It’s been a long time coming, but the Market Square Community Garden barriers have come down and the garden is open for everyone to enjoy. It has been wonderful to see people enjoying the seats and surroundings in good weather and bad since the garden opened up. Watch the video to see the transformation of this formally forgotten space.
From start to finish…
From conception to completion the garden is a product of collaboration of local groups and businesses – truly by Stonehaven, for Stonehaven.
In May 2020 the Aberdeenshire Council Phoenix Fund was announced and the Stonehaven Business Association (SBA) took the lead to apply for this £10,000 of funding for a collaborative project that would benefit Stonehaven coming out of the Covid crisis. The thought was to do something positive with this money that would have longevity for the benefit of the town.
Along with the other members of the Stonehaven Town Centre Improvement Group (STCIG) – Stonehaven Town Partnership (STP), Horizon Group, the Men’s Shed and the Kincardine and Mearns Area Office – and after a lot of discussion and bouncing around of numerous ideas, claiming back a corner of the Market Square as a civic space came to prominence. Local architect, Nikki Ritchie of Hyve Architects came up with an imaginative concept, taking its influence from the curves of swinging fireballs and the planting by the Stonehaven Horizon Group echoing this with a vibrant orange, red and yellow colour palette. We were dreaming big but as funds were limited the Men’s Shed were consulted as to the feasibility of volunteers being able to build it.
Luckily at that moment, in Sept 2020 the Scottish Government Town Centres Fund (SGTCF) was announced for large capital investment, transformative projects in town centres. This enabled us to contemplate using a contractor for the build and be able to be more ambitious with our plans. The SBA again took the lead in applying for this funding.
Confirmation of funding came through from the Phoenix Fund in Oct 2020 for £10,000 and the SGTCF a month later in Nov 2020 for £51,698. With funding secured, this meant that it was all systems GO!
Public consultation via social media, posters, The Bellman and letter drops to businesses and town centre residents were organised but a hoped for drop in at Hy! was unable to go ahead due to Covid restrictions and lockdowns.
The prepared design and design statement were submitted for Planning Permission in late November but we had to wait until the February 2021 K&M Area Meeting for councillors to discuss and approve the plans. It proved to be a tense meeting with the decision going to a vote which was narrowly won to approve the plans! We were very grateful to our local Ward 18 councillors for tipping the balance on approving the garden.
One of the terms of the funding and planning was that a constituted group take on a lease for the ground from Aberdeenshire Council. The Stonehaven Town Partnership (STP) stepped up to the plate to take this on to secure the garden for the people of Stonehaven.
Contracts for work were signed in March 2021 and after some unavoidable delays with red tape on approval of materials, supply issues and the lease being signed in late July 2021, our contractor Bridgefield Services Ltd broke ground on 9th August.
The work going on behind the barriers generated a lot of interest, especially when the larch posts went up! The Bridgefield team made excellent progress with the posts and ground coverings while the planters and benches were busy being constructed off site at Hutchison Plant Services Ltd at Redcloak.
With the build started the Horizon Group commenced their search for plants at local garden centres, wanting to source plants and spend their budget locally as well as to actually see the plants before buying. Their chosen scheme of perennial planting to echo the colours of the fireballs in oranges, yellows and reds posed some problems with supply but they persevered and covered many miles and repeat journeys to be sure to get quality plants for the project.
The long planters went in late September and Horizon jumped in to plant, giving us a tantalising preview of what the final garden would look like. The final part of the puzzle, the circular planters were installed and again, Horizon’s planting crew flew into action, completing the planting scheme in record time! Creative Core’s logo and credits plaques finished off the planters nicely.
The barriers came down on the very rainy Saturday 2nd October 2021 and after a quick power wash and clean up the garden was revealed for all to see and enjoy. The good people of Stonehaven came and admired the work done, praising the workmanship and planting. Well deserved compliments we think!
Our local MSP, Mairi Gougeon will be coming to officially open the garden on Friday 29th October at 11am
(Edited to amend official opening date from 15th to 29th October 2021)
Previously in The Bellman