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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

St Fittick’s Park on chopping block- despite making up just three percent of ETZ

Councillors vow to move forward with leasing the property as threats of legal action emerge.


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Campaigners gathered outside the Town House on Monday, calling councillors to remove St Fittick's Park from the ETZ. Image Credit: Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Aberdeen City Council have pushed forward with plans to redevelop St Fittick’s Park in Torry.


Despite protestations by the local authority's Labour group, councillors voted 32-12 to begin discussions about leasing St Fittick’s to energy group ETZ Ltd, who want to build an industrial park on the site.


Despite the park making up less than three percent of the proposed Energy Transition Zone (ETZ), councillors argued that the entire project would be jeopardised if this “keystone” site was removed.


Bosses at ETZ Ltd, backed by Sir Ian Wood, have insisted that St Fittick’s must be included in the development, as it provides direct quayside access to Aberdeen South Harbour.


However, members of the Torry community have resisted the planned development for years- raising concerns over negative environmental and health outcomes.


Under current plans, up to one-third of the park could be bulldozed to make way for office space.


What exactly were councillors voting on?


Councillors voted on whether or not to begin exploring leasing options for the site.


SNP and Lib Dems councillors voted to allow council officers to begin looking for a leasing partner, generally understood to be ETZ Ltd.


The administration were joined by Conservative members after agreeing to an amendment, which the Tories say will ensure that any future leases are not approved until so-called “community benefit packages” are reviewed.


Labour: Proposed benefit packages are "pie in the sky ideas"


However, this compromise did not placate Labour councillors, who voted to remove St Fittick’s Park from the ETZ altogether.


Cllr Simon Watson (Torry/Ferryhill) must have had lunch on his mind, as he utilised several food-related phrases to express his derision.


Cllr Watson labelled the SNP-Conservative motion as “pie in the sky,” adding: “Quines and loons may live in hen houses, but we all know this is chicken feed.


"There are some things that money can’t buy, and a healthy life is one of them.”


Conservative Cllr Michael Kuzsnir (Torry/Ferryhill) also dissented from the decision, telling the chamber that the development of St Fittick’s would be disastrous for his constituents.


He commented: “As a councillor, I have a duty to the city and to my specific ward. I recognise the potential benefit to the city of leasing out the site… but the impact to the Torry part of my ward would be severe.


“Torry, after all, has limited green spaces, which I do feel have an air of underinvestment.”


Efforts to save St Fittick’s Park branded as a “dangerous agenda”


Fellow ward member Cllr Lee Fairfull accused the pair of using the lives of Torry residents to engage in a “dangerous agenda”- and insisted that community benefits would properly compensate those who will have to make “sacrifices.”


She was joined by fellow SNP Cllr Christian Allard, who also represents Torry and Ferryhill.


Despite stressing that the decision was not final, the Council co-leader told colleagues:


“We are where we are and we have to move on and give clear instructions to our officers.”


Just three years prior, Labour and Conservative councillors voted to remove environmental protections from St Fittick's- over the objections of Cllr Allard and his SNP colleagues.


Now, the tables appear to have turned.


Protestors return to the Town House


Prior to the meeting, protestors gathered outside Aberdeen Town House- a common sight in recent months.


When asked why St Fittick’s needed to be preserved, campaigner Richard Caie told us: "It's a beautiful green space. It serves a huge number of people… It's so important for biodiversity."


Dr Adrian Crofton, who works at Torry Medical Practice, also attended the rally.


He warned of negative health impacts if the park is redeveloped- a concern in an area where residents live a decade less, on average, than those in Aberdeen’s richest neighbourhoods.


He told us: "To take away the last remaining green space from an area that faces some of the highest levels of deprivation in all of the North of Scotland seems very regressive."


Could Council chiefs be taken to court AGAIN?


Just hours after the vote, Glasgow-based Govan Law Centre announced that their solicitors were exploring the possibility of “raising urgent proceedings” at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.


Govan Law Centre previously represented library and pool campaigners, who recently settled with the Council out of court in exchange for a battery of impact assessments and community consultations.


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