3 minute read

Resisting an unjust transition in Torry, Aberdeen

By Scott Herrett, Just Transition Organiser

The Friends of St. Fittick’s Park’s campaign aims to protect the greenspaces in and around Torry from unjust corporate land grabs, with a particular focus on the last accessible greenspace in Torry, St. Fittick’s Park. I’ve been working to directly support the Aberdeen based campaign ever since I started my job with Friends of the Earth Scotland as a Just Transition Organiser in 2021, and they are still resisting today

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St Fitticks Park is a beautiful wild park in Torry full of diverse nature. It is the only green space in walking distance for many people and has been described by locals as a “sanctuary” and by ecologists as “irreplaceable” Yet, the local residents who enjoy it are having to fight to protect it

The park is under threat from a private land grab under the guise of an Energy Transition Zone, backed by Aberdeen City Council, and oil tycoon Ian Wood While there’s no doubt we need to transition away from fossil fuels urgently, we must do so in a way that’s fair to communities. The injustice the people of Torry are facing is a clear example of what needs to be avoided

When I first arrived in Aberdeen in 2016, I was shocked to find a city where hardly anyone was taking the climate crisis seriously, in particular the role the city has in its relationship to the oil industry The industry employs a lot of people here and combined with that fact that the downturn a few years earlier had led to many people losing their jobs and their homes, it was a difficult subject to approach.

My arrival coincided with the plans for Aberdeen’s new south harbour being approved The visitor centre and associated publicity was all about accommodating cruise ships and decommissioning efforts in the North Sea, but there was no mention of energy transition or how it could happen fairly. I later learnt that this new harbour is really all about moving oil supply boats that moor in the city centre, to free up space for profitable waterside developments

Fast forward to 2019: the IPCC report came out and the climate movement grew beyond anything we’d seen before, with Extinction Rebellion coordinating mass civil disobedience and school kids across the country taking part in school strikes. The media shifted in the way it covered climate issues, and environmental issues became more mainstream. All of a sudden, the social license to produce oil and gas was being eroded.

Back to St. Fittick’s Park, it was in this context that Ian Wood announced his new company Energy Transition Zone Ltd (ETZ Ltd). The ‘energy transition zone’ is described as a plan to build sites for turbine manufacturing, research, development, testing and deployment; with significant opportunities in offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, in the hope that this will encourage ‘green’ companies to come to the area ETZ Ltd carried out a feasibility study to find land for the so-called ‘energy transition zone’ It identified land left abandoned by the oil industry and land around the new harbour that includes the thriving greenspace and wetland of St. Fittick’s Park. When planning permission for the new harbour was granted, it was on the condition that the greenspaces around the harbour would be left and enhanced

The story of how much has been dumped on the people of Torry over the past 50 years is a sorry one, but it needs repeating time and again while the community is facing further injustice. Homes were demolished in the 60s to make way for a harbour extension, the community was burdened with a toxic open landfill bordering the south, later a sewage treatment works was built next to the park. Torry has noise and air pollution from two industrial estates, as well as one of Scotland’s most polluting roads to the west. In recent years the Bay of Nigg has been destroyed to make way for new harbour, and a massive new waste incinerator is about to start up only 400 yards from the local primary school.

The proposed Local Development Plan –that included changes to pave the way for St. Fittick’s Park and surrounding greenspace to be industrialised – has now been adopted by the city council after being given the greenlight from the Scottish planning minster, Joe

Fitzpatrick

In the weeks and months to come, it’s likely that the main developer will submit a formal planning application to Aberdeen City Council – so even with the Scottish Government giving the green light to the local development plan there are still many opportunities to oppose this unjust plan through the local planning process, as well as potential legal routes

The transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels is an opportunity to create a better society and protect the poorest from climate impacts. If the transition is led by people and communities, they can ensure it is truly fair and meets their needs. What we’re seeing in Torry is the opposite of that

The ‘transition’ plans being imposed on the Torry community are far from just, or even green. They show a blatant disregard and lack of engagement with the communities that should be at the heart of the transition.