Chicago or Houston. Therefore while big open spaces work there the climate in Aberdeen means that this will not always be appropraite; there are very few days of the year when you can comfortably sit outside.

Peacock Printmaker’s website is: http://www.peacockvisualarts.com
Union Terrace Gardens can be seen at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Terrace_Gardens