In response to community consultation and increased visitor numbers, the Accessible Aden Project focuses on improvements which both enhance and improve the quality and accessibility of the park’s toilet and parking provisions.
The Aden project – which is due to be completed in July – will also see the introduction of bicycle stands and eight new electric vehicle charging points aimed at promoting and encouraging low-carbon sustainable transport options.
Managed by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the RTIF was created to improve the quality of the visitor experience in rural parts of Scotland which have faced pressure due to increased visitor numbers.
It aims to reduce the impact of visitor numbers on local communities and facilities.
Pressure on Aden’s existing facilities has been mounting over the last few years which was exacerbated throughout the pandemic. With visitor numbers increasing rapidly, the existing park and toilet facilities are now showing the strain of additional use.
Aden Country Park is a haven for individuals and families to socially-distance themselves, a place for play or exercise, a venue for respite, or simply a resource which allows people to easily engage with heritage, nature and wildlife.
Consultation with visitors and the wider Buchan community helped identify that the toilet and parking facilities do not match visitor expectations and there is a need for fully accessible Changing Places toilet provisions along with improved disabled parking.
Changing Places toilet facilities are essential for more than 240,000 disabled people in the UK and their families including people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, muscle-wasting conditions, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, as well as those who have suffered major physical trauma, who have had a head injury or stroke, as well as some older people.
Standard accessible toilets meet the needs of some disabled people but not all and the number of people who need access to Changing Places accessible toilets is increasing rapidly. Some families and carers are often unable to go out and do the things many of us take for granted because they rely on Changing Places toilets which are often unavailable.
Cllr Norman Smith, chair of the Buchan Area Committee, said: “Once again we are delighted to receive such significant funding to further improve the facilities at Aden Country Park which remains a real jewel in the north-east crown. The team at Aden have listened carefully to what visitors have said and the provision of Changes Places facilities will not only increase the standard toilet and baby changing provision, but will promote equality of access which far exceeds the minimum accessibility standards.”
Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, added: “I would like to congratulate Aden Country Park on its successful funding bid and thank VisitScotland for supporting such a worthwhile scheme of improvements. In addition to the vastly-improved toilets facilities, the addition of cycling amenities and new electric vehicle charging points very much dovetail with Aberdeenshire Council’s wider commitment to sustainable transport and active travel options.”
Caroline Warburton, regional leadership director at VisitScotland, said: “I’m pleased to see work begin at Aden Country Park on the new facilities, which will improve accessibility and promote ‘green’ travel. The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is an important part of Scotland becoming a sustainable tourism destination. It was created to make improvements in areas experiencing high visitor numbers, for the benefit of both visitors and the wider community. We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and projects like the one at Aden Country Park will ensure our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.”
In total the Accessible Aden RTIF Project will cost £671,779, with RTIF money covering £375,000. The remaining match funding contributions is from developer obligations, the Buchan Area Committee Grants Scheme, and investment from the Aberdeenshire Council Landscape, Property & Facilities, and Transportation Services.
To-date, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has awarded £9 million of grant funding to 45 projects across rural Scotland, since the start of the Fund in 2018.
For more information on RTIF, please visit https://www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/funding/rural-tourism-infrastructure-fund