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Aberdeen locals call for investigation into Union Terrace Gardens

Campaigners have demanded the Scottish government investigates the decision to scrap proposals for a Brisac Gonzalez-designed arts centre at Union Terrace Gardens

Aberdeen City Council in May decided to pursue a £140 million Ian Woods-backed ‘city square’ scheme for the green site (pictured), shelving Brisac Gonzalez’s Peacock Visual Arts centre proposal.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens group has written to Jim Mather, the Scottish Enterprise Minister, asking him to hold an inquiry into the conduct of Scottish Enterprise and the city’s development advisory partnership, Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF).

The letter claims the cost of the Woods project was ‘hidden’ in a Scottish Enterprise-commissioned feasibility study and public consultation. The group suggests the project could cost as much as £300 million.

The letter also claims the agency contacted the Royal Institute of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and suggested a non-Scottish architect should take the Woods job.

In May the RIAS described ACSEF’s decision to launch an international design competition for the Woods scheme as ‘inappropriate in the extreme.’

In response to the campaigner group’s letter Neil Baxter, RIAS secretary, said: ‘I think with Union Terrace Gardens the whole process was democratically questionable and I do not think that at any stage big money should be the determinant.’

A Scottish Enterprise spokesperson said: ‘Scottish Enterprise is committed to working with our partners to create a vibrant Aberdeen city centre that will generate more wealth and enhance the region’s quality of life.

‘The development of Union Terrace Gardens will ensure Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire continues to make a major contribution to the Scottish economy.

‘As part of the initial research (on an international design competition) we contacted the RIAS to draw on its expertise and advice but unfortunately, the conversation regarding an international architect was completely taken out of context.’

ACSEF is understood to have commissioned a London-based consultancy to run the competition.

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