Designs to be drawn up for Union Terrace Gardens, Golden Square and Schoolhill

Aberdeen City Council is to call in specialists to draw up a design and delivery plan for enhancing Union Terrace Gardens (UTG) as part of the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP).

The council's Finance, Policy and Resources Committee agreed to invite firms to bid to carry out the design work for the Victorian park in the Denburn Valley.

The committee also approved a proposal to explore options for improving public realm space in Golden Square and on Schoolhill in the public space outside Robert Gordon’s College.

The work is part of a £2 million package of improvements for the wider city centre.

The CCMP, which has widespread public support, envisages a number of ways in which Union Terrace Gardens might be enhanced, including the provision of an amphitheatre to allow year-round events and using the historic arches for retail, food and drink, and artists’ studios.

The specialist firm chosen to work up the design will be asked to produce costings and a business case. If the plans are approved by the Council, the work would go out to tender.

A public consultation exercise to gather feedback to help hone the proposals would take place towards the end of this year, with work on the ground earmarked to start before autumn 2017.

Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “This design commission will deliver a transformational regeneration scheme for Union Terrace Gardens.

“This not simply about historic restoration of a much-loved Victorian park but the delivery of a contemporary, attractive and active environment for residents, workers and visitors to Aberdeen city centre.

“Union Terrace Gardens is one of Aberdeen’s gems and we want to improve access and usage so everyone can share and enjoy this wonderful green space in the very heart of our city.

“The people have already given us a clear idea of what they are looking for through the CCMP consultation exercise and now we want to turn that into reality.”

Better access could involve the provision of lifts, ramps and new stairs. The design team will also be asked to look at potential links between UTG and the city railway station as a future intervention, with costs and benefits clearly set out.

The CCMP consultation exercise revealed a desire for the incorporation of an amphitheatre, possibly using the “sunken bowl” nature of the northern end, close to His Majesty’s Theatre, to host events.

The quality and management of the existing trees, and opportunities for new tree planting, will be assessed, as will the installation of bird and bat boxes and other environmental and wildlife enhancements.

City Council deputy leader Councillor Marie Boulton, who chairs the cross-party City Centre Regeneration Board, said: “The implementation of the Masterplan is already being driven ahead and we’re determined to advance plans for more and improved public realm space in our city centre.

“We have listened to the people and are responding with real action that will improve the quality of life for everyone who uses our city centre.”

The design team is expected to be chosen towards the end of the summer.

Preliminary ideas for UTG drawn up by the consultants who produced the CCMP included:

  • Sculptural focus viewed from Union Street to reflect light.
  • Create retail units and arts studios within the historic arches.
  • Retain floral crest and refurbish stepped link.
  • Amphitheatre to allow year round events with Aberdeen constellation lighting feature.
  • Pedestrian bridge link that connects Belmont Street with viewing towers and stairs / lifts down to garden level and visible from Union Street.
  • Curving route (from the proposed bridge) hugs the slope and links Union Terrace to the amphitheatre without steps.
  • Link building to service events / furniture storage. Potential for lift link connecting street level to gardens.
  • Reveal hidden watercourse – opens up Denburn to improve biodiversity.
  • Refurbish existing Victorian toilets. Potential for lift link connecting street level to gardens.