Aberdeenshire aquarium set for ‘spectacular’ two-storey extension

ABERDEENSHIRE Council has formally accepted the offer of £20 million in funding from the UK Government’s levelling up fund, which will allow for the renovation and extension of the Macduff Marine Aquarium and the development of a cultural quarter in Peterhead centred around the vacant Arbuthnot House.

Discussions held last week showed ‘widespread’ support for the projects, which the local authority said will provide ‘significant’ benefits not just for the two towns, but for the whole of Aberdeenshire.

A modernisation of the existing aquarium at Macduff will be undertaken to improve the visitor experience and allow for expanded exhibits and enhanced facilities. It will include a ‘spectacular’ two-storey extension that will take advantage of coastal views and include a new café-restaurant, education suite, and community space.

The £5.7million project will also involve an external revamp of the building, a new children’s play area and path links along the coastline.

In Peterhead, £18 million will be invested in the creation of a new ‘cultural quarter’ which the council said will ‘revitalise’ the former civic heart of the port by transforming the disused Arbuthnot House into a new destination museum and cultural hub. The historic building will be sensitively restored and a striking new extension will house both the town’s library and a new regional museum showcasing Aberdeenshire’s extensive historical collections and artwork.

Multi-purpose and workshop spaces will support participation and learning, whilst a new dedicated facility will look to attract temporary national exhibitions. The facility will also feature a café and restaurant with views of the harbour, and the building’s former walled garden will be transformed into a new public green space.

The existing Arbuthnot Museum and Library building on the town’s St Peter Street are also being restored and converted under the plans to create a vibrant cultural venue with live entertainment space and dance/music studios on the upper floor.

Aberdeenshire Council leader councillor Mark Findlater said, “I’m delighted that our bid – which was of an exceptionally high standard – was successful and we will now begin the process of developing a cultural quarter in Peterhead and forging forward with an extension to our already successful Macduff Marine Aquarium.

“These innovative, ambitious projects will support the north-east economy through the enhancement of the tourism offering across Aberdeenshire and provide opportunities for businesses which are to be greatly welcomed.”