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A History of Union Street, Aberdeen

Updated: Mar 1

Union Street in Aberdeen, Scotland is one of the city's main thoroughfares and has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. The street was built in the 1850s as part of a larger plan to improve the city's infrastructure and provide better access to the surrounding areas.

Union Street was designed to connect the north and south parts of the city and became a hub of commercial activity. The street was lined with shops, banks, and other businesses, and was considered one of the finest shopping destinations in Scotland.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Union Street underwent a period of significant development, with many of the buildings being reconstructed or expanded to meet the growing demand for commercial and retail space. The street also became a popular location for cinemas, music halls, and other forms of entertainment.

During the 20th century, Union Street continued to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the city. In the post-World War II era, the street underwent a period of modernization, with many of the old buildings being replaced by more modern structures. However, despite the changes, Union Street remained a vibrant and bustling commercial district, attracting visitors from across the region.

In recent years, Union Street has continued to play an important role in the city's cultural and commercial life, with many shops, restaurants, and other businesses remaining open and thriving. Today, Union Street is a bustling hub of activity, attracting visitors from across the country and around the world.

Unfortunately today, the Conservation Area status of Union Street has, arguably, had a detrimental effect on its condition.

The requirement imposed on property owners to maintain the external appearance of their properties, at the same time as the availability of tradesmen willing to carry out the work is effectively non-existent, has led to a street where one dare not look up. Do so and you will be met by the sorry sight of windows decaying in their frames and bushes growing out of roofs and guttering. It would appear the only things the Council are seeking to conserve are rot and decay.

The Council through its CARS scheme is partially redressing this problem through the issuance of lucrative grants to building contractors to convert dilapidated office buildings into modern private accommodation.

That may well be appreciated by the building contractors and the previous owners of offices that have baled out. Unfortunately it is of no use whatsoever to existing private residents or those that the Council is attempting to lure into the newly-created refurbished developments, given they are unable to access tradesmen to carry out external maintenance.

Tradesmen for private residents and small property owners are avoiding Union Street like the plague, due to the complexity of maintenance requirements - scaffolding regulations, inaccessibility for their vans and tools (which will be further hampered by the introduction of Low Emission Zones), and the ease of obtaining alternative work elsewhere. Unless the Council comes up with a realistic strategy that provides easy access to building maintenance for existing and future private residences, then Union Street will continue to look shabby and unloved.

Quite why Union Street has Conservation status is a mystery. The days when there was anything historic to conserve are long past, brought about by the Council's own planning hand. When one considers the highly unappealing aesthetic characteristics of the office block at 234 Union Street, the Capitol development and the forthcoming BHS replacement building, all of which have been approved by the Council in years gone by, these developments could hardly be described as conserving previous architecture.

Time will tell whether the Council will open its eyes to the long-term maintenance of Union Street, particularly for private residents, or simply continue to address the immediate moment, as if wearing blindfolds.

This article was generated by ChatGPT.

Union Street as now - an embarrassment to its past history
Union Street as now - an embarrassment to its past history

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