13 February 2023

Aberdeenshire Council formally accepts offer of £20million for Macduff and Peterhead projects

Aberdeenshire Council has formally accepted the offer of £20million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

The region’s bid - “Cultural Tides: North Sea Connections in Aberdeenshire” - focuses on the renovation and extension of Macduff Marine Aquarium and the development of a cultural quarter in Peterhead centred around the vacant Arbuthnot House.

Projects will provide facilities for education, health and wellbeing activities through improving infrastructure and modernising the council’s estate.

During discussion on Thursday (Feb 9), there was widespread support for the projects which will provide significant benefits not just for the two towns but for the whole of Aberdeenshire.

Members also approved an allocation of council match funding and welcomed development of an external funding strategy to support delivery of the projects.

Under the council’s plans, a significant modernisation of the existing aquarium at Macduff will improve the visitor experience and include expanded exhibits and enhanced facilities. A spectacular two-storey extension will take advantage of coastal views and include a new café-restaurant, education suite and community space. The £5.7million project will also involve an external revamp of the building, a new children’s play area and path links along the coastline.     

In Peterhead, £18million will be invested in the creation of a new ‘cultural quarter’ which will revitalise the former civic heart of the port by transforming the disused Arbuthnot House into a new destination museum and cultural hub. The historic building will be sensitively restored and a striking new extension will house both the town’s library and a new regional museum showcasing Aberdeenshire’s extensive historical collections and artwork.  

Multi-purpose and workshop spaces will support participation and learning, whilst a new dedicated facility will attract temporary national exhibitions. The facility will also feature a café and restaurant with views of the harbour, and the building’s former walled garden will be transformed into a new public green space.  

The existing Arbuthnot Museum and Library building on the town’s St Peter Street are also being restored and converted under the plans to create a vibrant cultural venue with live entertainment space and dance/music studios on the upper floor.

Council Leader Cllr Mark Findlater said: “I’m delighted that our bid - which was of an exceptionally high standard - was successful and we will now begin the process of developing a cultural quarter in Peterhead and forging forward with an extension to our already successful Macduff Marine Aquarium. These innovative, ambitious projects will support the north-east economy through the enhancement of the tourism offering across Aberdeenshire and provide opportunities for businesses which are to be greatly welcomed.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Anne Stirling added: “Our valuable experience within Live Life Aberdeenshire of developing and running effective facilities such as Macduff Aquarium together with the vision from our Economic Development staff has been recognised through the award of this £20million grant. This is a very exciting opportunity for Aberdeenshire Council and while we recognise there will be challenges along the way, there will also be tremendous opportunities to create sustainable facilities with local involvement, jobs and supply chains.”

A total of 10 projects in Scotland have been allocated more than £177 million from round two of the Levelling Up Fund which will enable projects to create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally.

Councillors and officers recently host Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister John Lamont, in Peterhead where he congratulated the authority on its successful submission.