OIL tycoon Sir Ian Wood today announced his offer of a £50 million gift to help transform the heart of Aberdeen city centre had been formally withdrawn.
It has finally brought the curtain down on the long running and bitter dispute between the city council’s Labour-led administration and Sir Ian over the potential redevelopment of the city’s Victorian Union Terrace Gardens.
Last October, in a surprise move, Sir Ian put his offer of a £50 million gift towards the redevelopment of the city centre back on the table - a year after the controversial £140 million scheme to transform the sunken gardens was thrown out by the Labour-led coalition administration.
The billionaire businessman pledged that he would still deliver on his donation towards the regeneration of Europe’s oil capital - provided Aberdeen City Council came up with a new project to transform the heart of the city by the end of the year.
At a meeting of the full council last month councillors ignored an 11th-hour plea by First Minister Alex Salmond to get off their “high horse” and accept Sir Ian’s offer. They rejected the gift, claiming the authority would be unable to meet an end-of-the-year deadline set by Sir Ian and decided instead to spearhead the regeneration of Europe’s oil capital through an new city centre masterplan.
Sur Ian has now announced that the deal is no longer on the table in the annual report of the Wood Family Trust (WFT). The report states: “Last year we reported that we had withdrawn the offer of financial supprt following Aberdeen City Council’s narrow vote to reject the Granite Web City Garden Project.
“Because we believed in the very strong economic, cultural, and business case for a transformational city centre project, we indicated to the council that if the Granite Web, or a similar transformational city centre project, came alive in 2013, the trustees would consider reinstating the £50 million contribution.”
The report continues: “WFT reminded Aberdeen City Council at the end of November, 2013, of the time limit on WFT funds being available. The council decided on 18 December that they were unable to make a decision because they ‘can’t meet the criteria at this time.’
“It was clear that there was no hope that the more ambitious transformational project which WFT would have been prepared to help fund would be supported by the current council administration and thus the offer of funds has been withdrawn.”
A trust spokeswoman said: “WFT continues to believe that there is a strong economic, cultural, and business case for a transformational city centre project in Aberdeen and deeply regrets this outcome after the huge amount of work and support from many visionary citizens, and the positive referendum from the public. “
The report reveals that last year the trust spent £8,935,000 supporting projects in Africa, principally on projects in
Sub Saharan Africa, where funds are being used to improve the prosperity of smallholder tea famers and their families in Tanzania, and Rwanda.
The trust also donated £455,000 to projects in Scotland where some of the investment has continued through the Developing Young People in Scotland portfolio, an initiative aimed at improving tolerance, citizenship values, and enterprise in Scotland’s young people. WFT is also investing in combating to child poverty in Scotland with a £450,000 three year commitment to support the STV Appeal.
Sir Ian, chairman of the Wood Family Trust said:“We now feel that, six years on, our investments are beginning to have a real beneficial impact on local economic activity, jobs and prosperity in Sub Sahara Africa and in enhancing the life and citizenship skills of young people in Scotland. The trust goes into 2014 with approximately £118million of funds and we have a number of new interesting projects in our sights.”