Andy Wightman reports today on what will hopefully be a game-changer in the saga of Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens, where the city council is trying its hardest to turn a venerable green space; the city's green heart and lungs, into another dull modernist blank - or as they are so pleased to call it, a "granite web" - against the stated wishes of a majority of Aberdonians.
The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens explains that: "Aberdeen City Council and an un-elected quango, ACSEF, want to pass ownership of the gardens to a private company and replace them with a large concrete structure. "
"ACSEF alone has cost over half a million pounds of public money so far, despite claiming to be funded by both the public and private sector."
But these expensively mis-laid plans may now crumble as they run smack bang into a legal obstacle which they cannot trample rough-shod. As the report (PDF) makes clear:
"If any part of Union Terrace Gardens ceases to be a recreational park dedicated to public use and/or it is disposed of by way of a lease or sale to a third party, then, as part of the City’s common good, Aberdeen City Council will require the consent of the courts. This will involve the Council raising a petition in either the Sheriff Court or the Court of Session. In the paper presented to the Council in October 2010, a timetable is presented for the development of the City Garden Project. Nowhere in this timetable is there provision for presentation of a petition to the courts for approval to dispose of common good land. This may be because the Council do not consider this necessary or because they are, as yet, unaware of the necessity of doing so ..."
NB., as clarified to the Scottish Parliament on 17 November 2006, "The Common Good originated as revenues from properties belonging to the early Burghs of Scotland. The Common Good, as these revenues were then termed, is of great antiquity and there is no equivalent in English local government although the term remains current in Scotland. Essentially, the Common Good denoted all property of a Burgh not acquired under statutory powers or held under special trusts."