Aberdeen plan a real thorn in Lennox's side

The singer is opposed to the makeover of her home city's Union Terrace Gardens
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The Independent Online

She has lent her powerful voice to some of the biggest humanitarian fights of the age, from the battle against Aids to demands for an end to Third World poverty. Now one of pop music's most successful and instantly recognisable divas is channelling her considerable campaigning zeal into a cause a little closer to home.

Annie Lennox yesterday lambasted plans to redevelop her native city of Aberdeen as architectural "vandalism". The singer, who left the Granite City in 1971 aged 16 to pursue her career at the Royal Academy of Music, has joined campaigners by fiercely criticising the proposed makeover of Union Terrace Gardens, describing them as "idiocy" and "madness".

Locals have attacked the scheme, being bankrolled by one of Aberdeen's richest businessmen, the oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood, for destroying the charm of the sunken green oasis and creating a Soviet-style civic plaza. Sir Ian has promised £50m of his own money to redevelop the site and raise the gardens to street level with the aim of returning it to popular use.

But writing on her MySpace blog, the former Eurythmics star, 55, said she would be adding her name to the more than 6,000 already included on a petition aiming to halt the plan, part of a £140m makeover of the city, and urged other Aberdonians to get involved.

She said: "For me, Union Terrace Gardens was, and still is, the green historical heart of the city. Like so many towns and cities all over the country, Aberdeen lost a great deal of its architectural heritage and charm through destruction by bulldozer and concrete.

"It made me sad then, and it still makes me sad. I hoped that this kind of 'vandalism' had peaked in the Sixties and Seventies, but for Aberdeen, it seems to be back with a vengeance. What idiocy and madness.

"Personally I think it should be down to the citizens of Aberdeen to decide whether they want to cover over the beautiful green heritage site at the heart if their city with concrete or not, I am only one voice, with one opinion, but perhaps my comments have helped to level up the debate, and take it out to the people themselves. There are just four weeks before a decision will be reached, and I would urge that everyone becomes proactive if they want to save Union Terrace Gardens".

Among the opponents to the scheme is Peacock Visual Arts, which had been granted full planning permission to build a £13.5m contemporary arts centre into the slopes of the gardens. Designed by the internationally celebrated architect Brisac Gonzalez, supporters have hailed the project as a potential Scottish Guggenheim which could regenerate the city as oil revenues decline.

The centre said it was "overwhelmed" by the singer's support. "Despite being a major international star, Annie's views still seem to reflect [those of] her fellow citizens of Aberdeen, who are inundating us daily with messages of concern about the future of their gardens and of Peacock," it added.

Tom Smith, the chairman of Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (Acsef), accused the "Sweet Dreams" singer, who has been based in London since 1971, of being out of touch.

Outlining his plans in 2008, Sir Ian, who is the chairman of one of Britain's biggest energy companies, the Wood Group, said he wanted to create a "cross between a grand Italian piazza and a mini Central Park". A two-month consultation on the scheme is due to end next month.