Council chiefs will propose a £150 million investment to regenerate Aberdeen’s city centre and beach area, the Evening Express can exclusively reveal.
Earlier this year councillors gave the green light for a refresh of the existing city centre masterplan, which sets out the long-term vision for future investment in the city.
Under the proposed investment, a number of projects would be undertaken around Union Street and the beachfront to refresh the area, including the creation of better walking and cycling routes linking the two areas.
The Evening Express previously revealed the council wants to build a new stadium for Aberdeen FC at the site currently occupied by the closed Doubletree Hotel, and it is understood that would make up a significant part of the plans.
We all want to see a city centre that is fit for the 21st century which Aberdonians can be proud of and which people want to visit.
Local authority chiefs want any new stadium to include a leisure complex to replace the existing Beach Leisure Centre.
Investment would also be made in facilities such as the Beach Ballroom.
Marie Boulton, the city council’s culture spokeswoman and city centre masterplan lead, said the proposals would “safeguard our city centre for future generations”.
“I am proud of the way in which the Masterplan has helped to bring about much-needed change in our city,” she added.
Real opportunity for Aberdeen
“It is vital that we build on the projects we have already completed and with the pandemic bringing challenges to cities across the UK, we recognise that we must act swiftly if we are to safeguard our city centre for future generations.
“The city remains a key priority for this administration.
“We all want to see a city centre that is fit for the 21st century which Aberdonians can be proud of and which people want to visit.
“There is a real opportunity for Aberdeen to at last ‘grasp the nettle’ and bring forward regeneration plans that suits modern-day working and living.
“Proposals around Union Street and the beach will help transform our city centre and much-loved beach area.”
The proposal is contained within the administration’s capital plan, which will go before the full council at Wednesday’s budget meeting.
It will need the backing of a majority of councillors in order for it to be approved.
“In 2015 the administration brought forward the Aberdeen city centre masterplan, a regeneration blueprint designed to transform the city centre while conserving its proud heritage,” said co-leader Jenny Laing.
“The goal of the plan was to achieve greater prosperity for the city and a better quality of life for all.
“Many of the projects featured in the plan such as the Art Gallery, the Music Hall, Provost Skene’s House, Union Terrace Gardens and East End regeneration have either been delivered or are about to come to fruition which proves the masterplan has a track record of delivering for Aberdeen and its citizens.
“Our Administration remains committed to supporting the growth of the city’s economy and we believe this £150 million capital commitment will help to aid the city’s socio-economic recovery from Covid-19 and attract further inward investment from the private sector helping to create thousands of new jobs.”
‘Create stronger pedestrian and cycle linkages to Aberdeen’s waterfronts’
Cllr Laing said one of the aims of the revised plans was to link up the city centre and beachfront.
She said: “Aberdeen city centre is relatively unique in being within comfortable walking distance of an active harbour, a beach and two major rivers.
“Despite the presence of these unique waterfront assets, however, the city centre looks inland and is divorced from its waterside setting by traffic dominated roads and poor walking routes and spaces.
“The aim is to create stronger pedestrian and cycle linkages to Aberdeen’s waterfronts and establish these diverse environments as unique destinations for activity generating use which helps contribute to the overall experience of Aberdeen city centre for residents and visitors alike.”
This unprecedented injection of £150m will help to ensure Aberdeen remains a vibrant, creative and ambitious city.
Co-leader Douglas Lumsden said the investment, if it is approved, would make the city “vibrant, creative and ambitious”, pledging to work with organisations at the heart of the regeneration area.
The Conservative group leader wants the council to make use of new UK Government schemes to facilitate the plan.
“I believe there is now a real opportunity for the council to work with Aberdeen Football Club, Sport Aberdeen, the Beach Ballroom and other stakeholders in and around the beach to develop 21st-century plans for Aberdeen’s renowned beach area,” he said.
“This unprecedented injection of £150m will help to ensure Aberdeen remains a vibrant, creative and ambitious city.
“The UK Government has introduced two major schemes that should certainly help Aberdeen City Council pay for infrastructure within the masterplan, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Levelling Up Fund.
“I want our officers to talk directly with the UK Government to ensure Aberdeen gets its fair share of finances.”
However, opposition leaders called for more details, as well as raising concerns over finances.
SNP group leader councillor Alex Nicoll said: “The ruling Administration need to clarify to the people of Aberdeen how exactly they plan to spend this £150m of borrowed money – including how much they plan to spend on a football stadium.
“Back in 2017, the SNP group proposed a beach masterplan be brought forward and this was something that was voted down by the ruling administration later that year.
“Whilst imitation is the greatest form of flattery, we have the current situation whereby no report or plans have been published and we certainly haven’t seen any consultation with the public to date so we really do need to know what they are planning to spend the money on.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ian Yuill fears any potential investment could pull funds away from other services.
He said: “The Liberal Democrats are very concerned by this Conservative and Labour proposal for the council to borrow another £150 million.
“This would mean the council making further multi-million-pound interest and debt repayments every year – millions of pounds that would then not be available to pay for vital services such as educating Aberdeen’s children.
“We also do not believe the council should be borrowing money to build a new football stadium at the beach.”