OIL tycoon Sir Ian Wood has staked another £35 million from his personal fortune in a bid to secure public backing for his dream of transforming Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens into a vibrant new heart for the city.
Scotland’s second-richest man has already pledged £50m to kick start the divisive transformational scheme and to pay 80 per cent of the estimated £250,000 cost of holding a postal ballot on the £140m scheme.
But yesterday, in a move aimed at silencing critics, the head of the Wood Group announced that he would be prepared to put up a further £35m from the Wood Family Trust as a contingency fund in the “unlikely event” of a cost over-run for the project.
Sir Ian said he was putting up the cash to counter the “scaremongering, speculation and misinformation” being spread by opponents of the scheme, including claims that the project could cost double its current estimate.
But critics of the gardens scheme accused Sir Ian of throwing “fool’s gold” at the project.
Sir Ian, who has pledged to walk away from the proposed scheme, should the people of Aberdeen reject the project, said he had put up the extra millions to demonstrate his confidence in the cost estimates for the City Garden Project.
He has given an undertaking to the city council to make available a reserve contingency of up to £35m to cover “genuine cost over runs”.
Sir Ian said: “Concerns have been expressed about the impact of any potential cost over-run to the City Garden Project. These are being irresponsibly fuelled by mis-information and unfounded speculation. The Granite Web is a particularly cost effective design, which should definitely be delivered within the £140m estimate, which already includes some contingencies. Wood Family Trust will give an undertaking to the council to pay for any cost over run up to 25 per cent of the £140m estimate to cover the very unlikely event of any cost escalation.
“This should eliminate any concerns on this issue.
Sir Ian stressed that the project represented a “once in a lifetime” chance to transform Aberdeen. He added: “It’s really important that people vote. This is an extraordinarily important project for Aberdeen.”
But Councillor Willie Young, the secretary of the opposition Labour group, described the offer as “fool’s gold.”
He claimed: “In our view it shows that the project hasn’t been costed properly otherwise he wouldn’t have had to come out with this offer and dug deep into his pocket again.
“It’s an admission that the costs put to the council are unsustainable.”