Aberdeen city masterplan 'lacks evidence' on jobs boost

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image captionThere are plans to improve city centre connections and remove cars from Union Street

Doubts have been cast on Aberdeen's ability to push through its masterplan for city centre regeneration.

An economic analyst says there is no evidence to back up the report's claims on jobs or increased income for the city.

The masterplan - containing dozens of proposals to improve the city centre - was backed by councillors last month.

It claims that 5,000 jobs could be created, alongside an increase in the city's gross annual income of £280m.

However, economist Tony Mackay, from Mackay Consultants, said there was no publicly available explanation for those figures.

In his initial study of the plan, he said the large number of projects would likely lead to a "pick and mix" approach rather than an integrated strategy.

He also said the business plan needed rewritten based on realistic assumptions about oil prices.

Aberdeen City Council said officers would carry out detailed scrutiny of each project and review the relevant financial strategies.

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image captionCastlegate could be positioned as Aberdeen city centre's main civic square, forming a crossroads between Union Street, the harbourside and the beach

Mr Mackay said he intended to submit his detailed analysis to the council in the next few weeks.

He said: "Aberdeen has been unfairly treated by successive Scottish governments.

"The belief in Edinburgh seems to have been that because of the oil boom Aberdeen did not need as much central government money in relative terms as other councils.

"In fact, the opposite has been the case because of the large increase in population, in both the city and neighbouring Aberdeenshire.

"My initial reaction [to the masterplan] is that [planning consultants] BDP have done a very good job and should be commended for that, but they have been badly let down by their subcontractors Regeneris, who were responsible for the economic analysis."

He added: "The masterplan claims that it will create 5,000 jobs and increase Aberdeen's gross annual income by £280m. There is no explanation of those estimates or forecasts in the publicly available documents on the council's website.

"I asked BDP for the evidence but they replied that Regeneris were responsible for those forecasts.

"I twice read the socio-economic review produced by Regeneris but it gives no explanation of the above claims. Also, it appears to have been written before the collapse in oil prices, so much of the information in the background paper is out-of-date and much of the analysis needs to be redone."

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image captionProposals include an expansion of the Union Terrace Gardens and a new urban quarter at the head of the "valley"

Mr Mackay concluded: "In my opinion, the revised business plan must be based on realistic assumptions about oil prices and the continuing decline in oil-related activity and employment. It is essential that Aberdeen avoids another fiasco like the Union Terrace Gardens."

A spokesman from the local authority said: "Council last month unanimously agreed the city centre masterplan subject to a number of tasks for officers to complete.

"This included detailed scrutiny on each project with a report back to councillors prior to proceeding, a review of all relevant financial strategies with a report back on any necessary changes and a report to council in August on governance arrangements for the planned city centre masterplan reference group plus the establishment of an in-house officer team to guide the implementation of the masterplan.

"The chief executive will also report to the finance, policy and resources committee in September on a proposed programme of enabling works - and regular update reports will be produced for council as the masterplan is progressed."

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