The wraps have come off new accessible toilets at Aden Country Park as part of wider improvements to the north-east tourist attraction.
The new Changing Places facilities will provide greatly improved facilities for those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, and those with physical disabilities, such as muscle-wasting conditions, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
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.
The toilets form part of the Accessible Aden Project which is focusing on improvements to both enhance and improve the quality and accessibility of the park’s toilet and parking provisions. It was created in response to community consultation and increased visitor numbers.
Earlier this year, Aberdeenshire Council was successful in its £375,000 funding application to the VisitScotland Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund (RTIF), after a review of existing infrastructure at the north-east attraction.
In addition to the toilets, the Aden project will also see electrical upgrades, improvements to visitor parking, and the introduction of bicycle stands and eight new electric vehicle charging points aimed at promoting and encouraging low-carbon sustainable transport options. It is anticipated that the remaining improvements to facilities will be completed by the end of November.
Central Buchan councillor and vice-chair of the Buchan Area Committee, Anne Simpson, said: “I was hugely impressed with the improved facilities at Aden Country Park and the project team should be applauded for listening carefully to what our visitors have said in terms of both toilet provision and other facilities within the park. Aden Country Park is a haven for individuals and families alike, 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. It is a wonderful attraction for everyone to enjoy and I am delighted to see the provision of these Changes Places facilities promoting equality of access which far exceeds the minimum accessibility standards.”
Aden Project Co-ordinator Neil Shirran, added: “There had been mounting pressure on our existing facilities over the last few years which, of course, was exacerbated throughout the Covid pandemic. Our consultation with visitors and the wider Buchan community helped identify that the toilet and parking facilities did not match visitor expectations and there was a need for improvement. Further engagement with a local parent and careers accessibility group also helped to inform the need for fully accessible Changing Places toilet provisions along with improved disabled parking.”
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 and create a more collaborative and sustainable approach to infrastructure provision and long-term maintenance of local facilities for the benefit of communities.
David Jackson, regional director at VisitScotland, said: “One of the goals of the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund is to make visitor destinations more accessible. The addition of the Changing Places facilities and improvements to the parking area, with EV charge points and bicycle stands, will ensure all visitors and the wider community will have the opportunity to experience this beautiful part of Aberdeenshire. We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and projects like the one at Aden Country Park, which improve facilities and promote green travel, will ensure visitor experiences will be 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 £15 million of grant funding to 66 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