Green light to expand Aberdeen shopping mall

Bon Accord & St Nicholas Aberdeen1

A multi-million pound plan to create a new leisure hub at an Aberdeen shopping centre has been given the go-ahead today.

Aberdeen City Council has approved the plans, paving the way for a project which is expected to create up to 300 permanent jobs.

F&C Reit has been given permission to build an 800-seat cinema and seven new restaurants at the city’s Bon Accord Centre.

Between 250 and 300 jobs are expected to be created when the redevelopment is completed in early 2016.

The innovative design includes the creation of a new entrance from Upperkirkgate at Drum’s Lane, leading to an external courtyard and providing access to the upper level of the mall where the new leisure area would be situated.

The plans work within the existing footprint of the Bon Accord mall at the city shopping centres.

Craig Stevenson, manager of the Bon Accord and St Nicholas Centres, said: “Being granted planning consent is an important milestone and we look forward to moving forward and delivering a new and unique offering at Bon Accord and St Nicholas.

“We work hard to ensure we are at the forefront of the retail sector and this project will help us to lead the way with a fresh focus on leisure. Our intention is to bring a new, vibrant and high end cinema and restaurant experience to Aberdeen.”

The new cinema will be built in the disused upper floors of the Bon Accord Centre, which were home to a restaurant and indoor lawn bowling.

The redevelopment will expand the Bon Accord and nearby St Nicholas Centres’ combined 840,000sqft floorspace by around 30,000sqft.

Timber systems company calls for shift in winter working mindset

Alex Goodfellow

Alex Goodfellow

Construction firms could be missing out on much needed revenue due to avoidable delays brought on by winter weather, according to Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

Wind, rain, and snow are all common seasonal problems which can bring construction projects to a standstill, but factory-manufactured timber systems enable construction to continue in any weather, meaning projects can still be delivered on time and on budget.

Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems, says house builders can help to deliver new housing stock in line with ongoing demand and have the opportunity to drive growth within their own businesses.

Goodfellow said: “The UK’s cold and wet winter is traditionally a hard time for construction projects. But there are ways to mitigate against unnecessary delays, and the use of timber systems is one way to circumvent seasonal challenges and capitalise on the economic recovery.

“House builders that don’t have to wait for the weather to improve will be at an advantage, and using alternative build methods such as offsite manufacture can be an effective way of meeting deadlines, increasing housing supply and reducing cost.”

Goodfellow’s comments come after the National House Building Council (NHBC) reported that house building in the UK has hit its highest level since 2007. Stewart Milne Timber Systems has enjoyed continuing growth in 2014, reporting a 40 per cent increase in profits year-on-year as developers have sought ways to improve cost effectiveness, speed up build programmes, and deliver energy efficient homes against tightening sustainability criteria.

A current example of a winter project being undertaken using timber systems is the firm’s involvement in the UK’s first eco-development, North West Bicester (NW Bicester).

Developed by A2Dominion, NW Bicester is a landmark new community development of true zero carbon homes and sustainable living. Stewart Milne Timber Systems will deliver 94 Sigma II Build Systems of the project’s first phase, known as Exemplar.

Stewart Milne Timber Systems are manufactured offsite and erected by a specialist team within days of delivery, without the need for masonry materials to dry. This allows houses to be built within 13 weeks, instead of the normal 18 weeks for masonry homes. Timber systems houses can be weather tight, air tight, secure and fully insulated within 72 hours, and there is no requirement to wait for appropriate weather for building.

Review praises impact of ‘world leading’ BRE Trust funded research

BRE greenAn independent review has vindicated the BRE Trust’s investment in its four UK based University Centres of Excellence.

Results from the Research Excellence Framework (REF) ranking, which measures the quality of a university’s research output, found that BRE Trust funded research is world leading and has an impact.

The BRE Trust, the largest UK charity dedicated specifically to research and education in the built environment, funds four UK University Centres: BRE Centre for Energy Utilisation, University of Strathclyde; BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, University of Edinburgh; BRE Centre for Computational Analysis, Cardiff University and BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, University of Bath.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) ranking is based on three elements which are combined to produce an overall profile – these are quality of research outputs, the research environment and the social, economic and cultural impact of research.

The ranking reveals that:

  • Cardiff University’s Civil & Construction Engineering faculty where the BRE Centre is located is ranked number one in the UK. 97 per cent of its research is of world-leading or internationally excellent quality. Its research received a 100 per cent score in terms of impact (social, economic, cultural).
  • The University of Bath’s Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering department, where the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials is based, also achieved first place in the ranking for Architecture, Built Environment and Planning with its impact cited as a key factor
  • 94 per cent of the overall research activity in Edinburgh University’s Research Partnership in Engineering (ERPE) where the BRE Centre is located is world-leading or internationally excellent
  • Strathclyde University’s joint research which includes Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (where the BRE Trust’s Centre is based) ; Design, Manufacture and Engineering Management; Chemical and Process Engineering; and Naval Architecture, Ocean and Marine Engineering has been rated fourth in the UK

CEO of BRE Dr Peter Bonfield said: “We created the BRE Trust Centres of Excellence with the goal of developing a world leading programme of research that supports and better built environment and infrastructure. The excellent rankings of our Centres following the tough and rigorous REF process unequivocally demonstrate the outstanding leadership and work conducted by them.

“We are very proud of our professors, academic staff and PhD students and offer them and their universities our sincere congratulations on these performances. We look forward to continuing our most constructive work together.”

Since the BRE Trust research programme was created in 2006, it has funded over 140 PhD studentships, 75 staff and a portfolio of more than £40m research which has been completed or is currently underway.

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, added: “The University has performed outstandingly well. It is clear that our research is very strong in delivering real-world impact – making a real difference to our world whether that is economic, social or cultural.

“Overall our scores for the reach and significance of the impact of our research show this to be a particular area of strength for Bath. We are very grateful to the ongoing support we receive from the BRE Trust in helping us to deliver such outstanding research impact.”

Set up in 2002 to advance knowledge, innovation and communication for public benefit, the BRE Trust uses all profits made by the BRE Group to fund new research and education programmes that will help to meet its goal of building a better world together.


Distillery expansion and bus depot among host of Cairngorms National Park Authority planning approvals


Planning permission for the expansion of a whisky distillery has been granted by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) among a raft of development approvals.

Chivas Brothers, which owns the Glenlivet Distillery in Moray, had applied to the CNPA for permission to build a new processing facility and various other alterations and improvements at the Glenlivet site. The developments are set to triple production and will create 13 additional permanent jobs.

The planning application included a new processing building to house distilling operations, a new tank and equipment area, groundworks and landscaping, a replacement bioplant, new pipework, new site access, alterations to the existing feed plant and new surface water arrangements.

Planning committee member Duncan Bryden said: “The economic importance of this proposal is of national significance as well as locally.

“Whisky is a major economic driver for Scotland with brands known the world over and it supports many jobs – often in rural areas like this.”

Planning officer Katherine Donnachie, who outlined the proposals to members, said the “major application” had been subject to consultation with the community, and concerns raised in relation to the roads around about the distillery and the impact on the River Livet.

She added: “Planning conditions have been attached to the consent with regards to details of discharge and abstractions at the River Livet and to ensure that measures are taken to protect European protected species.”

Meanwhile Ballater is to get a new bus depot after CNPA members gave planning permission for the development.

The new depot will be located on Ballater’s Pannanich Road and will mean that the applicant, Bluebird Buses, can maintain its regular bus services in the area and retain jobs locally.

The move follows the granting of planning permission to turn the existing bus depot on Golf Road into a supermarket.

The Authority also approved the three latest planning applications for sections of the Speyside Way extension. This clears the way to construct the route from Aviemore to Kincraig.

The Speyside Way Long Distance Route currently runs 65 miles from Buckie on the Moray Firth to Aviemore. Scottish Ministers have approved the extension from Aviemore to Newtonmore and these planning consents mark the next stage in a decade long process.

David Clyne, access and recreation manager with CNPA, said: “These consents, along with partner funding from Sustrans and Commonwealth Games Legacy Fund, will allow us to start work on the path in the New Year. If all goes well we could have a route through to Kincraig by Easter. While this section is being built we will turn our attention to planning the next phase from Kincraig to Kingussie, and sourcing the all important funding.”

Finally, planning permission was also granted for a new care home in Grantown-on-Spey.

Parklands Developments Ltd are behind the 40-bedroom, single storey development on the town’s Seafield Avenue, which will also house a café, hairdressing salon, family room and secure garden. The home will provide assisted living, short term respite, post-operative and convalescence care, as well as day care.

Planning officer Fiona Murphy said: “A new care home in Grantown would certainly provide economic benefits in terms of jobs and provide a valuable service locally. The proposed design is a good one reflecting the traditional pattern and character of the area and with conditions attached to the consent, issues around flooding, parking and traffic management can be addressed.

“Although not allocated for development in the current Local Plan or proposed Local Development Plan the site is suitable and assessed on its merits, I recommend it for approval.”

Planning committee convener, Eleanor Mackintosh added: “I think this is a good application and I am happy to support it. You can tell that the applicant has made a real effort in terms of designing a building that will fit well in the site and they have gone to a great deal of effort to work with the relevant bodies and our planning officers to overcome some of the concerns that have been raised during the processing of this application.

“I think a new care home in Grantown, providing more jobs, will be really good for the local economy – especially in light of moves to close the Ian Charles Hospital.”

Contractor appointed for Campbeltown berthing facility

gss-marine-servicesArgyll-based GSS Marine Services has been appointed to deliver over £1 million of vital infrastructure improvements to Campbeltown Harbour.

Argyll and Bute Council chose the Rosneath firm last week to carry out the berthing and on-shore improvement work, which will make the marina a more attractive sailing destination, bringing visitors to the area.

The new pontoon layout will have a total of 54 berths – 10 at finger pontoons, 28 alongside berths and 16 additional berths by rafting – and provides a flexible layout which can accommodate larger craft.

This new layout will see the main leg shortened to bring the berthing more in to the lee of the quay as well as the addition of an angled concrete breakwater to protect the more northerly berths.

The new on-shore facility will include male, female and family toilets and showers as part of creating a more attractive contemporary offer for yacht owners as well as resident boat users.

This represents a huge improvement to the current facility which currently provides lay alongside berthing for up to 18 vessels, up to 38 when including triple rafting, which is considered as an unattractive option for many visitors , has limited capacity for larger vessels, is open to strong easterly winds and has very limited on-shore facilities.

By incorporating finger berthing, some potential berthing for larger vessels and an on-shore toilet and shower block the facility will be transformed into a small but credible transit marina that should appeal to a wide variety of visiting craft.

Chair of the Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands Area Committee, Campbeltown Councillor Rory Colville, said of the appointment: “The council is delighted to have GSS on board to deliver these enhancements. A respected marine engineering company, they have successful delivered a number of projects for the Royal Navy and the civil maritime industry, both throughout the UK and across Europe.

“It’s encouraging to have a firm with such a strong track record on board and I am confident that they will move this project forward and we’ll see the new marina open for business in summer 2015. These are exciting times, with this new facility estimated to benefit the local economy to the tune of £300,000 a year.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Campbeltown Loch Berthing Company who have run the facility for the past 25 years. The retirement of the directors and the transfer of asset to the council will enable this significant improvement project to move forward.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the major construction work beginning next year. I’d encourage people to keep an eye out for updates on the council website and in the local press.”

GSS Marine Services said of the project: “We are very pleased to have been awarded this contract and are looking forward to giving the people of Campbeltown a high-quality berthing facility they can be proud of.

“Work has already commenced with the removal of the  existing pontoons and  we are  organising the fabrication of the new pontoons for delivery in February/March when we will be back on site with marine plant to complete installation by  summer. Work on the shore facilities is due to commence early next year.”

Building Briefs – December 22nd

Parkview - Dundee

New build apartments completed in Dundee

Property developer Whiteburn Projects has released for sale new build apartments together with mews homes on their Parkview development in Dundee.

The move follows the successful completion and sale of the first 13 apartments and mews houses of its sensitive conversion of the existing building, with a further 10 apartments sold off plan for completion in the New Year.

The Grade B listed building, originally designed by James McLaren & Sons and completed in 1896, has long been one of Dundee’s treasured landmarks with its prominent position at the apex of Blackness Road.

Architects Page\Park have worked sympathetically with the building to retain as many original features as possible – from the three elegant cast iron balustrade staircases to the canopy running around three sides of the private landscaped courtyard which will create a private shared space for the residents.

To the north of the courtyard, the original walls of the former laundry have been retained to create five bespoke mews homes, incorporating courtyard facing balconies, zinc cladding and full height glazing to the gable ends.


Homeowner Housing Panel releases annual report

The Homeowner Housing Panel (hohp) has published its first standalone annual report, which covers its first full year of operation from 1 January – 31 December 2013.

The panel is a devolved Scottish Tribunal which was established by the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011.

The hohp offers dispute resolution for problems occurring between homeowners and their property factors. An application can be made to the hohp where a homeowner believes that their property factor has failed to comply with its factoring duties and/or the statutory code of conduct for property factors.

During 2013, a total of 5200 enquiries were received by hohp, and 333 applications were received from homeowners across Scotland during the year. The applications covered a wide range of issues, including all aspects of the code of conduct. One of the most common issues complained about was poor communication and consultation by property factors, and these types of complaint were the ones most frequently upheld by hohp committees.

A considerable number of the applications received were complex, whether because of the number of complaints included; multiple applications being heard together; the nature of the legal issues in dispute; and/or the extent of the paperwork submitted by the parties.

While the hohp had been up and running for just 15 months by the end of 2013, a number of emerging trends are noted in the report.

The report can be accessed here.


Warm response to additional East Ayrshire funding

Housing improvements in East Ayrshire will be moving forward at pace thanks to a £1 million funding boost announced as part of East Ayrshire Council’s 2015/16 budget proposals.

The funding will deliver a programme of external enhancements, environmental improvement, energy efficiency measures like external wall insulation and rendering works to be carried out on council housing stock, similar to the extensive works already carried out in communities across the authority.

An additional funding announcement of £150,000 will mean that even more residents will benefit from warmer homes.

The new funding, which will support the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS), will enable the council to continue its plan to insulate adjoining private Weir timber houses using this funding at the same time as the council houses next door.


Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative ‘progressing well’

Argyll and Bute Council’s major regeneration initiative in Rothesay is progressing well, with three of the four priority buildings complete, and the final one, Duncan’s Halls, set to finish this month and the gap site development project moving along nicely with the removal of scaffolding last week and work beginning on the shopfront.

Over £550,000 of work on Duncan’s Halls has mainly related to the roof, but includes: work to address rot issues on the roof, at the rear stair and on the further floor; work to the stonework at the front and rear; chimney work; slating; leadwork; copper; soil waste and rainwater goods at the rear of the building; rainwater improvements at the front; joinery work; rooflighting; refurbishment of the timber sash and case windows and new timber bullseye windows and new decoration.

To date the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) has invested over £2.5 million in the town’s waterfront gateway which has seen dramatic improvements, renovating Guildford Square and providing ferry passengers with a warm welcome.

A town packed with examples of the ambition and confidence of a Victorian coastal town, Rothesay was arguably the foremost holiday destination for generations of people from Scotland’s west coast. The council’s THI team has worked hard to create a more attractive town centre, improving the historic buildings and safeguarding and creating jobs, both in the repaired retail units and in the local construction industry. Almost 70 grants have been awarded, with work on over 20 properties in the town centre.

As far as possible the contracts have gone to local contractors, with 16 going to island firms, another 2 to Argyll based contractors.


Loch Ness lighthouse transformed into cottage

The smallest inland lighthouse in Britain is to be transformed into one of the most unusual holiday cottages in Scotland – just in time for its 200th birthday.

The historic Bona Lighthouse, which sits on the banks of Loch Ness, was originally built to guide boats from the Loch into the Caledonian Canal.

Now the building designed and built by Caledonian Canal engineer Thomas Telford is part of a £497,000 project to turn the B-listed building into two holiday apartments.

The project was undertaken by the owners, Scottish Canals, with support from the Vivat Trust and Historic Scotland.

Transport minister Derek MacKay MSP officer reopened the two luxury holiday apartments last week.


Work set to start on big tidal energy project

Construction of the largest planned tidal energy project in the world is expected to begin off the Scottish coast next month.

Atlantis, the majority owner of the MeyGen project, has announced that it has finalised all of the conditions required to initiate its first drawdown from financiers the Crown Estate and Scottish Enterprise.

The project has the potential to power nearly 175,000 homes through a network of 269 turbines on the seabed at Ness of Quoys in Caithness.


Campaigners upset at historic Aberdeen school building demolition plans

Campaigners in Aberdeen fighting to preserve a 19th-century building have been left “bitterly disappointed” following a meeting with developers planning to raze it.

Representatives of Barratt Homes attended a Torry Community Council meeting to discuss their plans for Victoria Road school.

The housebuilder has lodged a proposal of application notice for 62 homes at the site – 25% of which would be affordable housing.

Aberdeen City councillors voted 19-14 to have the school demolished to make way for developments in October.

The local authority decision was made despite a campaign by the community council to save the 136-year-old school, built after a fundraising drive by Torry fishermen in 1878.

Douglas McLeod, regional director at Barratt Scotland, said conversion of the building “was not economically viable”.


Homes plan for hospital brings NHS windfall

NHS Tayside is set for a huge financial windfall from the approval of a multi-million-pound 220-home plan for the former Strathmartine Hospital site.

As communities around the sprawling site continue to digest the controversial decision of a special meeting of Angus Council on Thursday which overturned an official refusal recommendation to reject the proposal, delighted developers confirmed the conversion of the B-listed main block into 24 flats will be part of the first phase of the works.

It has also emerged a claw-back clause inserted into the sale deal for the site will see a percentage of income from 180 homes paid to the health authority.

Planning officials had recommended refusal of the Heathfield Ltd proposal for 198 new build homes and 24 flats on the grounds that it breached council policy and was excessive in scale.

But councillors voted 12-9 for the bid against a backdrop of fears that doing nothing would see the site fall into further decay.

Strathmartine Community Council immediately condemned the decision as “profoundly anti-democratic and stunning in its hypocrisy.”


And finally… Top 10 presents for the architect in your life

House magazine rack

They’re generally the people that you turn to for creative inspiration, so it’s no surprise if you’re stuck on what to buy the architect in your life.

Whether it’s a gift for a loved one or a thank you to the poor guy who has redone your house plans three times because you can’t make a decision, we’re here to solve your shopping woes.

Click here to see the top 10 presents for the architect in your life in 2014.

Scottish construction makes skills funding call as confidence reaches new high

Vaughan Hart

Vaughan Hart

Employers in the Scottish construction industry are calling for increased funding to help recruit and train more apprentices and have highlighted critical skills shortages in a number of key trades and managerial positions.

The latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of leading trade body the Scottish Building Federation, found that specific skills shortages are particularly acute in certain regions of the country.

On the positive sides, the survey shows that industry confidence has hit a new high of plus 26 as 2014 draws to a close, up 15 points compared to the previous quarter.

This is now the sixth consecutive quarter where overall confidence within the Scottish construction industry has been rated positive and the highest confidence rating recorded since the Construction Monitor began in 2008.

The survey also asked industry employers a series of questions about skills shortages across individual trades and management roles. Respondents were asked to identify the region or regions where their business mainly operates in order to build up a profile of skills requirements across the country.

The survey found carpentry and joinery skills to be in generally short supply with companies in the North-East of Scotland particularly affected. There is also a shortage of bricklayers across all regions although the impact is especially strongly felt in the Central and Fife region of Scotland, where employers also report a critical shortage of wood machinists. Employers in all regions are reporting difficulties with recruiting stonemasons and plant operators.

At a managerial level, the survey identifies challenges across all regions in filling general construction supervisor and site manager roles. Employers in the Highlands and Islands report particular difficulties with recruiting project managers.

Overall, employers in the Central and Fife region are reporting the highest number of skills shortages in the local construction sector whereas companies in the Highlands and Islands are currently reporting the fewest skills shortages of any Scottish region.

Commenting on the survey results, Scottish Building Federation managing director Vaughan Hart said: “With these new survey results, it’s great news that the Scottish industry is able to close 2014 on a new confidence high. That suggests that the industry’s recovery is now happening.  The flip side of that is that employers are encountering increasing difficulties in filling certain management roles and there are emerging skills shortages in certain trades. This seems to be particularly true of joinery and bricklaying trades.

“Our members are telling us that current levels of funding provided through Government and CITB grants to help employers recruit and train apprentices are insufficient. Given the growing skills shortages the industry is now facing, now is the time to review funding and to explore what additional support can be provided to boost training and recruitment. As an industry, we also need to be more proactive in promoting careers in construction as an excellent prospect for today’s school leavers.”

Construction Leads – December 22nd


Applicant: Mr P Innes

Planning Authority: Stirling

Details: Construction of 2 class 4 business units

Location: Land 30m west of 12 Station Wynd, Doune

Agent: McCourt Building Design, Inverleny Cottage, Leny Feus, Callander



Applicant: Lynwood Eco Homes Limited

Planning Authority: Argyll

Details: Construction of 7 dwellinghouses and 11 bungalows and formation of vehicular accesses

Location: 104 Bullwood Road, Dunoon, Argyll And Bute

Agent: Robninson McIlwaine Architects LLP, 84-94 Great Patrick Street, Belfast



Applicant: Commercial First

Planning Authority:  Argyll

Details: Change of use from public house (sui generis) to form 3 residential flats

Location: Former Tight Line Bar, Lochawe Dalmally, Argyll And Bute

Agent: DTA Chartered Architects Ltd, 9 Montgomery Street, The Village East Kilbride


Edinburgh approves £150m Fountainbridge Canalside vision


A £150 million canalside “cultural quarter” and housing development has taken a giant leap forward after the City of Edinburgh Council gave it the green light.

Designed by 7N Architects from Glasgow, the ambitious masterplan for the old McEwan’s Fountain Brewery plot includes 350 homes, a 130-bedroom boutique hotel and car park.

Fountainbridge residents helped draw up the plans through a series of workshops during the consultation period, with cafes, restaurants and retail space all central to the proposals.

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw said the development – spanning 8.2 acres just north of the Union Canal – looked an “exciting prospect”.

He told The Scotsman: “There’s a lot of monolithic, not well-thought-out developments across the city at times so it’s really good to see something that’s mixed like this with different activities. It should create a vibrant new part of town.

“If you do anything by water, it looks good and people want to live there.

“I love that you can get the whole way down the canal in a way you probably couldn’t have ten years ago. It’s really opening it up.”

But during Wednesday’s city planning meeting, Cllr Bagshaw admitted he had concerns over the height of the buildings.

“It has been suggested the buildings might be lowered somewhat and made higher further to the north,” Cllr Bagshaw said.

His fears were backed by Conservative councillor Joanna Mowat.

Referring to drawings illustrating how they might look, with people shown walking past, she said: “They look as if they might topple on to the ants below.”

The site, just off Dundee Street and along from the Fountain Park leisure complex, has been lying empty since the brewery closed in 2004.

It was previously home to the North British Rubber Company and also includes the old Edinburgh Printmakers, which has been targeted for student housing.

The plans, tabled by property development firm EDI Group, were submitted to the city council, which granted planning permission in principle.

The canalside area will also be “enhanced” for leisure activities, with EDI Group in talks with Calder-based social enterprise Bridge 8, which promotes outdoor activities along the Union Canal.

Proposals also include designs to provide incubator space to new business start-ups which can then move in to permanent units elsewhere on the site.

It is estimated that around 1400 jobs will be created at the development’s retail units and business areas, in addition to local construction jobs during the building phase.

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