Councillors approve new AECC development

Councillors have today (Thursday, Dec 10) approved multimillion-pound plans for a new exhibition and conference centre for the north-east.

AECC main entrance view

Members of the Planning Development Management Committee backed the AECC proposals – including an energy centre and a 200-bedroom hotel– as part of the wider £333million complex on the site of the Rowett Research Institute at Bucksburn.

The new AECC will be built by Aberdeen City Council's development partner Henry Boot Developments Ltd and will provide four times the current exhibition space and increase the seating capacity from 4,750 to 10,000.

The attraction, which will be located off the A96 near Aberdeen International Airport, is expected to secure an additional 31,000 business tourists to Scotland and lead to an additional visitor spend of £11million per annum. It is due to open in late 2018.

A separate application for planning permission in principle to build approximately 498 residential units with commercial space, a recycling centre and a park and ride facility on the existing AECC site at Bridge of Don, was also approved.

Aberdeen City Council's Convener of Planning Development Management, Councillor Ramsay Milne said: "The new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre will be a state-of-the-art facility that will help to ensure Aberdeen competes with other major cities, not just within Scotland and the UK, but internationally with other global energy capitals.

"The addition of the energy centre with the anaerobic digestion plant provides an innovative element to the project. It will provide power but also, along with the hotel, provide an income stream that will help to cover the cost of the development."

Aberdeen City Council Leader, Councillor Jenny Laing, added: "This development forms a key part of this council's Strategic Infrastructure Plan (SIP) and will allow the city to attract bigger concert names and more major international events and conferences to the north-east region.

"Investment in this type of infrastructure project is also an important part of the emerging regional economic strategy to safeguard the future prosperity of the north-east area. It is a clear statement that Aberdeen remains open for business and very much open to new private investment."

Nick Harris, Director of Henry Boot Developments, said: "I am absolutely delighted that our plans for the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, hotel and energy centre at Bucksburn were granted full planning permission today by Aberdeen City Council.

"This if fantastic news for Aberdeen and for Scotland and is a major milestone for this project, which will provide a platform for sustainable economic growth for this area.

"The AECC will deliver excellent architectural, urban and landscape design, providing a venue which is a key element of the business structure needed to promote Aberdeen as a World Energy City and the Energy Capital of Europe.

"Over the next ten years, the new AECC is expected to create hundreds of jobs, attract major artists to the city, and contribute an additional 4.5million visitors, £113million of visitor spend and £63million net GVA to the Scottish economy.

"I am now looking forward to construction work commencing on the new AECC building so we can all see it progress over the coming months."

The new exhibition and conference centre will have a gross floor space of 45,000sqm, with subterranean space of 33,600sqm including a concourse and retail, leisure and restaurant use.

The building has been designed to provide many flexible spaces comprising a 9,000sqm multi-purpose arena that could host a large range of exhibition, entertainment and sporting events and a 6,000sqm multi-purpose sub-divisible exhibition hall and a number of conference facilities.

A 31,000sqm semi-subterranean space below the main central square will provide additional exhibition space for major events.

The 200-bedroom four-star hotel will connect to the AECC at ground floor concourse and first floor conference suite levels. The hotel will also have bars and restaurants as well as conference and spa facilities.

Financial arrangements to reduce the cost to the public purse of the development were agreed at Full Council in March.

Officers identified a range of income streams, including the hotel, car parking and energy centre.

The development costs have been significantly offset by the income streams – calculations of which have been based, in part, on industry standard occupancy figures for hotels.

The energy centre will provide enough electricity, heating and cooling for the entire site, while the anaerobic digestion plant will generate an income by feeding bio-methane into the gas grid.

The income streams are expected to reduce the cost of the facility to an estimated average of £100,000 per year over the life of the 35-year strip lease.

At the end of the lease agreement, the council will be entitled to purchase the AECC development, including the land, for £1.

The annual subsidy paid for the existing facility at Bridge of Don will not be required for the new AECC, saving the council £1.3million per annum.

Today's decision to grant planning permission for the AECC at Bucksburn will be subject to a number of conditions, covering a range of areas including landscaping, access, noise mitigation, waste management and environmental protection.

The plans for the existing Bridge of Don site have been approved conditionally, with permission to be withheld pending suitable arrangements to secure affordable housing and developer contributions relating to primary education, community facilities, sports and recreation, open space and the Strategic Transport Fund.

The proposal will be subject to one or more further planning applications for the detailed scheme, which will be considered at a later date.