Around 300 people attended a heated public meeting to discuss the future Aberdeen’s city centre gardents on Thursday night.
The two rival groups currently bidding to transform Union Terrace Gardens concluded the debate by agreeing a compromise could be reached.
Peacock Visual Arts want to build a contemporary arts centre in the existing grounds and had secured 75% of the funding to do so.
However an alternative proposal, headed by Scotland’s second wealthiest man Sir Ian Wood, would see the gardens transformed into a raised civic square area.
At the packed meeting, attended by many local residents in the Aberdeen Citadel, Sir Ian and his backers stated that his vision was necessary to encourage investment in the region after the North Sea oil runs out.
He told the congregation: “If we don’t act now, in 20 years we’ll be having this gathering again but the agenda will be what we intend to do to tackle unemployment.”
There was vocal opposition to the City Square Project from many in the audience.
Neil Rothnie of Schoolhill, Aberdeen said: "In 35 years we have had no rep theatre, no orchestra, not one single building produced by the oil industry that will last a year after they go. All of the money that has flowed from the North Sea is secreted under the mattresses of Bieldside."
Ellie Rothnie of Peacock Visual Arts sat along side Sir Ian and spoke of her hope that there could be a win-win situation for both sides.
Peacock had already secured planning permission and three quarters of the £13million required for its project when Sir Ian’s Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future-steered civic square project was mooted.
The plans have thrown Peacock’s vision into doubt as a major part of its funding was due to come from the Scottish Arts Council which will wind up next month.
Ms Rothnie said after the meeting: “I’d like to think that what came across tonight is that the aims of all the parties are absolutely aligned because we all want our city to be a better place.
“We currently have different solutions about how to get there and the trick would be to get an integrated approach that allowed all of these things to be achieved and to become more than a sum of their parts.
“Time is ticking. We have to use this funding or lose it I’m afraid and that’s an added pressure. That’s why we’re so desperate to get a compromise or integrated solution.”
Speaking after the meeting Sir Ian Wood refuted the opinion that the two bids were involved in a head-to-head contest.
He said: “The meeting went better than I thought it would. There’s been some very good communication in the last few days, particularly between Acsef, myself and Peacock.
“This is not the kind of competition that people are making it out to be. The winners in this, and I said this tonight, are not going to be Peacock or Acsef or Ian Wood, the winners are going to be the citizens of Aberdeen in 20 years time and they will have the right to choose.
“I’d like to think people went away with some fresh thoughts. I don’t think it moved the debate ahead because a lot of the people here – there was no changing their position, it was enshrined.
“I’ve made it clear all along, in terms of my participation in this, if the citizens of Aberdeen don’t want it – then that’s it, it won’t happen. What I do hope is that the citizens of Aberdeen show interest, investigate the facts and exercise their right to vote because this is there future we’re talking about.”
The Sir Ian Wood-backed City Square Project is currently the subject of a two month-long public consultation.