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Union Terrace Gardens: Sir Ian Wood delivers ultimatum for Aberdeen

Sir Ian Wood gives his reaction to the council rejecting his plans. Picture: Newsline

Sir Ian Wood gives his reaction to the council rejecting his plans. Picture: Newsline

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

OIL tycoon Sir Ian Wood has delivered a make-or-break ­ultimatum to the Aberdeen city councillors who wrecked his controversial proposals to transform Union Terrace Gardens into a new vibrant heart for ­Europe’s energy capital.

At his oil company’s headquarters yesterday he revealed that he had formally withdrawn the £50 million gift he offered almost four years ago to help bankroll the controversial £140m transformation scheme.

But then, in a new twist in the city-centre saga, the billionaire businessman said he would be prepared to look afresh at his funding offer within the next 12 months – provided the council is prepared to reverse its decision and pledge its support for the city garden “Granite Web” project.

His offer was immediately rebuffed by Barney Crockett, the Labour leader of the coalition administration.

Mr Crockett said: “We are ­always keen to speak to anybody about helping Aberdeen in the future. But Sir Ian did ask for a definite decision at the earliest opportunity. And, from the council’s point of view, the council vote was a definitive statement on the project.

“I would not be considering revisiting the concrete or granite web.”

He said he was confident that the city council could still come forward with a revised scheme to attract Scottish Government support for a tax incremental funding (TIF) scheme to regenerate the city centre.

Sir Ian, the head of the Wood Group, had earlier said the council’s narrow two-vote majority decision to scrap the city garden project had been “extraordinarily bad”.

He said: “I genuinely struggle to understand it as do many, many of my colleagues. It is hard to understand the rationale and the logic. And what we have got today is some real outrage from right across the whole spectrum of different sectors of the ­community. I am really dismayed and incredibly disappointed on Aberdeen’s behalf. I really think we have lost something that could have been extremely significant and important for the city.”

US tycoon Donald Trump, who last month opened his Menie estate golf resort in Aberdeenshire, branded the councillors who rejected the scheme as “small-minded”.

He said: “It is very sad that Aberdeen City Council rejected Sir Ian Wood’s wonderful offer. The outcome of the public referendum was positive and the current vote of the city council is shocking.

“While Sir Ian has many other places where he can make such generous donations, the city’s residents will now suffer the consequences of a small-minded group of politicians who ignored the will of their ­constituents.

“They blew a great opportunity. Sir Ian is a wonderful man who has been treated shabbily and with total disrespect.”

Sir Ian said he had already told Valerie Watts, the council’s chief executive, that he had formally withdrawn his offer of financial support.

But he then revealed: “In the unlikely event that the council reappraise their position and realise just exactly what they’ve lost then we may be able to play some role in that.”

There would, he said, have to be a “fundamental change” in council thinking in the next 12 months – “such as the project comes back on the agenda in its present form and the council is prepared back it”.

The Scottish Government has also appealed to the city council to rethink its decision.

 

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