The controversial £107million plan by Muse Development, part of the Morgan Sindall Group, to build a block of shops, car parks, offices and hotel in front of Marischal College in Aberdeen has been lodged with the council and is so awful it is pretty well certain to be given the green light.
The common good land is about to be leased to private developers for the next 35 years to do with as they please. While local opinion is for tearing down St Nicholas House and having no building replacing it thereby creating a large open square to front Marischal College Aberdeen council and the developers are pushing ahead with commercialising the space. Let us hope that 35 years down the line it doesn’t get passed on from one private leaseholder to another until eventually the land is lost to the public. Not that this would ever happen. Of course that has never happened. No of course not.
Various consultations have taken place and some 4000 opinions provided which Muse said have been noted. Well all I can say is you will be hard pressed to detect much alteration in their plans.
Try as I might to open the detailed plans on the council website I failed but at least I had the council press release to reassure me how much the new build will improve the site ‘once dominated by the former council headquarters building St Nicholas House.’
I was more successful finding a link to the Final Report on Pedestrian Level Wind, doesn’t sound like much fun, and discovered the council’s reassurances were less than convincing.
Take a keek at this
Wind analysis of the site highlighted a ‘relatively windy microclimate at ground level’ in parts of the area – nearest Union Street – the result of wind ‘blowing around the St Nicholas House building, which is comparatively tall in relation to the surrounding buildings.’
Hold that thought as you check out the picture showing a model of the proposal and absorb its height in relation to surrounding buildings.
According to the Report around the 469 year old Provost Skene’s House it will become significantly windier because wind will be channelled between it and the proposed hotel. Conversely it argued that with more tall buildings the southeast area, around the rapidly disappearing St Nicholas House, would become less windy – losing the wind tunnel impact of St Nix.
The Report envisaged potential problems for pedestrians moving to and from the north and west of the site and suggested this might be dealt with by ‘solid or porous side-screens or recessing the entrances into the building.’
Landscaping would provide other types of screening. I think they mean shrubberies and trees but possibly more screens to
‘create suitable conditions for sitting.’
To avoid being rocketed into space people occupying the roof terraces would have to be sheltered by high balustrades or yet more screens and planting – and possibly guy ropes.
All of the above were put forward as mitigating measures for everyday breezes off the North Sea which are a feature of the Castelgate and Broad Street. When wind levels increase, as they do quite often in this part, then it’ll be a case of haud ontae yer hats folks because you can expect something ‘in excess of Beaufort Force 7’ that’s gale force, around the proposed pedestrianised corner, near to Provost Skene’s which ‘would cause pedestrians to experience difficulty walking’ Nae reading the P & J wi a cappuccino then – small comforts there. But just to be on the safe side you won’t be allowed access when winds get up – ‘restricted access during the windiest times during the year.’ Occasionally winds reach Beaufort Force 8 in this area.
So as well as having their access restricted when the wind blows the good folk of Aberdeen will be subjected to frequent bad hair days when venturing through Muse’s world bearing in mind Aberdeen is windier than many other parts of the UK.
For your information wind levels are classified according to levels of ‘comfort’ for ‘business walking’, ‘carpark/roadway’, ‘leisure walking’, ‘standing/entrance’, ‘sitting.’
Business walking you’ll appreciate means not hanging around but keeping up a steady pace, possibly while carrying a briefcase or other business accoutrements but almost certainly not soliciting with a nonchalant swagger. It is possibly advisable to do the business walk when approaching or circumnavigating Provost Skene’s House to cope with serious wind problems in its vicinity although with the wind at your back you may not require oxygen. It should be added at this juncture that if the proposed hotel were not erected here then wind wouldn’t be an issue but it will be – unless of course Provost Skene’s is demolished which would resolve the wee issue of a wind tunnel between it and the hotel. Business is business after all.
A heids doon fecht wi a nor’easterly isn’t what most folk expected when the council promised a pedestrianised area for leisure and pleasure – brisk walking being the main activity it would seem.
Oh well, there’s always the screens. Sounds like a promising business venture for councillor Swick. They’ll be needing so many screens when this proposal gets the thumbs up it can only be called the Marischal Odeon.
There’s been a lot of wind expended over this project with lots more to come. The bottom line is there’s a strong desire for a very large open square fronting Marischal College. This is not what Aberdeen Council wants because while thousands aired their opinions its money that talks in the end.
With a choice between what the people of Aberdeen want and multinational businesses the council has chosen business all the way.
Councillor Willie Young was quoted in the Press & Journal 17 May as saying
‘Some people who have responded have misunderstood what the consultation was about.
‘The council entered into a binding legal agreement with Muse on a leaseback basis.
‘It was never for the council to determine that it would be an open space – it’s a commercial space.’
Actually it isn’t a commercial space it is common good land and belongs to the people of Aberdeen.