Families unhappy over redesign plans for Piper Alpha memorial

Families affected by the tragedy say they weren't consulted on the half a million pound redevelopment plans.

Concerns raised by families affected by offshore tragedy over Piper Alpha memorial redesign plans STV News
The Pound for Piper charity has launched a fundraising campaign to redesign the memorial.

Concerns have been raised over proposals which would see a major redesign of the Piper Alpha memorial garden in Aberdeen created to commemorate those who died in the offshore disaster.  

Last week a charity unveiled plans for a half a million pound redevelopment.  

But now, some of the families directly affected by the 1988 tragedy say they weren’t consulted and are unhappy with what’s being proposed.  

They are also upset at the possibility of money from oil and gas companies potentially being used to partly fund the redesign.

The memorial garden was created to a tribute to the 167 men who lost their lives in the disaster. 

The Pound for Piper charity has now launched a £500,000 fundraising campaign. 

It wants improved access to the site, additional seating, and flowers to be enjoyed all year round. 

Roy Thomson, one of the survivors of the tragedy, feels it should remain as it is. 

“They’re going to be moving roses out…I don’t know if they’re going back in. 

“It annoys me that – without being asked – I don’t know if any of the other families or survivors were asked – but they want to rip this up, redesign it – for what I don’t know – because there’s nothing wrong with it the way it is. 

“As time goes on the name Piper is going to be forgotten about and it is never going to be the Piper Alpha garden – it will be someone else’s garden.”   

Bob Ballantyne was another survivor of the offshore tragedy. 

Over the years, his family has sought solace in the gardens, particularly since Bob’s death in 2004. 

His widow, Pat, has concerns over the plans. 

“People are angry and upset because this has come as a bit of bolt from the blue,” she said. “Nobody knew about it. 

“We were not aware in any way that the plan was to have a big concrete circle around the memorial – where are the 167 roses in that concrete block.”  

“Remove the roses from around the memorial and suddenly you’ve lost what is an essential part of the Piper Alpha garden.” 

Mrs Ballantyne said there was also concern from some families that oil and gas companies were being asked to contribute to the fundraising campaign.

She said securing funding when the gardens and memorial were first set up was  “extremely difficult” and it had been hard to get commitments from some companies

“The families got donations, mostly of around £50 and one donation of £2,000, so that then meant they had to go everywhere they could to raise money – a substantial amount came from their own pockets.”

Steve Ray from the Pound for Piper charity also survived the disaster. 

He says the responses they’ve received have overwhelmingly been in favour of the project. 

“If we’d gone for consultation with the survivors and the bereft families, as well as the public, the process would taken an inordinately long period of time and I actually believe we wouldn’t have got to a different decision, because the overwhelming majority of responses we’ve had to the launch last week are very positive and supportive and congratulatory. 

“It’s been as it is for ten years, the grass is worn, the bench stances are getting worn. So there are reasons why we thought the timing was right.”  

In terms of funding he said he had asked “organisations and companies that have benefited from the extraction of oil and gas” for help.

“We think the public are under so much pressure with the cost of living, that it was unfair to go to the public who have been very generous in supporting us over the last 10 years.

“I felt it was the turn of the oil companies to create something extremely special, and most of those oil companies that operate in this region now had very little to do with what happened on the 6th July 1988.

“Many of the production companies in existence now are not the same companies, nor run by the same people, that were running those companies 30 years ago.”

Pound for Piper say it has been involved in discussion with Aberdeen City Council over the designs for the park, something it says has been positive and collaborative.  

The charity says work has not yet started on the redesign. 

It says it’s replied to those who have raised concerns and offered to discuss the issues with them.