Q Why is a new exhibition and conference facility needed?
The current AECC is constrained in the type and scale of events it can hold and, because of its age it is becoming increasingly challenging for the venue to keep up with a growing demand for large-scale events in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen's aspiration, as a leading world energy city and main economic driver for the UK economy, is to continue to be able to host major business and entertainment events and to attract more of them to the North-east. However, for a number of reasons, including the height of and age of the building, the type and size of events which the AECC can accommodate is limited.
Significant investment would be required to maintain the existing facility, and the site presents space restrictions. The proposed new facility will be much larger, on a larger site, and will be better suited to host an annual programme of events similar to that aspired to by other exhibition and conference centres across the UK, Europe and beyond.
Q Did local people have a say in what is developed?
Yes. Three rounds of public consultation events which involved thousands of members of the public took place on the master plan for the new site at Bucksburn, the development framework for the Bridge of Don site and the design of AECC. For the master plan and development framework, participants were asked to give their views on the proposed uses and general site layouts, access arrangements and landscaping. The consultation for AECC building sought views on the detail of the building. Views gathered during the consultations were taken into account by the developers and the council.
Q What else will be built on the Bucksburn site, other than the new exhibition and conference facility?
The Bucksburn masterplan, which has now been approved by Aberdeen City Council, contains the following uses:
Q Why is the new exhibition and conference facility being built on this particular site?
Henry Boot Developments identified the site as a potential location during the tender process and concluded that with its location close to the Airport, the new Western Peripheral Route and Dyce train station, that it would be ideal for a conference venue. Internationally, many conference and convention venues are located near airports and main arterial routes, so this option gives Aberdeen a superb chance to relocate the AECC to a much more convenient home – which has enough space within it to expand in future years should the need arise.
Q Is it true that the development will be built on the airport flightpath?
No that’s not true. The building sits south east of the flightpath, with the height and position of the building dictated to some extent by the airport radar and operations of the airport.
Q When is work on the new exhibition and conference centre due to start and finish?
Work began on site in July 2016. The new facility will be fully operational in time to host Offshore Europe 2019.
Q Wasn’t it meant to be complete by 2017?
The original completion date was late 2017. However in 2015 the project team, including Council representatives decided to make some changes to the design of the new facility, including changing the shape of the main arena, improving access and arrival, and greater flexibility for the conference spaces. We incorporated learnings from global best practice from other highly successful venues, so that this new facility can compete with world-leading arenas and exhibition centres, allowing Aberdeen to attract international conferences and events.
While this has meant a change to the original completion date, the project team strongly believes that it is worth it in order to deliver a world-class facility for Aberdeen and the north east.
Q Were these design changes a result of changing the architects for the project midway through the process?
No. We had always intended to have two sets of architects – design architects and delivery architects. This approach is standard practice in the industry. The first, Sasan Bell, is the design architect and Keppie Design is the delivery architect. Keppie Design has a proven track record in delivering large scale projects such as this, having fulfilled a similar role very successfully at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow
Q When will the existing AECC close?
Business as usual will prevail at the AECC right up until the move to the new facility takes place.
Q Who will build the new facility?
The main contractor for the new facility will be Robertson Construction, a company with roots in the north east of Scotland and who have a fantastic track record. Read more here
Q What will the new building be called?
The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA)
Q Will the new building be run by the same company that operates the current AECC?
No. The new facility will be operated by leading world-wide venue management company SMG. SMG was selected by Aberdeen City Council’s Policy & Resources Committee in December 2016 as the preferred bidder to manage and operate the new and existing Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.
SMG operates more than 240 entertainment, sports, conference and exhibition venues across the US, Canada, Europe, South America and Asia.
Q Which hotels will be on site?
Aberdeen City Council and Hilton Worldwide have now signed a franchise licence agreement to open a new 200 room Hilton Hotels & Resorts property in 2019 at the new AECC. Hilton Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre is set to be the fourth Hilton property in the city, will connect directly to the new AECC and is expected to create approximately 350 jobs. There will also be a 150-bedroom Aloft Hotel - the first in Scotland - which is currently under construction.
Q What will the capacity of the new facility be?
The new facility will be able to hold 12,500 people (or 10,000 for all-seated performances) within the arena.
Q What is the energy centre?
As a key component in this project’s goal to deliver the most sustainable venue of its type in the UK, an energy centre will be the renewable energy solution for the new exhibition and conference centre, providing it with low carbon renewable energy.
The new exhibition and conference centre will have a multi-functional energy centre that uses local renewable resources and advanced technologies to produce an energy eco-system. Local crops and Aberdeen’s farm and food waste will provide resource efficient energy for the building and potentially the masterplan and wider area.
The gas produced from waste will be fed into the combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) plant to provide local heating, cooling and power.
Q Is the energy centre safe?
The energy centre will be very safe. Rigorous industry and national standards will be applied and strictly adhered to.
Q Does the energy centre include an incinerator?
Large scale incineration has been ruled out for this project.
On-site waste may be converted to energy in an anaerobic digester that produces biogas. The gas is similar to natural gas and will be used in the CHP units.
Q How is the Council addressing the potential congestion that traffic will generate around the new location, particularly at times when travelling to and from shows?
The Council is acutely aware of the challenges that traffic congestion in Aberdeen presents at particular times of the day and in certain areas. A key part of the project team’s remit is to deal with the relevant authorities and bodies dealing with traffic planning in the city and surrounding district so that the resulting solution for the AECC is joined up with other initiatives, including plans for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the new Airport Link Road.
Q What roads improvements will HBD be required to carry out?
We undertook a number of traffic surveys that we have used to model the future network and allow us to mitigate the increased traffic numbers that the development may generate. Plans at this stage propose that a new dual lane access road will be created within the site accessed from a new junction off Dyce Drive. The new road will bring pedestrians & cycles through to the heart of the site. There will also be a secondary “left in-left out” access from the A96 that will link into the internal estate roads.
Q How many cars will the new AECC generate at peak times and how will the roads cope?
These are questions that will be considered as part of the transport planning exercise that is integral to the overall project plan, with the team working in partnership with all other relevant organisations and bodies in Aberdeen tasked with ensuring transport provision for the AECC – and the other developments taking place in and around the city – is fit for future demand.
Q What will public transport provision be?
Bus routes in the vicinity of the site have been reviewed and consideration has been given to how public transport would access and exit the site. Onsite provision for buses would enhance public transport accessibility and lead to shorter walking routes to the AECC and proposed office developments. Buses would be able to access the site via Dyce Drive (to/from City Centre, Airport), A96 (to/ from City Centre), Wellheads Drive (to/from airport, Dyce Station). Bus stops would be located on internal access roads, as required, to facilitate convenient access to the AECC entrance. Options for buses entering the site and for routes within the site will be further discussed with Aberdeen City Council and bus operators.
Q Will the new AECC open before the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route is complete?
The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route will significantly improve the flow of traffic in and around the city and will be welcomed by local people and visitors to Aberdeenshire once opened. Its opening will undoubtedly benefit the AECC at Bucksburn.
Q Is this not an environmentally sensitive site with lots of wildlife on it?
No. Sites that have been used for agriculture tend not to be environmentally sensitive. Having said that, we still undertook a full environmental audit to ensure there was nothing sensitive that requires consideration and an ecologist has been an integral part of our team. Our plans for the site incorporate new buildings sitting within a parkland landscape which will ensure that green spaces continue to be an important aspect of it. We should not forget either that this has been a working site with building and laboratories on it for many years already, so a change in use should not cause significant change in relation to this.
Q Why are you diverting the burn and what is the impact of this?
The diversion is necessary as it runs through the centre of the building footprint as proposed – however, this diversion will bring with it an added benefit of reducing flood risk and creating an area of environmental improvement for the site.
It should also be noted that the burn had previously been diverted a number of years ago so it is not being moved from its original path in this work.
Q Will you be cutting down trees?
As part of a programme of preparatory work on the site prior to construction beginning, the trees have already been removed from site, many of which were not in great condition. By way of mitigation, as part of the new development there will be an extensive replanting programme which will significantly increase and enhance the tree cover on the site. More than 30,000 shrubs and trees will be planted in the Burn Parkland alone, which will include native species such as Wych Elm. The public spaces around the new buildings will also feature ornamental landscaping, which will further enhance the appearance of the area.
Q I see you have closed Core Path 4 which runs through the site during the construction period. Why? How long will it be closed for?
This is due to the fact that it is part of the construction site and therefore is closed for health and safety reasons. As part of our development proposals this path will be improved and reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.
Q What about noise that the complex will bring to the area?
Noise prevention is high on the project team’s agenda and has been factored into the design and construction of this state of the art facility. Consideration will be given both to minimising noise emanating from the new facility and blocking out external noise from the neighbouring airport and A96.
PLANNING ISSUES – SITE SPECIFIC
Q Why are you building this on a greenfield site?
This is not a greenfield site – it was already zoned in the local development plan for employment use. It provides the best option for new conference/exhibition centre and accommodation facilities in the vicinity of Aberdeen and has been selected following careful consideration of all available sites in the area. A key feature of the new AECC facility will be the extensive landscaped area within which it will be set, which will be developed to the highest standards.
Q How was the Council allowed to give itself planning permission?
This situation is not unique to Aberdeen – any city which is developing its infrastructure finds itself in this situation. Stringent and transparent governance is in place for all planning processes and they apply to this proposed redevelopment in the same way as any others. The planning authority ensured that robust procedures were followed in respect of all planning matters, which were determined in full accordance with planning legislation. Also, strictly speaking, HBD was the applicant and had to go through the same process as any other major planning application. In fact, it could be argued that the Council’s interest resulted in a greater degree of scrutiny than would have ordinarily been the case.
THE EXISTING AECC BRIDGE OF DON SITE
Q What is happening to the current site?
The site of the existing AECC lies in an area of predominantly residential and business use in Bridge of Don and extends approximately 50 acres. The proposed Local Development Plan (2016), published for consultation by Aberdeen City Council on 20 March 2015, identified the site as a redevelopment opportunity suitable for mixed use development.
The existing site will be developed/sold as part of the deal which has been brokered to finance the redevelopment project. After extensive public consultation, a Development Framework for the site was approved by Aberdeen City Council in October 2015.
Q Why can’t it be built on the existing site?
When considering a redevelopment opportunity of this magnitude it is vital to look at all the potential options it presents. Therefore Aberdeen City Council took the opportunity to consider other available sites in and around the city, particularly sites that are larger in size and will allow development both now and in the future.
Accessibility was also an important consideration. The site which has been chosen in Dyce is near Aberdeen Airport and its location on the periphery of the city will mean that once open for business visitors will not necessarily have to travel through the city centre to get there – making it easier no matter what where they are coming from.
The location next to the airport will also mean that it can be reached in a matter of minutes by those flying into Aberdeen for work and leisure events being held at the new facility.
Q What happens to the other buildings at Bridge of Don eg current hotels and office blocks?
The other buildings at the Bridge of Don location are in separate ownership from the AECC and will be unaffected by this project.
Q Given that the current AECC operates at a loss why is this significant investment being made in a failing business?
In the current financial year it is expected that the AECC will return to profit and that this will continue in years to come.
It is true that in 2012/13 the AECC suffered a shortfall of £800,000, but both Aberdeen City Council and the management team of the AECC are firmly behind the plans to invest in a new facility as it is essential to the infrastructure needed to promote Aberdeen as the energy capital of Europe. The AECC is a key element of the business structure needed to promote Aberdeen as a World Energy City and the Energy Capital of Europe.
Missed opportunities such as failing to secure megastars such as Beyonce to perform in the North East because the current venue is too small have impacted on the business, so a larger, fit-for-purpose complex will ensure that Aberdeen is back on the map for major concert and entertainment tours.
It will also ensure that Aberdeen can continue to host the ever-growing Offshore Europe event and that the city can attract other exhibitions and showcases of that size and stature going forward.
Exhibition centres across the UK and beyond traditionally require public subsidies, but are also major drivers for the wider local economy. The most recent figures for the AECC show it was a catalyst for bringing more than £50million of business into the North East of Scotland last year.
Q How much money is being invested by the Council?
Aberdeen City Council will invest £81.6m which will go towards the energy centre and one of the hotels. The new facility is forecast to pay for itself over the lifetime of the project.
Q Is this not just a PFI/PPP deal that rips off taxpayers?
Absolutely not. This is a redevelopment project that is essential for the future of Aberdeen as a city with ambition to grow and develop from the strong position that it currently occupies within the Scottish and UK economies – and far beyond.
Q Who is in charge of the project?
Henry Boot Developments and Aberdeen City Council are joint venture partners on the project. Henry Boot Developments was selected as Aberdeen City Council’s development partner in October 2013 following an extensive selection process.
Q How can the Council be a partner in this and also be the planning authority?
This situation is not unique to Aberdeen – any city which is developing its infrastructure finds itself in this situation. Stringent and transparent governance is in place for all planning processes and they apply to this proposed redevelopment in the same way as any others.
Q What was the process to select HBD?
The Council entered into a procurement process to select a development partner through a competitive dialogue which required participants to develop a fully-costed and viable detailed development solution either on-site or at a new location off-site.
On and off-site solutions were considered for the new venue. The proposed new AECC will be a mixed-use development which includes increased exhibition and conference space and a four-star hotel, as well as car parking facilities.
The evaluation of the final tender submissions was considered in terms of four key evaluation criteria: financial and commercial; project design; project delivery; and legal and contractual.
HENRY BOOT DEVELOPMENTS
Q Who is Henry Boot Developments?
Henry Boot Developments Ltd is the principal property development arm of Henry Boot PLC, a London Stock Exchange-listed company concerned with all aspects of construction and property development.
It has operated for more than 125 years and is also actively involved in strategic land management, construction and plant hire. The company is based in Sheffield and has regional offices in Bristol, Glasgow, London and Manchester.
Q Do HBD have a track record in this type and scale of development?
Yes. Henry Boot Developments is involved in all types of commercial property development activities including the development of business and industrial parks, supermarkets, non-food retail developments and city centre mixed use schemes - with this impressive track record going back over 100 years.
For example, in 1936 Charles Boot (son of Henry) designed the world-famous Pinewood Studios at Hetherden Hall, Iver, Buckinghamshire. Based on the best US film studio practice and layout, the considerable work - including in-house design - was completed within a period of only 12 months.
As World War Two approached the company was expanding and during that time was involved in the construction of Welwyn Garden City. 1939 saw the commencement of a further spate of work for the Navy, Army and Air Force, including aerodromes, ordnance factory buildings and hospital camps (including what is now Haven Holidays Pwllheli) all of which were contracts where time was of the essence.
Henry Boot also played a part, together with the country’s other major top 20 contractors, in the monumental construction of the Mulberry and Gooseberry Harbours for use in the invasion of Europe on D-Day, 6 June 1944.
In 1985 Henry Boot was proud to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement after the acquisition of Thos W Ward (Railway Engineers) Limited, with this accolade followed in 1986 by the marking of the company’s centenary.
Q Why did Strathcona House have to be demolished?
We all want this venue to be a huge success – both commercially, and in terms of providing a second-to-none visitor experience. This project is vital to the economy of Aberdeen and the North East. Over the next ten years, the new AECC is expected to contribute an additional £4.5 million visitors, £113 million of visitor spend and £63m net GVA to the Scottish economy. It will also create jobs - 549 jobs at the new facility over a 10 year period, and a further 600 construction jobs per year during the initial construction period of three years. The 4th development phase of the project, which is due to be built from 2019 – 2028, could create 60,000sq.m. of office space and 6,000sq.m of leisure space, supporting a further 3,055 jobs.
If it has the world-class design that is currently proposed, the new AECC will be able to compete on an international scale. It will elevate Aberdeen into the top 5 of global competitor energy cities for conferences and exhibitions. It will improve and widen the range and choice of cultural and entertainment events that can take place in Aberdeen. It will provide a ‘state of the art’ facility that will attract more major artists to the venue making it an integral part of the recognised national and international touring circuit. That’s why we have taken on board best practice from around the world, including the SSE Hydro which is now one of the most successful venues in the world, and improved the design accordingly.
Put simply, if the design is not the best it can possibly be, the venue will not be the success that it should be.
With the new design proposals and all the improvements they bring, Strathcona House would have been positioned at the back of the new facility, so would have sat within the unattractive location of the service yard. This would have restricted access for heavy goods vehicles and would also have posed a health and safety risk as there would be the potential for members of the public coming into contact with these extremely large vehicles. As a result of these health and safety issues, we have no longer included it in our plans.
Q But Strathcona House was a well-loved building, couldn’t it have been used for another purpose, perhaps a hotel?
Unfortunately not. We suggested the House as an additional venue to the three companies involved with at the AECC and even as a renovated venue, they do not have any requirement for this additional space or venue. The House would be remote from their other facilities and is not needed by any of the three companies.
We have also suggested that one of these companies could have potentially taken over the running of Strathcona House in order to convert and renovate it for another purpose, and none of them were interested in doing so as it would be remote and is not required. It is important to mention that the building is in need extensive renovation, and performs poorly in terms of energy (its Energy Performance Certificate rating is F – Very Poor).
In light of the proposed changes to the new AECC building and in the knowledge that Strathcona House was to be removed, the site plan was amended with the result that the new facility now stands on top of the space that Strathcona House occupies.
Q Wasn't Strathcona House a listed building?
No, Strathcona House, was not a listed building.
Q The site at Bucksburn is huge. Why couldn’t you just have moved the proposed new AECC building a bit, to allow room for Strathcona House to be kept?
If Strathcona House had been retained, the new AECC and the rest of the Masterplan would have had to either move north, north-East or north-West in order to provide the space required for safe and secure service/ loading.
A full explanation of the impact of moving the proposed building, together with diagrams, can be found in Appendix E of the masterplan document, which is available to download at http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/masterplanning/
Q What will happen to the beautiful stained glass windows and stone at Strathcona House?
The windows will be displayed in the new Rowett Institute. The stone will be re-used as part of the new exhibition and conference centre project.
AECC CONSULTATION RESULTS
Download the 'Rowett North, Bucksburn Pre Application Consultation Report' as issued in May 2015 >