Aberdeen shopping centre expansion backed as historic former soup kitchen to be relocated

Assurances a historic soup kitchen will be saved as part of a major shopping centre expansion have been welcomed.

Planning permission in principle has been granted to expand the Bon Accord and St Nicholas Centre out to George Street.

The city council’s planning committee unanimously approved the plans for the 8,500 sq m extension at its meeting yesterday.

The expansion would include shops, offices, restaurants and a roof over part of George Street along with a 170-bed hotel and 50 flats.

The development would be split into three distinct blocks, with one located on Loch Street on the site of a former soup kitchen, now housing Jo Malone.

As part of the development of this block, the building would be relocated closer to the entrance to the Loch Street car park.

SNP councillor Alison Alphonse said: “We need to keep some of our heritage in Aberdeen. To relocate it in Aberdeen is fine but I don’t want to see it demolished.”

Planning officer Andrew Miller said a pre-application forum, made up of councillors, had highlighted the importance of retaining the historic building.

He added: “We (the council) have made it quite clear the strength of feeling on that.”

Planning committee convener Councillor Marie Boulton, speaking in support of the application, said: “We recognise there’s still a lot of detail to come back.

“I think, for me, one of the prime concerns was about losing any of our heritage.

“I’m glad that’s been put in the conditions.

“That (the soup kitchen) will not be disappearing from our streetscape.”

Committee member Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Greig said: “It is good to know that the developer listened to concerns about the fate of the historic soup kitchen building.

“A lot of people were worried that this part of our granite heritage would be destroyed.

“We have to fight to look after our city’s distinctive character.

“The building could have been demolished which would have been very much regretted.

“The solution of moving the building is a welcome solution which will keep this special feature in the area.”

The former Co-op supermarket, Santander bank, Balaclava Bar and two other smaller vacant retail units would also be flattened to make way for new shops and a hotel.

A third block would cover areas of car parking and yard space next to Crooked Lane, along with three retail units on St Andrew Street.

The neighbouring Robert Gordon’s College (RGC) has said it has no objection to the principle of the redevelopment and expansion of the centre but did raise concerns over the impact of the development on Crooked Lane.

Caroline Bridge, asset manager for Bon Accord, said: “We are delighted that the councillors have voted to support the council officer’s recommendations and approved our application.

“Our vision for the project is to make Aberdeen city centre a destination of choice which will continue the revitalisation of the city and wider region with benefits for both residents and visitors.”