Emergency meeting called on Aberdeen’s Union Street amidst ‘growing concern’

Union Street
(iwetta0077, Shutterstock)

AN emergency summit on the future of Aberdeen’s Union Street is to be held next month, the city’s council has announced.

Businesses and city centre representatives are being invited to attend the summit on November 9 at the Douglas hotel. The local authority said it is hoped short and medium-term solutions – both temporary and permanent – are found to ‘breathe new life’ into Union Street.

It added that delegates will be challenged to think differently and come up with creative, collaborative short and medium-term solutions that will ‘quickly’ improve the look and feel of the thoroughfare and reverse its fortunes – ‘before it’s too late’.

The best ideas and initiatives are set to be taken forward with seed funding already secured, with hopes of potentially attracting further investment from partners and the private sector.

Aberdeen City Council is currently consulting on potential designs for the city centre as part of the major Aberdeen city centre and beach masterplan (CCMBP), with views being sought on detailed concepts for Union Street, Belmont Quarter, Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate, the West End, Aberdeen Market, and Castlegate.

The proposals would all contribute to the aim of creating a ‘world class’ city centre which ‘respects and enhances’ Aberdeen’s unique qualities and characteristics while putting people at its heart.

However, Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said it was ‘imperative’ that immediate action is taken alongside the longer-term vision.

He commented, “Although the recent images of proposals for Union Street show promising potential for major improvement, there is a growing concern that if we don’t act now, it will become almost impossible to attract any organisations to fill the growing number of vacant units that would revitalise the city centre’s main artery.

“We have spoken to retailers, publicans, restauranteurs, other businesses, partner agencies, visitors and local residents who are becoming increasingly concerned about the detrimental impact the demise of our main street is having on civic pride and the local economy.

“In line with many other cities across the country and beyond, the loss of footfall is obviously leading to reduced spend in our city centre businesses, at a time when it has never been needed more.

“The purpose of the summit is to bring together levy payers, partners agencies and other key stakeholders in our city centre to consider short and medium-term solutions, both temporary and permanent, that can breathe new life into Union Street, helping it regain its place as a vibrant thoroughfare and realise its true potential.

“We need to think more laterally and creatively to come up with solutions that quickly improve the look and feel of our main high street before it’s too late.

“Aberdeen Inspired exists to work with others to improve the city centre and in turn the fortunes of those who depend on it. We owe it to our levy payers to take a stand and try to find fresh ideas and more creative, collaborative ways of working between the public and private sectors to drive the change that is urgently required.

“Our main thoroughfare and wider city centre has so much potential, but it will need a collaborative focus and of course positive action in the here and now to realise this.”

Chief executive of AGCC, Russell Borthwick, added, “The chamber is delighted to be a part of this event. Our Vanguard initiative launched in 2017 to give a range of people the opportunity to make positive change happen in the city and region and we’ll update attendees on the exciting progress of some of the projects on the day.

“But the important thing is looking forward. We have a large group of willing volunteers who are raring to go and a number of initiatives under discussion. I’m confident that after the summit they’ll be ready to get things moving. Time really is of the essence.”

Following a keynote address on what a city high street needs to be economically viable, the summit will feature panel sessions with commercial property agents, developers and BID levy payers from all sectors, who will set out their views on the challenges and potential solutions.

This will be followed by facilitated interactive group session, which will challenge the audience to work in groups to come up with ideas that could be taken forward.