Opponents of plans to radically redesign the Piper Alpha memorial gardens at Hazlehead Park have applied for the site to be given special status by Scotland’s top heritage body.
If granted, the rose beds would appear on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes alongside places like Dunrobin Castle and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
And while the designation stops short of the statutory protections given to buildings that are listed, it would mean there would be extra steps before its appearance could be changed.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which runs the inventory, said any changes would need to be “based on a full understanding of significance”.
Earlier this year, the Pound for Piper Trust unveiled plans to transform the gardens that surround Sue Jane Taylor’s 31-year-old memorial to the lives lost in the 1988 Piper Alpha tragedy.
The £500,000 redesign would mean the flower beds, which contain 167 roses for each of the men who died in the world’s worst offshore disaster, would be changed to form two concentric circles with the statue at the centre.
Almost immediately, there was backlash to the proposal from some of the Piper Alpha families, who said they were not consulted and did not approve of the alterations.
A petition calling on Aberdeen City Council to keep it in its current condition has received more than 5,000 signatures since it was launched in May.
Opponents have also taken issue with an apparent “rebranding” of the area to the North Sea Memorial Garden. Still, the local authority claims that has been the official name since it opened in 1991.
What does the status application say?
The member of the public who sent the application to Historic Environment Scotland in June is not identified, but they make reference to a “large public outcry” over the redevelopment.
They continue: “Over 5,000 people local to Aberdeen signed a petition calling for the garden to remain as is, which goes some way towards demonstrating the historical and social values that Aberdonians specifically place on the Piper Alpha Memorial Garden.”
They also mention the significance of the garden as a gravesite, as the ashes of unidentified victims are interred within the central memorial.
A spokeswoman for HES said the organisation is in the early stages of recording the site, looking at the application, and “considering which type of designation, if any, would be right for the site”.
Officers from HES met with Aberdeen City Council’s environmental manager at Hazlehead Park on July 14.
What would the status mean for the Piper Alpha memorial?
More than 400 places across Scotland are listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.
They include some of the country’s most famous and celebrated green spaces, such as the Glasgow Necropolis and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.
Currently, there is only one area in Aberdeen on the inventory: Duthie Park.
The HES website it is consulted by planning authorities if they believe a development might affect a site on the inventory.
It says: “Like other parts of the historic environment, gardens and designed landscapes are a fragile and finite resource.
“They are vulnerable to a range of impacts that can diminish their value and potential.”
The status could help Aberdeen City Council find funding for the garden, as it decides whether to replant empty rose beds at a cost of at least £16,400.
The HES spokeswoman said: “We would be very happy to talk to the site’s managers about the options for enhancement, and whether there are options for funding.”