06 July 2023

Aberdeenshire Council hosts UK ministerial tour of north-east Levelling Up projects and local ports

Aberdeenshire Council hosted a UK Government ministerial visit to the north-east today (Thurs, July 6).

Councillors and officers were delighted to welcome Felicity Buchan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Fraserburgh-born Ms Buchan toured the Macduff Marine Aquarium operated by Live Life Aberdeenshire and the site of the new Peterhead Cultural Quarter which are in receipt of £20m in Levelling Up Fund monies.

She also took time to take a tour of Macduff Harbour before meeting with representatives of both Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners and Peterhead Port Authority.

A total of 10 projects in Scotland were 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.

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

The Minister was impressed by the popular Macduff Aquarium and took a keen interest in the proposed developments which will feature a significant modernisation of the existing attraction to improve the visitor experience and include expanded exhibits and enhanced facilities.

Plans are also being prepared for the addition of an upper floor to accommodate a new café with an outdoor seating platform with views out to sea.

The project will also involve an external revamp of the building, a new children’s play area and path links along the coastline.     

Around the coast at Peterhead, Ms Buchan took the opportunity to visit the existing Arbuthnot Museum and Library, the disused Arbuthnot House and the town’s wider Conservation Area.

In Peterhead, the creation of a new cultural quarter seeks to revitalise the heart of Peterhead 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 workshop spaces would support participation and learning, whilst a new dedicated facility will attract temporary national exhibitions. The facility will include 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 on the town’s St Peter Street – which will be renamed to reflect the close connections with Scottish-American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie who helped fund construction of the original building - will be restored, with multiple future uses of the building currently being investigated.

Council Leader Cllr Gillian Owen said: “I was delighted to welcome Minister Felicity Buchan to the north-east of Scotland which enabled her to see for herself the exciting Banff and Buchan constituency projects in Macduff and Peterhead being supported by the Levelling Up Fund.

“Through this funding we will be able to enhance, develop and future-proof our tourist and cultural offerings in the north of the region which will have tremendous benefits for the wider economy of Aberdeenshire.”

Commenting on the two projects, Deputy Leader and chair of the council’s Communities Committee, Cllr Anne Stirling, added: “This ambitious cultural quarter project in the very heart of Peterhead town centre 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.

“And for Macduff Marine Aquarium – which is, of course, a much-loved visitor attraction operated by Live Life Aberdeenshire – it will enable us to sensitively develop the facility while maintaining its charm, expand upon its important educational role and really develop the aquarium’s full potential.”