Beachfront masterplan part of £1bn Aberdeen revamp to rival Sydney

A beachfront masterplan is part of Aberdeen’s £1 billion city centre overhaul.  Proposals suggest the Scottish city’s beachfront could rival those of Barcelona and Sydney.

The aim is to make the waterfront area a ‘gateway’ destination which will bring in both tourists and north-east locals reports The Press and Journal. Aberdeen, known as The Granite City, has previously depended on its oil and gas industries but now there are moves to turn it into a tourist destination.

A well-designed city beachfront undoubtedly brings social, economic and environmental benefits to a city.  Examples include waterfronts in Barcelona, Bournemouth, Helsinki, Lisbon, Sydney and Baltimore.

Grahame Paterson, CEO of the Transition Extreme sports centre in Aberdeen, says city beach plans would help make the city a better place to work and live. A key part of the city’s tourism strategy lies in a focus on adventure tourism. Visit Aberdeenshire has recently unveiled its strategy to increase visitor spend in the area to £1 billion a year by 2023.

“If you look at Nice, Barcelona, Helsinki and other places, the waterfront is a really important asset that makes those cities great places to work, live and visit,” says Paterson. “We need to use all of its assets – and the beach area is without a doubt one of Aberdeen’s greatest assets.”

Transition Extreme opened in 2007. It currently has a skate park and climbing facilities but is on the verge of revealing plans for a major expansion. Paterson hopes that other businesses and investors will think about the huge untapped potential of the beachfront. “We need to work together to create a true masterplan vision for how the beach will fit into and improve Aberdeen’s future economy,” he says.

Other projects in the pipeline

The Greyhope Bay Project is located at the southern side of the harbour at Torry Battery. The project hopes to construct a £10 million wildlife spotting centre around Aberdeen’s famous dolphin population.

North-east business group Opportunity North East recently proposed a boardwalk from the city centre to beach, in the style of New York’s High Line.

Paterson points to the success of projects such as The Kelpies and the Eden Project which have created huge increases in tourism in their local area. He calls for something similar for Aberdeen. One option, he points out, would be the creation of an adventure sports-focused complex.

Chris Foy, chief executive of Visit Aberdeenshire, agrees that Aberdeen’s sandy beaches are a unique asset. “The close proximity of the beach front to the city centre makes Aberdeen stand out compared to other UK city break destinations,” he says.

Progress still needs to be made

The Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce pointed out that progress still needs to be made to solidify the north-east economy.

“There is a significant amount of work being done by a range of public and private organisations across the region,” says a spokesperson. “More than £9 billion worth of investment is being made into ensuring the north-east is a place where people want to live, work, study and visit but we are not the finished article yet.”

She acknowledged that the shoreline could bring more tourism to the region. “We are fortunate to have such a fantastic natural resource as the beach so close to our city centre. The Aberdeen city beach is an area of undeniable natural beauty, attracting leisure and thrill seekers alike, come rain, hail or shine. It’s currently a public space enjoyed by many, but it has the potential to be so much more.”

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