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Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of Save the Children, officially opens FirstGroup's new headquarters and bus depot

Wednesday 14 July 2010

News image.

Aberdeen based FirstGroup played host to a Royal visit this afternoon as HRH The Princess Royal, President, Save the Children, formally opened its new £20m headquarters and bus depot.

The transport group also revealed that it has raised more than £2.8 million in cash and in kind over three years for its national charity partner, Save the Children, of which HRH The Princess Royal is President.

HRH The Princess Royal spoke to First staff today and was effusive in her praise of FirstGroup and its 130,000 staff for their support of Save the Children and its work helping the 4million children in poverty in the UK.

Chief Executive of FirstGroup, Sir Moir Lockhead said: “It is a tremendous honour to have HRH The Princess Royal officially open our new headquarters and bus depot.  We now have wonderful facilities for our Group staff and one of the best and greenest bus depots in Britain.  I hope we’ve respected the history of the original granite building while at the same time creating a 21st Century working environment for our staff and from which we can run our international business.   It remains the case that although we have a global reach, our services are part of the local community we serve.”

Speaking about the £2.8million that his company has raised in cash and in kind for Save the Children, Sir Moir Lockhead added: “Our staff throughout the UK have embraced Save the Children in a way we could not have predicted.  From running marathons, losing weight and shaving heads, our people have been overwhelmingly supportive.  I am extremely proud that the partnership has raised such a fantastic amount so far.”

Douglas Rouse, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Save the Children said: “FirstGroup has been a key partner of Save the Children since 2007 and by supporting our UK programme is highly committed to helping us challenge the unacceptable levels of severe and persistent child poverty in the UK. We are incredibly grateful for FirstGroup's amazing support, worth £2.8m to date through corporate donations, staff fundraising and very generous gifts in kind. Together we are directly changing children's lives and also raising vital awareness of this hidden issue among the UK public. We are pleased to be able to offer the support of our President, HRH The Princess Royal to our partnership with FirstGroup and are delighted that she could join us today."

Sir Moir Lockhead escorted HRH The Princess Royal on a tour of the new headquarters and bus depot which concluded with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque outside First’s historic 1862 granite building.

Other guests included: FirstGroup Chairman and Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management Martin Gilbert, The Lord Provost Peter Stephen, Leader of Aberdeen City Council John Stewart, Nicol Stephen MSP, Fergus Drake Head of UK Programmes and Douglas Rouse Director of Corporate Partnership from Save the Children.

More than 200 people are located at the new headquarters and over 500 staff based at the new bus depot.  In total the site covers over eight acres.  

Aberdeen City Council approved plans for the new headquarters and bus depot on 21st June 2007 at a meeting of the Council’s Planning Committee.  Stewart Milne Construction won the contract to build the new facilities and work commenced in April 2008 with completion in June 2010.

The new headquarters feature some of the latest advances in design.  For example:

·        A proportion of the energy for the headquarters is derived through renewable sources including ground source heat pumps.
·        Energy is saved through innovations such as movement responsive lighting.
·        The façade of the historic 1862 listed building on King Street has been retained and is the focal point of the new development.
·        The 1862 building will house a museum charting the history of the building and transport in Aberdeen.

The new bus depot features:
·        New vehicle lifts.
·        Full length electronically-controlled pits.
·        Improved storage and training facilities.
·        Low energy intelligent lighting that dims when natural daylight is available and only come on when someone is in the room.
·        A Building Management System which senses when a door is opened and automatically shuts down the heating within those areas to minimise heat loss.
·        New fuel tanks fitted with intelligent monitoring which allows instantaneous readings of all fluids and will automatically re-order supplies. The system orders only to a capacity of -10% to avoid overfilling and reduce environmental risks. It also detects any water contamination.
The First Minister, Alex Salmond, laid the last foundations of the building in August 2008.  He said at the time: “Scotland welcomes the commitment of FirstGroup to retain and develop its global headquarters in this country. First’s £20 million investment is further evidence that Aberdeen is a great place to do business.”

The site was previously used as an army barracks and in May 2010 FirstGroup welcomed around 130 Highlanders from 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) as they performed a special ceremony to pay tribute to their former home.  

Brief Timeline of the Site
·        1861: Plans to build a depot of the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders, a volunteer regiment, were announced. It was to lie between ‘Love Lane’ (later St Peter’s Street) and Advocates Road (from the current site entrance to King’s Crescent) facing onto King Street. It was to contain a large drill court - 370 feet long/140 feet wide, and would be “of plain design but with a couple of towers at the angles giving it a baronial appearance”. The design was by William Ramage, formerly assistant to Archibald Simpson.
·        1862: Buildings complete and first occupied by the Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders.
·        1864: Permanent staff forced to find alternative accommodation due to an outbreak of typhus in Aberdeen.  This led to the training of the regiment at Fort George.
·        1880: The accommodation became insufficient, and therefore additional barrack rooms were constructed to house 300 men.
·        1882: The Royal Aberdeenshire Highlanders became the Third Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders.  At this time staff based at the barrack consisted of officers, warrant officers and permanent staff sergeants.  All other ranks lived at home in the local area, reporting to the barracks for drills and training.
·        1900/1901: Troops were sent from King Street to Capetown to fight in the Boer War, but in 1902 the Barracks reverted to their peace time role.
·        In 1905 21yr old Pipe Mayor George Stewart McLennan (youngest in the British army) organised the first pipe band at the barracks.
·        1914: The Barracks were purchased from the Army for £2360 2s 2d in April 1914 by Aberdeen Corporation Tramways.  The major part of a new depot to hold 24 trams had been constructed in the north side of the parade ground. However in September 1914 due to the outbreak of World War One, the Army re-occupied the premises.
·        1919: The Army moved out of the Barracks May 1919 and soon after tram sheds were erected, but in 1919 a severe housing shortage in Aberdeen saw the King Street building converted into 45 one, two and three roomed flats, until 1932.
·        1932: A large extension of the King Street site was carried out to enable both trams and buses to be repaired at one site.
·        1951: An RAF hanger from Greenock was erected on site “with heating, lighting and everything else necessary for the proper maintenance of transport bus services”.
·        1958: Trams were phased out in Aberdeen.  A further extension was carried out at the King Street site to provide facilities for garages, services and repairs of buses – a 230 strong bus fleet replaced the trams.  
·        1975: The council bus services were renamed Grampian Regional Transport.
·        1989: An employee and management buy out meant Grampian Regional Transport (which would soon become FirstGroup), became the first privately owned bus company in Scotland.
·        2007: FirstGroup announced that the King Street site would be redeveloped to incorporate its global headquarters and depot for its Aberdeen based bus operations.
·        2010: Around 130 Highlanders from the 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) return to their former home at King Street.
·        2010: HRH, The Princess Royal, officially opens FirstGroup’s new headquarters and bus depot.

About FirstGroup and Save the Children
In September 2007, building on a long-standing relationship, FirstGroup chose Save the Children as its first national charity partner, supporting its efforts to ‘End Child Poverty’ in the UK.
The partnership has contributed more than £2.8 million to Save the Children through fundraising, corporate donations, gifts in kind and media and promotional activities.

Millions of people in the UK have seen the ‘End Child Poverty’ message advertised on First buses operating in Leeds, Glasgow, Plymouth, Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Bradford and Norwich.  FirstGroup has also helped Save the Children raise awareness of its new campaign "Poverty Kills Childhood" by completely wrapping two of its buses with the message in Glasgow and Bristol, as well as providing on-board messaging on more than 7,000 of First’s UK Bus fleet.

First has made a real difference to young people who live in poverty in the UK by funding six Save the Children projects, such as the Wee Shots project, a film project working with children and young people from deprived areas of Glasgow, Bradford, Oldham and London. It shows the public, media and government the value of listening to the concerns and solutions expressed by children and young people themselves.

First has funded four Poverty Programme Managers in England, Scotland and Wales, who work with local organisations in the most deprived areas of the UK to develop solutions to improve the standard of living and life chances of the poorest children and families.  In turn they have raised more than £800,000 for Save the Children.

First has staged ten First Mini Monster and three First Monster Challenge team duathlon (running and cycling) events which have encouraged First employees and local communities to support the partnership raising over £300,000 for Save the Children and other charities.  The First Monster Challenge is an annual team relay duathlon around the shores of Loch Ness which has very quickly become one of the most successful and sought after events in the sporting calendar.  First Mini Monsters were based on the original Monster concept but aimed more towards families, customers and staff.

First has recruited charity champions across its operating companies who act as the focal point for fundraising activity and encourage their fellow colleagues to take part.

Photo caption: HRH Princess Royal and Sir Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive of FirstGroup

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