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Councillors agree new proposals for city centre regeneration
Aberdeen city councillors have voted to abandon the City Garden Project (CGP) and to focus instead on alternative proposals to regenerate the city centre.
The Full Council voted 22-20, with one abstention, to reject the 'Granite Web' scheme to raise Union Terrace Gardens to street level.
Councillors voted in favour of retaining proposals, as part of a revised Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) scheme, to refurbish Aberdeen Art Gallery, to redevelop the site of the City Council's former St Nicholas House headquarters and the Upper Denburn area, and to invest in 'City Circle' plans to make the city centre better connected for pedestrians.
They also voted in favour of exploring additional projects as part of a reworked TIF scheme, to include financial help for:
the Mither Kirk restoration project;
refurbishment of the Music Hall and Aberdeen Arts Centre;
redevelopment of the Lemon Tree;
regeneration of Union Street;
improved access and better facilities at Union Terrace Gardens.
TIF is a Scottish Government-backed funding mechanism, under which local authorities can borrow money to fund significant regeneration schemes which have the potential to generate economic growth, and then pay back the loan using the rates paid by new businesses which set up in defined areas.
The Full Council agreed that Aberdeen City Council officers should now consult with the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), which advises the Scottish Government on TIF schemes, to discover whether a revised submission including the above schemes would be acceptable with the CGP not included.
The successful motion, which was tabled by Depute Council Leader Councillor Marie Boulton, said that council officers should explore other funding sources to finance the package of schemes if the SFT judged that a revised TIF submission without the CGP project, was unacceptable.
Council Leader Councillor Barney Crockett said: "We are extremely keen to work with everyone to deliver our vision for city centre regeneration, without the divisive City Garden Project which never won the whole-hearted acceptance of the people of Aberdeen.
"I am certain that we can make widespread and significant improvements to the city centre which are affordable and sustainable, and which do not require us to make massive borrowings.
"I hope everyone in this city the citizens of Aberdeen, the business community and politicians of all parties can now start afresh and support us to the hilt as we focus on the improvements we propose and on becoming UK City of Culture in 2017."
Councillor Boulton said: "This new approach to city regeneration will concentrate on protecting our outstanding architecture and heritage, while at the same time delivering substantial improvements to our existing cultural venues.
"By spreading investment across several exciting projects, including Union Terrace Gardens, we can really put a shine on the Granite City and make a powerful bid to become UK City of Culture.
"Aberdeen has been split down the middle for so long over the City Garden Project. This is a chance to heal the wounds and to come together for the good of the city."