Aberdeen gardens scheme supporters admit: ‘It looks like we’ll lose vote’
THERE was mounting speculation last night that Aberdeen City Council will today throw out plans for the transformation of Union Terrace Gardens – rejecting the offer from oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood to bankroll the project with £50 million of his personal fortune.
The council is expected to reject the £140m scheme – the most divisive project in the city for a generation – by one or two votes in a major blow for the city’s business leaders.
The Scotsman understands that two members of the Liberal Democrat group, who will have a major say in the knife-edge vote, plan to side with Labour, while another Lib Dem is planning to abstain.
Provided the 17-strong Labour group, as expected, win the support of at least two of the three-strong Independent Alliance, they will have a slender majority for scrapping the scheme.
Voting in favour of the Granite Web plans will be the 15 SNP councillors, the three-strong Conservative group and two Lib Dems, who have steadfastly championed the plans for transforming the sunken Victorian gardens into a futuristic new civic square.
A source at the City Gardens Trust admitted last night: “It looks as if we are going to lose the vote.”
A senior member of the Lib Dem group confirmed the scheme could only rely on two of their votes, with one definitely against.
And a leading member of the Labour administration said: “We are quietly confident of victory.”
Today’s vote will come as councillors debate proposals to take a £92m loan from the Scottish Government through a Tax Incremental Finance scheme, with the money being repaid through business rates to be retained by the city council.
The TIF scheme would be used to finance a total of five regeneration schemes, including the City Gardens Project.
In a public referendum in March, 86,568 Aberdeen residents voted, with 45,301 backing the “Granite Web” scheme and 41,175 opting to leave the gardens as they are.
The Independent group in the ruling coalition will today table an 11th-hour amendment to earmark the TIF funding for regenerating the existing gardens.
Marie Boulton, depute leader of the council and leader of the Independent Alliance, said: “We recognise that the people of Aberdeen want to see their city shine again, and we believe that by spreading the money across several projects in the city centre, which includes Union Terrace Gardens, this can be achieved.”
Tom Smith, director of the Aberdeen City Gardens Trust, dismissed the proposals as a “do-nothing” option.
Sir Ian first announced his plan to invest £50m in the creation of a new city-centre square in November 2008.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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