Campaigners dig in heels as referendum on £140m city park plans looms

Tension is mounting in Scotland’s third-largest city as referendum day approaches for £140m plans to redevelop the city’s Union Terrace Gardens.

This Thursday (1 March) is decision day for the residents and city workers to decide whether to retain Aberdeen’s Victorian sunken gardens in their current form, or support the futuristic Garden City Project, backed by city businessman Sir Ian Wood, who is offerng up to £85m towards the scheme.

Following an architectural competition, designs for the Garden City Project dubbed ‘the Granite Web’ have been drawn up by US architect Diller, Scofidio & Renfro and Scottish firm Keppie Design.

Opponents call the scheme unaffordable, and quesiton the need to develop an existing area of green space.

Rhonda Reekie, member of Scottish Greens and supporter of the campaign to retain Union Terrace Gardens, said the proposals would saddle the city with up to £90m worth of debt.

“Some money should be spent on the existing Union Gardens - improvements such as better access are needed,” she said.

“If the gardens are built over, a green space in the city centre, part of Aberdeen’s heritage, will be lost for ever. And we will all be the poorer for it.

“Apart from some developers, few people will benefit economically from building the City Garden Project.”

However, Visit Scotland chairman Michael Cantlay argued that the project - which includes new cultural and recreational facilities - has huge potential to bolster the economy of Scotland’s north-east.

“It comes at a time when Scottish tourism is presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to place Scotland on the world stage like never before,” he said.

The referendum results are expected to be known on Friday.