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Aberdeen City Council: Shell’s plans for £25million new HQ recommended for approval

13/09/06

Shell UK Exploration’s proposals for a new £25 million headquarters in Aberdeen are being recommended for approval.

The nine-storey building would have a triangular footprint and be situated close to Shell’s existing Tullos headquarters on a 1.25-hectare site of which a large part is used for car parking.

The site is on the east side of Wellington Road, opposite the junction with Craigshaw Drive. To the north is East Tullos Industrial Estate and to the east is Loirston Country Park, with Nigg Caravan Park immediately to the south. Access is via Wellington Road, with a secondary entrance from Altens Farm Road.

In her report to next week’s (Thursday 21 September) meeting of Aberdeen City Council’s planning committee, Head of Planning and Infrastructure Dr Margaret Bochel says that Shell is seeking detailed consent for the building which would accommodate 950 staff and be “unique in Aberdeen in terms of its shape and contemporary design”.

The nine-storey block would have a floor space of 13,602 square metres with a maximum height of 40.4 metres. The Wellington Road façade would be 111 metres long. The two lower floors would be partially underground and used for parking, a service yard, plant room and restaurant.

“Above these will be seven floors of office accommodation,” says Dr Bochel. “The building has been designed in a contemporary style and will be finished mostly in glass, with polished granite panels used on part of the facades.”

The building will comprise office accommodation, a large open atrium with dining facilities, a coffee shop, informal meeting area and exhibition space.

A total of 305 car parking spaces are proposed, most of them under the building and a landscaped terrace. Access would be via the existing Wellington Road entrance.

Dr Bochel says that the council’s roads department finds the car parking level acceptable but — in accordance with the transport assessment submitted in support of the application — says improvements would be required at the junctions of Wellington Road/West Tullos Road and Abbotswell Road/Craigshaw Drive. A green transport plan would also be required.

Environmental health says that further investigation into possible contamination issues would be required, and conditions should be applied requiring submission of a noise assessment together with details of the restaurant extraction system.

There were no representations.

In her evaluation of the proposal, Dr Bochel says that the proposed building accords with planning policy and “the acceptability of the proposal is dependent on the development being satisfactory in terms of the siting, design and external appearance of the building, the means of access thereto, the impact on the adjacent road network and car parking”.

She continues: “The development is a vital project for the economy of Aberdeen as it will enable Shell UK to adapt to the changing circumstances in the oil sector, maintain a major presence in the city and develop modern, commercially desirable offices commensurate with the needs of the 21st century.

“The new offices will enable staff growth and the relocation of existing Shell staff from their offices at Seafield House at Hill of Rubislaw. It is anticipated that the building will accommodate some 950 employees.”

Dr Bochel says that a design statement has been submitted in support of the application, describing the vision as being to create a transparent “statement” building “’showcasing the inner workings of the organisation to the wider community and passers-by’.”

The triangular shape will, says Dr Bochel, “result in a very dramatic building. In particular, the sharp edge at the north corner of the building and the glazed, full-height atrium on the Wellington Road elevation, are strong architectural statements.

“It is likely to be a showcase development emphasising the international significance of Aberdeen in the energy industry.”

She says that although the building will be considerably higher that those nearby, this is acceptable given the context of the site and will not breach the skyline from the majority of public viewpoints.

The transport assessment submitted in support of the application concludes that the road network can accommodate extra traffic generated by the development and says the applicant has agreed to make the  improvements needed to the Wellington Road/West Tullos Road and Abbotswell Road/Craigshaw Drive junctions.

The 305 car parking spaces which would be provided is fewer than the 558 allowed but “as part of Shell UK’s commitment to green travel initiatives it was considered appropriate to provide less than the maximum in order to encourage more sustainable travel to the development”.

A green travel plan has been produced which includes a travel plan co-ordinator, provision of travel information, measures to promote cycling and walking, the use of public transport and car sharing. “Updating and expanding on these initiatives, together with the proposed level of car parking, should ensure that the development would be adequately accessible to all employees,” says Dr Bochel.

She says the nearest residential properties are 180 metres to the south at Craig Park and Nigg Park Road and the amenity of these residents would not be affected.

Recommending approval subject to conditions, Dr Bochel says: “The proposal complies with the development plan and national guidance. There is also support from the Finalised Aberdeen Local Plan.

“The proposal is for a high-quality prestigious development that will consolidate and enhance Aberdeen’s status as an international centre in the energy industry.

“It demonstrates Shell’s commitment to Aberdeen and the north-east and must be welcomed.”
 
Recommended conditions include:

– submission and approval of the improvement schemes to the two road junctions
– submission  and approval of a detailed landscaping scheme
– submission and approval of a survey investigating possible contamination
– submission and approval of a noise assessment
– submission and approval of the means of filtering, extracting and dispersing cooking fumes
– submission and approval of a green transport plan

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