The row over the future of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace gardens intensified today with the launch of the public consultation over City Square from Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (ACSEF).

On the surface, it looks like leaders in Aberdeen are consulting the public about a vision for regeneration of the city which could combine contemporary art and culture, green space, markets and community and social celebration.  The plans to create a civic square which sympathetically integrates arts and culture as well as the natural beauty and heritage of the site sounds, in the same superficial way, like a good idea.

Respondents to the public survey on the plans to create a civic square in or on Aberdeen’s Union Gardens today are asked to rate their desire for public art, a contemporary arts centre and performing arts.

But ACSEF’s plans will at worst scupper completely the firmly developed and largely funded plans of Peacock Arts to create a contemporary arts centre. Peacock and masses of supporters have campaigned against ACSEF’s development (with 4400 signatures to the petition and  a Facebook Group), as have a third group protesting against the loss of the green heritage.  Peacock Arts’ frustrations are exacerbated by an apparent lack of collaboration between ACSEF and Peacock.

In masterplanning terms, a development on Aberdeen’s Union Gardens could create a new heart to the city and could create a cultural quarter linking His Majesty’s Theatre to the Music Hall through the proposed city square, containing a contemporary arts facility. This could be an economic, social and cultural winner which is likely to need some compromise all round.

Education, Damnation and Salvation are the three imposing granite civic buildings – the Central Library, St Mark’s Church and His Majesty’s Theatre on Rosemount Viaduct which border the gardens.

So surely its time to bring some Arbitration, Conciliation and Negotiation to the process.

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