Multi-million pound bid for Union Street buildings agreed

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Aberdeen City Council is to bid for £1.5million of funding from Historic Environment Scotland to help repair and preserve key buildings on Union Street.

The money would go towards a Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS).

As well as approving the bid today, Full Council agreed in principal to release up to £1.5million of necessary match funding from the City Centre Masterplan budget – a potential investment of £3million if the bid is successful.

A CARS programme would make a significant contribution to delivering improvements in Union Street as part of the suite of initiatives identified in the City Centre Masterplan.

Aberdeen City Council convener of the Finance, Policy and Resources committee Councillor Willie Young said: “The decision to bid for funding – which would involve matching it with our own money – signals the Council’s determination to bring Union Street back to its former glory.

“This comes ahead of Operation Union Street Rejuvenation, which will see the Council spending more than £1 million improving the streetscape under the City Centre Masterplan, working alongside Aberdeen Inspired.

“Preserving and enhancing our outstanding heritage is part of the Masterplan’s vision of a city for the 21st Century. The Council will make the strongest possible case for support for a CARS programme from Historic Environment Scotland.”

Funding would be used for the restoration of roofs and frontages as well as the reinstatement of architectural features and shopfronts. Conditions would be attached to the awarding of grants for individual buildings, including a commitment to future maintenance of the properties.

The programme of repairs would be carried out over five year period, with a project manager recruited to oversee the work.

Cllr Young said: “For a variety of reasons some Union Street buildings have fallen into disuse, especially the upper floors, and deteriorated as a result.

“A CARS programme would help make them sound again through working in partnership with owners and occupiers.”

A CARS programme would provide benefits to residents and businesses on Union Street, and have a wider city, regional and national impact by improving the condition of Aberdeen’s main street for visitors and investors too. In addition it would support the Shaping Aberdeen strategy, which has a focus on regeneration, housing, digital connectivity, transport, and skills.

Aberdeen City Heritage Trust and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired supported the application for a CARS bid in principle. Their respective boards will consider how best to support the development of any programme, whether by direct financial contribution, projects supporting the programme, or by contribution in kind.

Councillor Barney Crocket, vice-chairman of Aberdeen City Heritage Trust, said: “Aberdeen City Heritage Trust has been supporting repair in the city over the past decade.

“It supports the principle of further focused repair investment in Union Street, which is widely regarded as a street in need of improvement."

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “Aberdeen Inspired is delighted that an investment of this kind has been approved. It is one of our main aims to restore pride to Union Street and the CARS programme will bring tremendous benefits to residents and visitors on the thoroughfare.

“Union Street can still be the jewel in Aberdeen’s crown but organisations have to continue to work together to achieve this.”

Council officers are to report the outcome of the bid to a future meeting of the Finance, Policy and Resources Committee. It is expected that a decision will be made by Historic Environment Scotland towards the New Year.