Blue sky thinking over Banchory

A GROUP of architecture students have been praised for coming up with some thought-provoking ideas for ways in which Banchory could develop in the future.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 17th March 2010, 9:38 am

Final year students from Robert Gordon University presented their suggestions at the Banchory and District Initiative's AGM last week following several months of study.

Re-establishing a train or tram link from Aberdeen to Ballater, improving the town's High Street for pedestrians and redesigning Scott Skinner Square were amongst the numerous ideas that the students have come up with.

Other suggestions included establishing path and cycle networks throughout the town, preserving and re-enforcing a 'green zone' between the town and the River Dee and allowing for sensitive town centre expansion to accommodate larger retail units along with a medical centre and other mixed uses.

BDI member Ian Fletcher found the students' "blue sky thinking" very refreshing.

He said: "I'm sure their ideas will get people speaking and that is what this whole exercise is about."

Architect Michael Gilmour, an industry mentor for the project, was pleased with the reception the students received.

He said: "I think the students were quite nervous about presenting their findings to the community for the first time but I think their ideas went down well. There was a lot of discussion and debate afterwards, which was what we were hoping for."

Mr Gilmour said the students' idea of reducing car parking on the High Street by widening the pavement on the south side stimulated some debate.

He added: "During their analysis the students found that people were more inclined to use the wider pavement on the north side and were more likely to stop and chat in groups there, unlike on the less spacious pavement on the south side where this doesn't seem to happen.

"They were perhaps going against the trend with this idea as a lot of people at the meeting seemed to suggest that there is currently not enough parking spaces in the centre of town. However we did look at the Bellfield Car Park where there was always parking spaces available – people just don't seem to want to park their car there and walk into town."

Banchory and Mid-Deeside councillor Linda Clark enjoyed listening to the students' suggestions for the town.

She said: "It was an excellent chance to hear the students' ideas, which are part of their notion for Banchory's future planning.

"We are lucky to have the chance to hear what these architects of the future think. Whilst we must always keep our feet on the ground, especially as elected members, we should expect courageous and innovative thinking from our students who can think and plan without inhibitions."

The RGU students will present their findings to the Banchory Town Forum next month with a consultation with the general public earmarked for May. It is hoped that after the ideas are discussed and debated by the community they could form the basis of a master plan for the town.

Local councillor Jill Webster said: "It is important that residents understand this is an academic study and that the ideas generated by the students are purely hypothetical, identifying all sorts of options for the town which could be possible but are not formal proposals at present.

"At this stage the suggestions should in no way be considered to be part of a formal adopted proposal for Banchory but they will act as a basis for discussion, debate and consultation with the community."

She added: "All of the ideas were interesting; many were innovative and visionary; others were undoubtedly controversial with some being more practical and realistic than others.

"It is enlightening to see different ideas coming from young people who can look at our town differently and this is useful input to the opinions of those of us who have lived here for years and are used to our surroundings.

"I look forward to the continuing debate in developing a vision for Banchory and to hearing residents' views on what has been produced so far."