Ian Wood: 'Key losers are Aberdeen's present and future citizens'
Aberdeen entrepreneur and City Garden Project-backer Ian Wood reacts to Aberdeen City Council’s decision to scrap Union Terrace Garden’s overhaul
While the Council today finished up voting for some minimal sprucing up of the city centre, there won’t be access to TIF funds and this won’t begin to address the requirements for the transformational change our city centre requires and deserves.
Along with the majority of Aberdeen citizens who voted for the ambitious regeneration programme of our city centre, I am obviously very disappointed and dismayed by this outcome. The key losers are Aberdeen’s present and future citizens, and I honestly believe future generations, looking back on Aberdeen’s oil era, will wonder why on earth, after years of under investment in our city centre - parts of which are clearly in decline - our City Council failed to grasp the opportunity to do something really transformational and enhance their legacy.
It’s frankly hard to believe that, following the positive Referendum, our Council have turned down an investment of £182m not available for other projects, with no impact on Aberdeen City Council’s budget and with no impact on the Council tax payer. Labour Councillor Willie Young earlier this week suggested ‘big business is trying to call the shots and the ordinary citizens of Aberdeen are being side lined’. That’s exactly what the Labour Party and the Council have done today – effectively side lined the views of the ordinary citizens of Aberdeen, and I sincerely regret that our City Council have let them down so badly.
We should also be very concerned about the message this sends outside Aberdeen nationally and internationally about our lack of vision and confidence to invest for the future. We have a great city in many respects, but today we’ve turned our back on the opportunity to greatly improve a significant infrastructure weakness, and, by the way, lost the opportunity to be a serious contender for the City of Culture 2017 which would have been a fantastic accolade for Aberdeen.
Wood Family Trust have now no alternative but to withdraw its offer to significantly support the project (in which it has already invested more than £1m), but I wish to do the courtesy of formally meeting and discussing this with Valerie Watts, Aberdeen City Council’s Chief Executive, with whom Wood Family Trust’s formal dealings have been conducted. I have arranged to meet her tomorrow morning.