Aberdeen reveals £2.9bn City Region Deal bid
A £2.9 billion joint public and private sector bid for major investment from the UK and Scottish governments, coupled with new-borrowing powers, has been aimed at transforming transport links, housing and infrastructure in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.
Backers of the growth plan believe the ambitious proposals could help the north-east keep pace with rivals on the world energy stage’.
With the North Sea energy industry reeling from the global slump in oil prices Aberdeen’s is facing tougher competition for investment against other energy cities including Houston, Calgary, Dubai and Stavanger.
Many of the projects involved the Granite City’s investment drive remain subject to negotiation but transport is regarded as one of the key elements of the plan which civic chiefs believe can help anchor energy companies to the region for the longterm while improving the city’s image as an attractive place to live.
It is understood that a network of super-fast bus-only roads would be introduced to help speed up commuter times and five new train stations could also be built at locations around the city including Bucksburn, Kittybrewster, Cove, Newtonhill.
A further station is also planned for the new site of the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre near the airport.
Other than transport plans, the establishing of a “World Energy City” centre for training the next generation of workers and improving digital connectivity in the region have also been discussed.
Jenny Stanning, external affairs manager of Oil and Gas UK, said the north-east needed further spending on housing, transport and infrastructure to keep pace with its global rivals.
“These cities aren’t standing still”, she said.
“You only have to land at Stavanger Airport and drive to the city to see what has been invested into the road network, housing, office space and the airport hub itself.
“Without this investment, we worry that the Aberdeen area could limit the growth of the industry in this country.”
The Aberdeen City Region Deal has taken more than two years to complete. Glasgow became the first Scottish area to secure the status.
Each agreement is different depending on the needs of the area, but all aim to provide extra ways of boosting growth, including direct funding, greater borrowing powers, control of transport budgets and the ability to develop specialised skills programmes.
It is due to win the support of councillors at both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council over the next week, and will then pass to Westminster and Holyrood for consideration. It could take about two years for both governments to approve funding.
Those behind the plan say every penny invested in Aberdeen’s infrastructure through new borrowing will be fed back into the Treasury through tax payments from companies who invest and commit to the area.
Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “This is about making sure that we can anchor the industry and its supply chain locally for many years to come. Despite Aberdeen being a booming economy, it is apparent that a lack of public sector investment is holding back private sector investment.”
Jim Gifford, leader of Aberdeenshire Council, said the Aberdeen City Region Deal was a “fantastic” opportunity.
He said: “We are a very successful prosperous area but if we don’t do something about it, there is a fair chance we are not going to be like this for very long. The benefit that could come from this is huge and it is a benefit that will last long into the future.”