BOB Keiller, the former chief executive of engineering services giant Wood Group, has been drafted in to spearhead a campaign to revive Aberdeen’s most famous high street.

Mr Keiller has been named as the figurehead for Our Union Street, a community-led organisation that will strive to attract new businesses and people to the Granite Mile. It hopes to turn around the fortunes of a once-thriving thoroughfare that has seen its fortunes decline in recent years amid challenges in the retail industry and the ups and downs of the oil and gas industry.

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Our Union Street is in the process of raising funds to establish its own premises on the street and is inviting views from people who wish to see improvements in the city centre, with a website set up to allow residents and businesses to share their thoughts.

Mr Keiller, a former chairman of Scottish Enterprise who was part of the team that rescued Glencraft in 2009, said: “Union Street is not what it used to be, it’s not what it should be, and it’s not what it can be.

“People care about the state of Union Street; they care that many retail units sit empty and uninviting, they care about graffiti, litter, dirty buildings, weeds growing on balconies and the general upkeep of the street.

“They want Union Street to be a safe, busy, energetic, thriving thoroughfare that compares favourably with the best of UK’s small cities. And they want somebody to take responsibility for addressing these challenges and improving the street; a consistent, concerted effort with plans, actions, and progress.

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“To date, there has been no single body that has the remit to take on these challenges and opportunities. That’s what the brand-new organisation is for.”

The not-for-profit Our Union Street has been set up by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Aberdeen Inspired, Aberdeen City Council and Opportunity North East, with additional support from Shell, which recently relocated to the street. They approached Mr Keiller, who will provide his services for free, as a unifying and collaborative figure to lead the project. He will recruit a group of volunteers to work together to help arrest decades of decline in the city centre.

Mr Keiller said: “I want to help because I care - I want Aberdeen to have a vibrant and clean Union Street.

"I don’t own any property on Union Street, I don’t have any interest in any businesses that operate on Union Street and I am not looking to gain anything.

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 “I have not stepped forward because it sounds easy - I have chosen to get involved because it will be hard.

 “We cannot go back in time and change shopping habits, or change decisions that have been made in the city centre. We can only start from now and make changes that improve the future.”

Our Union Street noted that there are currently 47 vacant units on Union Street that it will aim to begin filling.

Mr Keiller added: “So far, we think that our priorities should be focussed on filling the empty retail units – supported by the council’s £500,000 investment in its empty shops plan – and, in the meantime, making the empty units look less abandoned and unloved.

“We also think that the upkeep of the street – the buildings, the pavements, the street furniture – could all be improved, something which was highlighted numerous times at the recent Union Street summit.”