Public fights against loss of vital park for green development in North East Scotland

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Proposals were presented to create a state-of-the-art Energy Transition Zone (ETZ) that would be linked to a new port expansion project in Aberdeen that aims to tackle climate change and create jobs away from the oil industry. and gas.

ETZ will be dedicated to ‘high value added’ activities related to the clean energy industry, including offshore wind, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage technologies, and could create 2,500 jobs in the industry. ‘by 2030.

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The developers behind the plans, including businessman and philanthropist Sir Ian Wood and Opportunity North East, have identified land occupied by a popular park on the outskirts of town as crucial to the success of the ETZ, providing the necessary access to the new South Harbor project.

St Fittick Park, home to award-winning wetlands and reed beds and a myriad of wildlife, is the last public green space serving the community of Torry on the outskirts of Aberdeen – the region is one of the most disadvantaged Scotland, where residents have a 13-year shorter life expectancy than those living in the city’s wealthier areas

But residents and health professionals are warning people living in the nearby town of Torry, one of Scotland’s most deprived areas, will be even more disadvantaged if their local park is razed.

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St Fittick Park is popular and well used by a wide variety of people in the area.

A small green space rich in nature, it is home to award-winning wetlands and reed beds and diverse wildlife – including 43 species of nesting birds, some very rare or endangered, numerous amphibians, insects and mammals, such as otters, as well as more than 115 types of plants.

The Friends of St Fittick’s Park campaign group is fighting against proposals that would see their “last green space” developed as part of an energy transition zone dedicated to low carbon technologies

It borders Torry, where the life expectancies of some residents are 13 years shorter than those in the wealthier neighborhoods of Aberdeen.

The town, once a full-fledged village, is today surrounded by two marinas, an industrial zone, a railway line, landfills, a wastewater treatment plant, an incinerator under construction. , a regional waste treatment facility and one of Scotland’s busiest roads.

A campaign group, Friends of St Fittick’s Park, has been formed to fight against ETZ’s plans.

Now 22 doctors, nurses and healthcare workers from across Aberdeen have joined the battle to save the 18-acre park, writing an open letter highlighting the health and wellness benefits of going out into the wild and warning of the impacts. potentially serious for residents if the park has been lost.

Requisitioning this last remaining green space would be “highly unfair”, they say.

“Removing St Fittick’s would add ‘green poverty’ to the existing list of deprivations the community is already struggling with,” the letter said.

“Most of the accommodation here is of poor quality: small, damp and affected by noise and light pollution.

“Residents frequently complain of high levels of exposure to antisocial behavior.

“On the other hand, many patients and staff at Torry Medical Practice tell us how access to St Fittick’s green space has helped them with their physical and mental health.

“This is where they walk and where their children and grandchildren play.

“It is a lovely and peaceful place, where you can escape the pressures of everyday life, walk, jog or sit quietly and discover nature.”

He concludes: “The people of Torry and the services that support them are working hard to address the health gaps that plague the region; removing this latter green space would definitely undermine these efforts.

The loss of St Fittick’s would be “a retrograde step in the fight against health inequalities”, they say.

And the place is much more than a recreation area, according to Ian Baird, a local resident and Friends of St Fittick’s Park activist.

“It’s a very complex ecosystem with forests and wetlands,” he said.

“It functions as an urban lung and a carbon sink and functions as a sustainable drainage system in a location that would otherwise be prone to flooding.

“It supports the mental and physical health of residents of high-rise buildings and sheltered housing who have no other access to green spaces or gardens.

“It’s a children’s playground, widely used by dog ​​walkers, naturalists and runners.

“It already functions as a space that simultaneously serves the needs of the locality, harbors wildlife and contributes to global sustainability. “

Biologist David Hunter, who heads private conservation firm Habitat People, has been monitoring the site’s wildlife for four years.

He said: “This is the last green corner of Torry, which was once known as the Garden City, and is literally the garden of thousands of people in apartments adjacent to the park that do not have private gardens.

“The destruction of this site would be an ecological, social and environmental disaster like Donald Trump’s golf course in Aberdeenshire, only affecting more people.

“From what we have all learned from the lockdown, spaces like this are vital to the physical and mental health of residents in increasingly tense times. “

Mr Baird added: “The societal value of open spaces, greenery, good air quality and absence of noise is increasingly understood in preserving the resilience of individuals when other negative factors – lack of income, inadequate housing and poor health – prevail, but instead the area feels like a sacrificial zone.

“Although the ETZ is promoted by its supporters as providing jobs and the incinerator comes with a district heating network to reduce fuel poverty, everyone in Aberdeen knows full well that no other park in the city would be requisitioned for industrial purposes and any suggestion of building an incinerator near a primary school in the greenest parts of the city would be unthinkable.

ETZ CEO Maggie McGinlay insisted that local concerns would be listened to when developing the master plan, with ongoing community consultation.

She said the non-profit company was “fully committed to ensuring that access to public green spaces is a key priority”.

She added, “We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the benefits of the project are widespread and deeply felt by the citizens who live and work near the project. “

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