On Sunday, I will be among the thousands of spectators safely lining the Beach Esplanade to watch the finish of the Tour of Britain. It will be my great pleasure to present the prize for the stage win.
Having started in Stonehaven, ascended the Cairn O’Mount, looped around Ballater on Royal Deeside, climbed again into Donside, skirted Castle Fraser, and finally swept into our city down Queen’s Road, the cyclists will arrive at the seafront, some 107 miles later.
Will there be a breakaway group, a lone rider even, striving to stay ahead of the main pack for the stage win? Or will we see a bunch sprint, led possibly by Mark Cavendish – winner of the most stages in modern Tour of Britain history?
You won’t need to be a cycling aficionado to enjoy the explosion of colour and energy we are set to witness!
Tour of Britain ‘major step’ in recovery
Sunday isn’t an end point for Aberdeen – and not simply because we’ll be staging the Tour of Britain race start next year. Instead it marks a major step on the road to recovery as we adjust to living with Covid-19.
The beach area itself is to undergo reinvention.
As a council we are developing a beach masterplan, which could deliver sports and leisure facilities, enhanced public realm and landscaping across the Queens Links area, and the renovation of the Beach Ballroom.
A crucial element will improved links with the city centre, including green travel routes.
The city centre masterplan (CCMP) was recently reviewed and a number of priorities identified following a public consultation.
To help accelerate the transformation of Union Street, the council had purchased the former BHS site and we are seeking an operator to bring forward exciting new redevelopment proposals around the theme of Independent Aberdeen, a CCMP project.
The £28 million regeneration of Union Terrace Gardens continues apace and Provost Skene’s House is to reopen soon as a new visitor attraction. Our magnificent Art Gallery is currently hosting the British Art Show after its own £38m redevelopment as part of the CCMP.
And George Street will have its own public engagement exercise to determine the priorities of residents, traders and visitors.
Aberdeen is ’21st Century city’
Taken together, these investments and interventions are creating a truly 21st Century city – dynamic, inclusive, one that celebrates the past while always looking to the future.
A backdrop to the Tour of Britain’s finish will be the offshore windfarm, a symbol the city’s green credentials, technological prowess and our role as a renewable energy capital, just one example of our evolution.
The Covid-19 pandemic required local authorities and cities everywhere to reset but what we mustn’t forget is that Aberdeen was on an upward trajectory before the virus required us to hit the pause button.
Securing a stage for the Tour of Britain has taken years of planning and hard work. It follows on from the city successfully hosting rounds of the separate UK Tour Series. That was part our Event 365 strategy, another CCMP project brimming with ambition.
Sunday’s spectacle won’t be confined to the world’s finest cyclists hitting 40mph on the Esplanade. It will our amazing natural environment and equally arresting built environment. It will be the passion of the people in supporting the event and having made it happen.
So, if you’re there on Sunday to cheer the finishers – and I hope you are – give yourself a round of applause too. You’re part of a winning team.
Councillor Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council