NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Voters back Aberdeen's City Garden Project in referendum

Granite Web
Image caption Granite Web was chosen as the winning design to be put to the vote

Voters have backed Aberdeen's controversial City Garden Project after a referendum on the issue.

People were asked if they wanted to retain the historic gardens or back the £140m City Garden Project redevelopment.

There were 45,301 votes in favour of the project, with 41,175 people opposed to the plans.

Businessman Sir Ian Wood is backing the Granite Web design with £50m of his own money.

Sir Ian said: "It's the citizens of Aberdeen and future generations that have won.

"The majority vote is in favour of this exciting opportunity to regenerate and transform our city centre.

"The door is now open to realise a very important contribution to achieve Aberdeen's vision to become a 21st century world energy city."

Opponents said the redevelopment was wrong for Aberdeen.

Mike Shepherd, of campaign group Friends of Union Terrace Gardens, said they would now consider their next move.

More than 86,000 votes were cast online, by post and by phone during the referendum.

The early results had shown online votes were 16,428 for the project and 12,274 for retaining Union Terrace Gardens (UTG).

Of the votes cast by phone, 5,073 were in favour of the project, with 4,081 against.

Postal votes - the largest method - then confirmed the result.

The total number of ballot papers issued was 165,830 and there were 86,825 responses - a 52% turnout.

The number of votes cast by post was 48,969, with 28,702 online and 9,154 by phone.

The count began at 10:00 after the ballot closed on Thursday, and the result came in just after 13:00.

Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Callum McCaig said: "This has been a hugely important issue for the people of Aberdeen and I think the strength of feeling has been reflected in the turnout."

Image caption Opponents argue that historic Union Terrace Gardens should stay the same

Colin Crosby, director of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust (ACGT), said: "It is really positive for Aberdeen's long-term future that the public, although by a small majority, have embraced the transformational change that the City Garden represents.

"There is now a mandate to progress the project and the wider city centre regeneration which it unlocks.

"The vote was very close and the project has caused a divide across the city. It is therefore important that everyone involved comes together in the best interests of the city to deliver the regeneration scheme which will benefit citizens, businesses and visitors alike."

'New pulse'

Bob Collier, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: "The challenge now for those involved in the project will be to deliver the world-class garden and cultural facilities which respects heritage and embraces the future."

Charles Renfro, of architects Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, said: "We are thrilled that the public have come out in favour of the City Garden Project. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring a new pulse to the heart of Aberdeen."

The Wood Family Trust has offered an additional £35m for any cost overruns.

However critics claim the project is wrong, historically and financially.

The Scottish government must see a finalised business case for the project before it can proceed.

Tax Incremental Financing(TIF) would see a £92m loan help pay for the project, paid back by increased income from business rates.

Infrastructure Secretary Alex Neil said: "It was right in the circumstances for the Scottish government to ask for a demonstration of public support for this project before considering the case for using Tax Incremental Finance for funding.

"That support has now been demonstrated and it is up to Aberdeen City Council to work with Scottish Futures Trust to finalise the business case in accordance with the process we have outlined, before coming to ministers to seek final approval to use TIF."

During a previous public consultation process, 55% of those who took part said they did not support the new development.

But councillors backed taking the plans to the next stage.

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