Look Who's Coming To Dinner - Step Up To The Plate
Aberdeen city centre has come under increasing pressure as the economy has boomed - and has failed to keep pace.
That was the honest appraisal from Maggie Bochel, Aberdeen City Council Head of Planning and Sustainable Development at Burness Paull’s event on city regeneration – but she insisted the council was doing everything possible to be more “bold, ambitious and aggressive” to make improvements.
One delegate, from a digital SME, suggested the relationship between the public and private sectors in Aberdeen was broken. Not so, said Bochel, stressing that the council would work with as many “unlikely partners” as it could to secure a positive future for the city. She laid down a challenge based on the title of the event, Look Who’s Coming To Dinner - all those who wanted a place at the decision-making table had to step up to the plate.
Malcolm Fraser stepped up to the plate with relish and laid down a smorgasbord of ideas for the future of Aberdeen. Suggestions from the chairman of the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review included giant umbrellas to enliven Castlegate and colony-style housing for Aberdeen harbour, which he described as “one of the great urban dramas”.
Fraser said he worked on the ‘town centre first’ planning principle but confessed that he found the Union Square development disappointing. However, he ended on a positive note, saying he was optimistic that the public and private sector could find common ground and creative solutions to take Aberdeen forward.
Stephen Phillips of Burness Paull agreed, saying all the elements were there to make real progress - a booming economy, a civic master plan and a council willing to build new partnerships for the good of the city.
Malcolm Fraser also insisted we had to think more about people in the planning process – and Chris Taylor, Head of Human Resources at Subsea 7 (very much a people person) stressed that Aberdeen had a strong and positive community to build on. He said newcomers were often very upbeat about Aberdeen – but also mentioned the itinerant community who work in Aberdeen during the week, but choose not to make their homes there.
Jonathan Heaney, banking partner at Burness Paull, said finding significant sums of money to fund public projects was increasingly difficult and conceded the existing financial models to raise money were complex and challenging.
Maggie Bochel stressed that Aberdeen was a poorly-funded council and said the way forward had to be through creativity and innovative partnership working. Throwing down the gauntlet, she effectively said this (to paraphrase a President): “Ask not what Aberdeen can do for you – but what you can do for Aberdeen.”
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