£333m Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre approved


Plans for Aberdeen’s new £333 million Exhibition and Conference Centre have been approved after councillors agreed new proposals reducing the public cost of the facility.

Developer Henry Boot will build a new exhibition centre, two hotels and clean energy power station in Dyce.

Councillors backed the plans at a full meeting of Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday afternoon.

The income streams identified to cover the costs of the new development reduce the cost of the facility to an average £100,000 per year over a 35-year strip lease, as opposed to £1.55m per annum for the exhibition and conference centre and one hotel in plans presented to council in October 2013. At the end of the lease, the council will be entitled to purchase the AECC development, including the land, for £1.

The annual subsidy paid for the existing facility will not be required for the new AECC, saving the council £1.3m per annum.

Officers had been instructed to investigate methods of reducing the financial exposure of a new AECC to the city council, which had previously been put forward as £54.1m over 35 years. They identified a range of income streams, including the development’s two hotels, car parking and energy centre.

The development costs of £333m have been significantly offset by the income streams – calculations of which have been based, in part, on industry standard occupancy figures for the hotels. The two hotels – one four-star and the other 3½-star – will provide up to 350 rooms on the site and be operated by a third party management company. The energy centre will provide enough electricity, heating and cooling for the entire site, including a proposed business park, while the anaerobic digestion plant will generate an income by feeding biomethane into the gas grid.

The scheme was approved unanimously under the condition that any change in the AECC’s budget is reported at a future council meeting.

Council leader Jenny Laing said: “I am absolutely delighted that the financial proposals for the new AECC have been approved. The new AECC represents a significant but very affordable investment for the city.

“It is an exciting development for the city and will provide a potential step change for the future by providing a modern and fit-for-purpose facility.

“This new development will showcase Aberdeen as a global destination for business and leisure tourism by delivering a level of sustainability and design excellence that will be fundamental to strengthening Aberdeen’s international profile.

“The AECC will provide an opportunity for Aberdeen to capitalise on the potential for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, entertainment and banqueting markets locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.”

Aberdeen City Council chief executive Angela Scott added: “The AECC generates more than £80m for the north east economy each year and approximately £140m in Offshore Europe years.

“But the existing centre is no longer fit for purpose or big enough to accommodate the growing industry conferences or entertainment events. Without a new facility, there is no doubt Aberdeen will lose out on these events and the significant economic benefits they bring.”

The project will replace the existing AECC at the Bridge of Don, which was built in 1985.

A mixed-use housing scheme will be built on the site of the existing AECC in the Bridge of Don.

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