The Future of Union Terrace Gardens.

In Aberdeen there is a slowly bubbling away civic hostage situation that revolves around a Park or Garden in the city centre. The situation is thus: Aberdeen City Council wants to help to regenerate the city centre, and a few rich people and others involved think that the best thing is to develop a new "civic space" that would be built over the existing Union Terrace Gardens area in the city centre. This is what this area looks like right now:


And this is what the plan looks like conceptually:


First and foremost I should point out that I am no "Not in my back yard" twat – I love and implore for progress to be made at the expense of antiquated buildings and to allow new things to occur old things have to vanish. That is why I was heavily behind the M74 extension and why I feel that the Edinburgh Trams debacle is nothing short of ridiculous – but the idea of a tram network isn't. I am no Luddite.

However, the new City Gardens Project is not progress against something that is out dated. It's not a new motorway through a disused industrial estate, nor is it a environmentally and accessible public transport link in a city that need them. No, it appears to be a vanity project developed by the man who is behind my company's parent company, and a council heavily wanting to add something "new" to a city that is "old".

There are important problems with this idea. The first being that Aberdeen's old fashion buildings and architecture are fascinating – not growing up here, instead being brought up amongst 1930s houses and tenements, I love the fact that my flat is from the 19th century. I love it's curved and warped walls, and I love the feel of an old city. The Union Terrace Gardens were built to be a civic space in the Denburn valley and they fit in perfectly with the buildings around it. The railway line, now a single line, was probably once a steam train highway – but now it houses a needed bypass to the north. It's a green space amongst the greyest spaces in the city.

The second problem is that Aberdeen is not without it's civic spaces – indeed, there is one large area at the Castlegate end of Union Street – a wonderful area that is rarely used. If this area is used so sparingly, why build a bigger one? Why spend that money on it?

The third problem is that building it won't be the rejuvenation that the city centre needs. Union Street is dying because the shops and leaving and the shops are leaving because it's easier to go to the shopping centres instead of battling tiny pavements and buses on the main road – make it pedestrianised, and in my opinion that'll breathe new life into the city centre. Not spend £170 million on a new empty space and a few other things and spend years enduring a large construction project beyond all reckoning.

The last problem is that the place it is meant to replace is absolutely one of my favourite places in Aberdeen. I walk past it every day, the train travels through it, and in the summer I love sitting on the grass in it. To take an actual green area away and replace it with something that the city doesn't need is something of a disaster – imagine telling the city of Glasgow that the Glasgow Green was to be built over. Why would you want to destroy the major green space in the city centre?

I can admit that things in the area do need to be fixed – better access, for one, and better lighting another, but the charm of the place is that it's old, green, Victorian and historical. To remove this from the city removes it charm, its character.

To vote in the referendum ballot papers went out to Aberdonians this week. To see the City Gardens Project, and find out more, click the following links:

BBC News Article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-17010786

BBC News Article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-17049212

Official Project Site http://thecitygardenproject.com/

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens Site http://www.friendsofutg.co.uk/
People have until the 1st March to vote.