We’ll put up cash if you back Aberdeen Union Terrace garden, say seven bosses
SEVEN businessmen have pledged to make substantial donations to the scheme to transform Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens – provided the council backs the controversial project in a vote tomorrow.
The seven have also announced they will spearhead the drive to raise £15 million in private-sector funding and another potential £15m in endowments for the £140m City Garden Project being championed by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood.
The seven include Martin Gilbert, the chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, Stewart Milne, the chairman of Aberdeen FC and head of the Stewart Milne Group, and Douglas Craig, chairman and managing director of the Craig Group, a leading oil service company.
Mr Craig said: “As a businessman who has grown up, studied and prospered here in Aberdeen, I have a responsibility for the next generation and the generation after that to help secure the best possible future for them.
“I am totally behind the City Garden Project and, if it goes ahead, will be making a substantial financial contribution, as well as actively fundraising to reach the overall target.”
Mr Gilbert said one of the biggest challenges facing the North- east economy was the need to anchor the international energy industry in the city for the long term and to retain the current workforce and attract new entrants.
He said: “An attractive and vibrant city centre with greatly enhanced cultural and entertainment facilities that the City Garden proposes will help mitigate this risk.”
Mr Milne said he was confident the £15m in private donations would be secured, provided the project got the green light from the city council.
He said: “There has been much talk and concern about securing the outstanding £15m from private investors, but speaking to other business in and around Aberdeen I am confident this will not be an issue. But naturally there is a reluctance to come out and support a project which is hanging in the balance.
“Should the initiative go ahead, then that is the time that names and pledges will come forward and this group will be instrumental in ensuring the money is pledged.”
Meanwhile, opposition group Friends of Union Terrace Gardens have announced they will request permission to address the council meeting, where the final vote on the Union Terrace Gardens scheme is said to be “too close to call”.
Mike Shepherd, chairman of the protest group, said they planned to challenge the business case for the council borrowing £92m through a tax incremental finance scheme (TIF) to part-fund the city regeneration scheme.
Mr Shepherd said: “There appears to be an enormous £35m funding gap that blows a major hole in the credibility of the business report.
“The report does not give any detailed costings for any of the projects.
“Aberdeen Council’s finances are the RMS Titanic and the City Garden Project is the iceberg on the horizon. Time to change course and avoid disaster.”
He added: “A modern-style park marks the end of the Granite City as we know it. The idea that Aberdeen is an unattractive city and that this will deter companies coming here is utterly hollow. Oil companies are money-making machines and will stay in a given location as long as their projects return cash.”.