I love to shop.

Not online shopping, actual shopping where you can see and feel and smell all the goods in front of you.

But it’s a pastime I have not really been able to enjoy in Aberdeen for some time now.

A swift walk around the city centre and anyone can tell the impact the last few years have had on retail.

While yes, empty units line the Granite Mile, it extends way beyond being a Union Street problem… Our once-bustling shopping centres sit almost like empty shells.

In the last few weeks, there has been talk of the Trinity Centre going on the market – even as the owners of the Bon Accord Centre enter administration.

It is true retail was suffering at the hands of online shopping long before Covid, but the pandemic has now accelerated the pace at which the sector is declining.

And with Paperchase understood to be leaving Union Square, not even it is safe from the downturn.

Aberdeen City Council made it quite clear purchasing the Trinity Centre is not an option on the table – despite planners suggesting it might aid the regeneration of Union Street.

Norco House, better known as the John Lewis building, is currently languishing on the market.

And if there are no takers for the Bon Accord Centre (and St Nicholas Centre), we could soon find ourselves with three huge city centre spaces lying empty – and with no plan to deal with it.

Like the commercial property market in Aberdeen, the retail and leisure sector is suffering from a significant oversupply of available accommodation, coupled with weak demand.

And the cost of living crisis is only going to make this situation worse.

I would say, sadly so, that it would be naive to think these centres have much life left in them.

But could it be that the potential departure of our once loved malls could lead to the regeneration of our High Streets?

Many people blame the creation of the Bon Accord Centre for the decline in George Street.

Once famed for being home to a hive of local businesses, the street quickly became almost forgotten by shoppers who found all they could under one roof when it opened in 1990.

Union Street undoubtedly suffered due to the opening of Union Square – with people coming into the city on train or bus having all they needed in one place, and no need to head on into town.

Major retailers like Waterstones and Boots now occupy space in these centres, it could be that their closure brings those big name brands back to the High Street.

But there needs to be a plan.

The council hopes its current city centre and beach masterplan means we are to be more than just a shopping destination.

They know and understand that retail will never be what it once was.

But the blueprints were drawn up long before the city was faced with the prospect of three empty shopping centres, and so their potential decline has been ignored.

There has to be some matter of urgency around finding proper solutions to the decline in our city centre – which I do not feel has been shown to date.

For a start, if we are to avoid becoming a ghost town, priority has to be given to encouraging more people into the centre to live and work.

Pedestrianisation of Union Street was ruled out. Discussions around turning Norco House into a Natural History Museum stalled almost instantly after being raised.

What IS actually being done?

Works have long been underway to transform Union Terrace Gardens – along with more empty commercial units.

And the creation of a food market earmarked for the old BHS site – and even more empty units – can not fix this city alone.

Aberdeen needs a proper plan. A more detailed plan and the people need to know what it is.

While it is hard to contemplate the decline of these centres, it makes it the perfect time to prepare for our city’s future.

Regeneration is needed not only for our residents but to encourage more people to come to visit.

So now is the perfect opportunity to do it and do it well. We have an almost blank canvas to reimagine our city, to prepare it for the future and we should not let this opportunity pass.

We can’t be caught by surprise again. When John Lewis announced it was closing the city was left flailing, fighting a losing battle to keep it open.

If the worst happens with the shopping centres, we need to be ready to step in with immediate action.

Rebecca Buchan is City and Shire Team Leader for The Press & Journal and Evening Express

Already a subscriber? Sign in

QOSHE - Rebecca Buchan: Could the death of shopping centres benefit Aberdeen’s battered city centre? - Rebecca Buchan
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Rebecca Buchan: Could the death of shopping centres benefit Aberdeen’s battered city centre?

3 8 1
07.09.2022

I love to shop.

Not online shopping, actual shopping where you can see and feel and smell all the goods in front of you.

But it’s a pastime I have not really been able to enjoy in Aberdeen for some time now.

A swift walk around the city centre and anyone can tell the impact the last few years have had on retail.

While yes, empty units line the Granite Mile, it extends way beyond being a Union Street problem… Our once-bustling shopping centres sit almost like empty shells.

In the last few weeks, there has been talk of the Trinity Centre going on the market – even as the owners of the Bon Accord Centre enter administration.

It is true retail was suffering at the hands of online shopping long before Covid, but the pandemic has now accelerated the pace at which the sector is declining.

And with Paperchase understood to be leaving Union Square, not even it is safe from the downturn.

Aberdeen City Council made it quite clear purchasing the Trinity Centre is not an option on the table – despite planners suggesting it might aid the regeneration of Union Street.

Norco House, better known........

© Evening Express


Get it on Google Play