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City centre business improvement district, Aberdeen Inspired, has today launched a campaign calling on those who back the pedestrianisation of the central section of Union Street to show their support ahead of the local elections.

As voters prepare to go to the polls in the local government elections on Thursday, Aberdeen Inspired is leading calls to new and re-elected councillors not to miss a major opportunity to “halt the further decline of Union Street and revitalise our city centre”.

The stretch of Union Street between Bridge Street and Market Street has been closed to traffic during the pandemic and it is hoped this will become permanent to allow a café culture to flourish and encourage businesses back into this section of the city’s main thoroughfare.

However, earlier this year councillors voted to reopen this part of Union Street to buses, taxis and bicycles.

The issue is expected to be debated at the next full meeting of Aberdeen City Council.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said it had polled its levy payers – eligible businesses in the BID footprint who pay an annual levy - on the issue of pedestrianisation earlier this year.

“The partial pedestrianisation of Union Street has generated widespread debate but we firmly believe it is the key to unlocking a brighter future for Aberdeen's city centre,” he said.

“Many of our levy payers agree that proper pedestrianisation of the 300m stretch of Union Street from Bridge Street to Market Street would pave the way for renewed investment, bring businesses back to that part of our main street and encourage the café culture we have enjoyed during the pandemic to grow and prosper.”

Mr Watson said concerns about accessibility could – and must – be addressed, citing other major locations which have successfully pedestrianised their town and city centres.

“These barriers have been overcome in every other major city in the UK and we need to work together to find viable solutions. This is an opportunity to halt the decline of our city centre that we simply cannot afford to miss,” he said.

As seen on artists’ impressions and computer-generated walk-through videos, supporters believe removing traffic and creating an attractive oasis will encourage people back into the city, increasing footfall and dwell time and creating reasons to visit again and again.

“As the city centre BID, we want to attract new hospitality operators, quality retailers and exciting new ventures, both filling units which are currently lying empty and benefiting from the wide space which would become available in the central area of Union Street,” said Mr Watson.

“What is in place currently was only ever intended to be temporary but it has opened up possibilities for a much bigger vision.

“There are already exciting developments coming with the redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens and the old BHS store and indoor market, which are all key to the wider City Centre Masterplan, and many of our levy payers and other partners believe there is huge potential to extend these to create a vibrant new area in the heart of our city centre.

“As we go to the polls this week for the local government elections, we encourage supporters to make their views known and we look forward to working with the new elected members to drive continued change for our city centre.”