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Labour Party slams 'farcical' Union Terrace Gardens competition

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Labour politicians in Aberdeen have hit out at a controversial competition to redesign Union Terrace Gardens, saying they would support a boycott by architects

Run by Malcolm Reading Consultants, the competition is part of £140 million plans to redevelop the city centre gardens which will include raising the level of the Victorian square (1879).

London-practice Brisac Gonzalez had previously won consent for a scheme to build the Peacock Visual Arts centre on the site, however in May last year those proposals were cast aside in favour of a larger overhaul of the site backed by local business tycoon Ian Woods.

The contest has already been criticised by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) as ‘inappropriate in the extreme.’ Some Scottish architects are also understood to be boycotting the scheme.

Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP for Aberdeen Central said he opposed the project on both design and democratic grounds, claiming the project had failed to take account of public opinion opposing the proposals.

He said: ‘Any consultation that does not allow people to bring forward designs that retain the gardens is a farce and a joke.

‘I would completely understand anyone choosing to not have anything to do with that proposal. If the criteria does not allow a proper range of solutions to come forward I would support a boycott.’

He added: ‘The central library, St Mark’s church and His Majesty’s Theatre form a trio of grand buildings that are a landmark of Aberdeen.’

Macdonald claimed an increase of 2000 votes for Labour in Aberdeen this month reflected the depth of Aberdeen Central residents’ opposition to the plans.

Aberdeen City Council Labour Group leader Barney Crockett added: ‘There seems to be a catastrophic breach of trust between the council and the wider creative community.

‘Having spoken to architects, the feeling is that celebrity name chasing [by the project organisers] seems to be more important than getting genuine architectural ideas.

‘[They] saw a wonderful vision of the centre [by Brisac Gonzalez] and they are very unconvinced by the ideas for Wood’s proposals.‘

The Labour party is campaigning to take control of Aberdeen in next year’s council elections.

The deadline for entries to the competition is 13 June, with the shortlist planned to be announced on 18 July, followed by the winner in mid-December.

Between five and seven teams will be shorlisted and asked to work up concept designs for which they will be paid an honorarium.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • When the City Council held a referendum to ascertain the views of the people of Aberdeen, there was a majority vote in favour of retaining the gardens, so the council has apparently chosen to ignore this result. Such is democracy, in Aberdeen.

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