So, suddenly, the Peacock Arts Centre project for Union Terrace Gardens is back on the agenda. Not because Peacock are keen to revive it. Not because the public have demanded it. Not because the finance is in place.
No, it is back on the agenda because the deputy council leader suggested it (reportedly without speaking to Peacock).
So, it all sounds a bit off the cuff, like other utterings from the Town House. Is there not a strategy or a plan? There surely should be.
I’ve always been a bit negative about the Peacock proposal. It seems to me that this space in the centre of Aberdeen should be for the benefit of Aberdonians and visitors as open
space. Create passing pedestrian traffic through the Victorian Union Terrace Gardens
I also think it is best either to reclaim the Victorian splendour of the original gardens and make them more accessible, or produce something really exciting and new, with more open space, like the bold plans for the City Garden.
The Peacock proposal was, to my mind, an unhappy mix of modern concrete intruding on a Victorian park and eating up precious open space.
Therefore, the suggestion by local writer Diane Morgan immediately seems a more comfortable way forward.
She proposes that the council should look to set up the former Woolmanhill building (which looks magnificent with its dome and landscaped grounds from Rosemount Viaduct beside His Majesty’s Theatre) as an arts centre potentially incorporating Peacock.
She then suggests re-opening the walkway through the arch at the back of the theatre to give access to the gardens.
I would suggest taking that further and adding pedestrian linkage under Union Bridge from the station and Union Square. You then create a pedestrian route through the gardens.
- improve linkage between the station/Union Square and the city centre.
- introduce passing pedestrian traffic to the under-utilised Union Terrace Gardens.
- create a new arts space close to the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
If you take those basics and add terraced gardens, or a piazza covering the unsightly railway and Denburn dual carriageway and linking to Belmont street then you have increased the open space, improved the appearance and reduced the road noise.
Add in escalators and elevators to and from the lower level of the gardens to Belmont Street/Union Street at the south and Rosemount Viaduct at the North and you have the makings of a real plan that would not only add to the city centre, but also greatly enhance the linkage between Union Square and Union Street.
With creative planning and design, there is surely the germ of an idea there that could provide some positives, to counteract the negatives of ditching the City Garden project.
It is also the sort of ‘step change’ project that could merit funding support.