School engagement project scoops national award

An Aberdeen City Council school engagement project that invited nearly 400 youngsters to share their vision for Union Street has received a prestigious national planning award. 

The Union Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) Shopfront Design Project was a joint winner in the “People” category at the Scottish Government’s Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.  

Judging criteria covered “innovation in the participation of a person or people (whether young or old) making a demonstrable effect on the transformation of a place or within the planning system”.  

Pupils from six primary schools – Albyn, Heathryburn,Kittybrewster, Middleton Park, Robert Gordon’s College and Skene Square – designed and built models of their ideal shop for Union Street, the city’s iconic thoroughfare.  

Pupils’ ideas from ranged a pet shop with a dog assault course to a retailer specialising in space toys to a shop where you could create sweets with any flavour, including Brussels Sprouts!  

There was also the offer of gooey fun in the form of "Slimetastic", a "Sunflower Spa" and "The Duellers", a place to play card games.  

The project was developed by the Council, the Aberdeen Urban Studies Trust, and the Aberdeen City Heritage Trust, and supported by The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment and the Aberdeen Society of Architects.  

Conservation planners guided pupils in the art of successful place-making, including the importance of understanding and respecting heritage when creating shop frontages.  

Cultural spokesperson Councillor Marie Boulton said: “We are delighted that the innovative approach of officers and partners in exploring the possibilities for Union Street has been recognised in the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.  

“However, this accolade is really a recognition of the creativity our youngsters, whose passion for Union Street and belief in a bright future for the city centre shone through during the project. 

“Aberdeen is a place where children’s voices are heard – whether that’s shaping public services or developing and managing the built environment. When it comes to transforming Aberdeen, we can all learn from each other.” 

The project was taken forward as part of the Union Street Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme and culminated in a celebratory event at the Tivoli Theatre and then a public exhibition at Aberdeen Arts Centre.  

The project was also a finalist in the “Excellence in Planning for Heritage and Culture category” at the Royal Town Planning Institute Awards of Planning Excellence earlier this year.  

The £2.4 million CARS programme is jointly funded by Aberdeen City Council and Historic Environment Scotland with further backing from Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Heritage Trust. Grants are available to help pay for repairs and renovations.  

Aberdeen City Council is currently working with partners towards achieving Unicef Child Friendly City status – a place where all children have a meaningful say in local decisions.