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Aberdeen’s divisive £140m City Garden Project rejected by councillors

Business case for Union Terrace Gardens redevelopment is rejected by councillors.

An aerial view of the proposed City Garden Project.

Aberdeen councillors have voted against controversial plans to transform a city centre park.

The business case for the £140m City Garden Project was rejected at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors voted 22-20 against the project instead supporting a proposal from the Independent Alliance Group, led by councillor Marie Boulton, to use the money to regenerate Union Street, the Arts Centre, the Music Hall, the Lemon Tree and the Mither Kirk.

However the council will now have to consult with Scottish Futures Trust on whether they will accept a Tax increment financing (TIF) bid based on not proceeding with the City Gardens Project.

Afterwards, SNP group leader Callum McCaig said: "I’m hugely disappointed with the outcome of the vote. I think it’s a really damaging blow to the credibility of the council by ignoring a democratic referendum. It is an even bigger blow to our economic prospects.

"The alternative put forward by Councillor Boulton is pie in the sky. It is described as sprucing up the city but what Aberdeen needs is something credible, achievable and affordable. What has been put forward is fantasy."

Councillor Boulton said: “I don’t want to shut the door on the business community, particularly Sir Ian Wood who I think has been trying to champion Aberdeen. Just because it was not what we wanted doesn’t mean we don’t want him to work with us.

“I have tried to respect the people who did vote in the referendum by looking for a compromise. This project could have gone ahead but there would have been a very bad feeling towards it.”


Chairman of Friends of Union Terrace Gardens Mike Shepherd said the council had made the “correct decision”.

He added: “The case was flawed, it was missing £35m in promised private investment and no final costs were given.

“This is the end of the City Garden Project debacle. There is one lesson to be learned from all of this and it’s this. We live in a pluralistic society whereby democracy is a balance between the combating interests in our society. We live in a civilisation which optimally works by compromise and unity.

“The fatal flaw of the City Garden Project was that nothing was done to build consensus.”

Businessman Sir Ian Wood had committed £50m towards the scheme to redevelop Union Terrace Gardens, while an anonymous £5m pledge had also been made.

A group of seven north-east businessman, including Stewart Milne and Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert, had vowed to raise another £15m towards the project.

The remaining cost was to be covered by a £92m TIF loan from the Scottish Futures Trust.

The money would also have been used to fund the redevelopment of St Nicholas House, Aberdeen Art Gallery and the North Denburn Valley as well as creating the City Circle pedestrian route project.

The business report said the TIF business case had the potential to unlock 6560 full-time jobs and an average of £115.1m per annum of economic growth over 25 years.

More than 85,000 people voted in a public referendum on the contentious project in March with 52% voting in favour of the project.

However the project faced an uncertain future when Labour, who had campaigned against the proposal, won the most seats at the council elections in May.

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