City Garden is 'all or nothing' vote on city centre investment

I should probably not be surprised, given the amount of confusion and misinformation that has surrounded the City Garden project. But, I am now amazed to find that the ‘referendum on the gardens’ is not just a ‘referendum on the gardens’.

Apparently the outcome of the City Garden referendum will actually decide the fate of a whole £182 million package of investment in Aberdeen city centre projects!

Even for a project that has more than its fair share of communication convolutions, this is a classic.

City Garden Aberdeen
The proposed design for City Garden

If you vote “no” to the City Garden it will kill the entire £182 million (£70 million donations, £20 million grants, £92 million government funding) package which is to cover the following city centre regeneration projects:

  • St Nicholas House site regeneration (what we hope will be a civic square opposite Marischal College).
  • The Upper Denburn regeneration.
  • Aberdeen Art Gallery extension and improvement.
  • “Urban Realm” (a walking route round the city centre, for those of us who speak plain English)
  • And the City Garden

If the vote goes against the City Garden, in an extraordinary twist in this whole story, the entire £182 million package fails and all these projects are dead. Because the donations will be lost and the government TIF funding is based on the City Garden as the core project, the £182 million disappears.

Union Terrace Gardens
The current view from Union Bridge is hardly inspiring

Now, it happens that I have been keen on the idea to make better use of the Denburn valley since the first plans, to extend the park across the railway and the dual carriageway, were unveiled back in the 1980s.

So, this revelation about the funding makes no difference to my view. I am in favour of the City Garden.

City garden QR code

But, it does add a dilemma for those who want to see the sunken gardens retained. If they vote ‘no’ to City Garden, they are also voting ’no’ to the St Nicholas House redevelopment, the Art Gallery improvement, the city centre walkway and North Denburn.

That doesn’t seem right. But, until someone can tell us otherwise, apparently it is the reality.

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