As the city bursts back into life after the festive break, it’s important to take the opportunity to wish a happy and prosperous New Year to all.
We must also place on record our sincere thanks for the dedication and commitment of all who worked tirelessly over the holiday period to provide care, support and vital services to residents and businesses. From our own Aberdeen City Council teams to our public sector partners in the emergency services and health profession as well as the third sector, the hard work never stops.
Those who have had the chance to take a break over Christmas and New Year will be returning to the familiar routine today and ready for all that 2020 brings.
January is always a time to look forward with enthusiasm for the year ahead and a period of reflection too.
For Aberdeen, the past 12-months have been incredibly significant – bringing unprecedented positive change in so many different and exciting ways.
The turn of the year brought the first performances at the lovingly restored Music Hall and the response to that project, supported by a £3million investment by the Council, was a great indication of the civic pride that Aberdeen’s transformation is fostering.
The first quarter of 2019 also brought a number of diverse but important developments across the city, from the roll-out of gigabit speed broadband through the £40m partnership with CityFibre and Vodafone to the rubber stamp for the pioneering £150m Energy from Waste facility which will help Aberdeen and our neighbouring local authorities continue on the journey towards a clean, green and sustainable future.
In March, despite the the challenges we face in terms of reduced funding and increased demand for Council services, we committed to once in a generation plans to provide an additional 2,000 new council homes, with almost half of those already delivered or under construction.
The spring also brought the news that the contractor for the £25.7m reimagination of Union Terrace Gardens had been appointed and work is well underway as the vision to create a contemporary, cosmopolitan city centre gathers pace.
That is about more than bricks and mortar – people are the beating heart of our city and our acclaimed events programme is helping to bring residents and visitors out in there numbers to embrace the cultural offering.
In May, thousands lined the streets as the Tour Series cycling showcased Aberdeen to great effect. The impact of these events, showing a 40% increase in footfall over other days, has contributed to boosting our credentials as a city that can deliver national and international events, and building on these foundations, we are able to compete for bigger events, such as the Tour of Britain which we will host this year and in 2021
As the summer rolled in, we were on site at Provost Skene’s House as construction began on the £3.8m pound project to create a unique visitor attraction sitting within the award-winning Marischal Square footprint.
July underlined our social inclusion agenda with the new multi-million pound community hub at Tillydrone completed, and a second in Torry moving into public consultation at the design stage.
In August the official opening of The Event Complex Aberdeen – representing more than £330m of investment by the Council – marked the most significant symbol of the huge change we are driving. From the economic significance of the inaugural event, Offshore Europe, to the glitz and glamour of BBC Sports Personality of the Year as well as countless sold out, record breaking concerts it is already proving a huge benefit to the region. A game changing project in so many ways.
Within weeks of opening the event complex we approved the next major roads infrastructure project in the South College Street area, a project that will further enhance connectivity in the city as the bypass becomes part and parcel of daily life, and the network will continue to evolve this year.
The autumn brought another red-letter day for the city, the region and the country as Aberdeen Art Gallery opened its doors to the public. More than £30m has been invested by the Council to create a world class visitor attraction that has earned the seal of approval from the national arts community and, most importantly of all, the visitors from near and far who have flocked to sample the expanded venue. More pieces from our fantastic collections are on display than ever before.
Before the 2019 was out, the community focus was underlined as Cruyff Court Neale Cooper was opened amid great fanfare at Tullos in December. Paying tribute to one of Aberdeen’s favourite sporting sons and giving the next generation an opportunity to play and flourish, it is an example of the focus on giving every young person the opportunity to fulfil their potential and help shape the future of their city.
Whichever way you look at it, 2019 proved to be a quite remarkable year.
For 2020 we can look forward to many, many more highlights – from new Council homes being delivered, new schools and community facilities taking shape and more vital strides forward in the anti-poverty strategy to vibrant events such as Spectra, Nuart and the Tour of Britain.
Aberdeen is no ordinary city and we’re incredibly proud of the achievements of the past 12-months. We’re also hugely excited about the opportunities in 2020 and look forward to what lays ahead.
Cllr Jenny Laing and Cllr Douglas Lumsden