City Square consultation "flaw"

A recently-issued briefing paper for the City Square proposal admits to a “fundamental flaw” in the consultation process for the City Square project.

Above concept drawings produced at the last-minute by architectural students at the Robert Gordon University, the briefing says: “It is now acknowledged by all involved that the absence of a reference design was a fundamental flaw in the consultation”.

One has to wonder how such a high-profile consulation, with a heavyweight professional team, allowed the consultation to go ahead with such a flaw. But, they did.

Aberdeen City Square
Late on in the consultation, it took students at Robert Gordon University to realise that the public needed to see what could be achieved in the space.

As I understand it, the main purpose of the consultation was to ask people what they would like to see on the ‘blank canvas’ of the five-acre city centre site, if the proposal to build over the railway and the dual carriageway went ahead.

That message was clouded by misunderstanding and misinformation about concrete squares and retail centres (there has never been any suggestion that this would be a retail centre). Even the name ‘City Square’ suggested a hard-surfaced square.

The other misunderstanding is that Peacock’s plans were ‘ready to go’. As I understand it, they may have planning permission, but they don’t currently have any agreement to acquire the land. (It is a little-known fact that I can apply for planning permission in my neighbour’s garden, even though I have never spoken to them about purchasing the land.)

But, nothing was concrete (if you will excuse the pun). It could be a civic square, it could be gardens, performance areas, or an iconic building, Or, a mixture of all of these.

Going out to consultation on a blank canvas was always going to be difficult. You really need ideas to fire people’s imagination.

Optionally, the consultation allowed people to say whether they were in favour of the proposal for City Square.

Interestingly there was a difference in the balance of votes, depending on the method of response. While Postal surveys and freephone responses were 50/50. Text messages responses (most likely to have been favoured by younger participants) had a majority in favour.

It was the website respondents that swayed the overall results to 55% of those answering saying they were not in favour, against 44% saying they were.

Personally I remain in favour of the proposal, providing it could be achieved without taking money from local public services. ACSEF believes that is possible.

I see City Square as being the 21st century equivalent of Union Bridge, becoming the catalyst for a significant regeneration of the city.
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