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Plans lodged for almost 300 rented homes at old Aberdeen quarry site

The developer behind plans for 299 private rented flats and a public promenade at Aberdeen’s Rubislaw Quarry has submitted the application for planning.

Toronto-based developer Carttera also wants to deliver a gym, and a “heritage bistro” at disused the quarry, which will host a permanent exhibition on the history of the famous site which gave the Granite City its name.

The firm said the designs were inspired by the enormous blocks of granite which were hauled from the quarry for more than 200 years.

Jim Tadeson, the founder of Carttera, said: “There are many benefits to Aberdeen, from providing much-needed new rental housing, to opening up the quarry to the public for viewing along our quarry walk, to our heritage bistro and exhibits showcasing the history of the quarry and granite.

“The design was inspired by the famous Three Sisters of Glencoe, and is based on stacks of large granite blocks.”

AWPR project opening delayed until Autumn

The expected opening of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) project has been deferred until Autumn 2018 – six months later than planned, economy secretary Keith Brown has confirmed.

The consortium tasked with delivering the £745 million project Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL) said the impact of Storm Frank during winter 2015/16, recent extreme weather during early March and the collapse of Carillion have all had an impact on the opening date.

The Aberdeen bypass had previously been expected to open during Spring 2018 and last week an announcement by Balfour Beatty, one of the consortium partners, suggested that it expected the completion date to be Summer 2018.

Transport Scotland said it conducted “urgent discussions” with ARL to determine whether both partners shared this view.

“The outcome from the discussions with ARL is that we now expect to be able to open the project in Autumn 2018,” the transport body said.

Economy secretary Keith Brown said the £745m project cost “remains unchanged” as a result of the delay.

He added: “While this revision to the opening date is very disappointing to the people of the North East, we have to accept the expert advice of our contractors on the ground who are delivering this significant project.

“Clearly there has been a huge amount of work that has gone in to getting the project to where we are now. I would like to pay tribute to the effort of the people who are working hard to get this project over the finishing line.

“I understand how highly anticipated this project is for those living and working in the region and the patience local communities have shown during the construction process, I would like to thank them for their continued patience as we enter the final stages of the project. Transport Scotland will continue to work closely with ARL to open sections of the road at the earliest opportunity.

“The total scheme cost estimate is £745m and this remains unchanged as part of this announcement. Under the terms of the contract, ARL does not receive payment for the work until a section of road is open to traffic.

“During construction over 1,000 jobs have been created as a result of this project and it will generate over £6 billion for the local economy with an anticipated 14,000 new jobs to follow over the first 30 years after the scheme opens.

“Once open, the AWPR will cut congestion in and around Aberdeen city, with a positive impact on reducing emissions and improving active travel, it will also improve connectivity in the region, providing better journey time reliability, particularly for those travelling from the north of the city to the south side.”

The project, equivalent in length to building a new road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, is a key part of the Scottish Government’s £1 billion investment in transport in the region, which includes the AWPR, Aberdeen to Inverness rail improvements and the Haudagain roundabout improvement work.

Interserve agrees deal to defer loan covenants test date until April

Interserve CEO Debbie White

Interserve has been granted another month to secure a refinancing deal with an agreement in principle on major commercial terms now reached.

However, the commercial terms remain subject to credit approval from all providers before the new facilities are finalised.

Interserve delivered its latest profit warning in November as it battled not to breach bank loan covenants. The firm is also preparing to cut around 200 jobs across its UK operations as part of a wider cost-saving drive.

Just last month it began a formal redundancy consultation after confirming plans to shut down its specialist power contracting business.

The troubled construction and support services firm secured additional short-term funding of £180 million in December to ease off its immediate financial troubles while the test date for compliance with its loan covenants was deferred until March 31.

The compnay has now reached an agreement with key lenders to push back the test date for compliance to April 30 to enable the successful execution of all documentation required for the refinancing.

The additional facilities comprise cash facilities of £196.6m plus bonding facilities of up to £95m, which will mature in September 2021. Existing debt and private placement loan notes will be amended to be co-terminous with the new facilities.

In total, this means that the company will have cash borrowing facilities of £834m immediately following the refinancing completion and through to September 2021, subject to certain step-downs in the new facilities over the period.

Pricing on both the new facilities, and the existing debt and bonding facilities have been renegotiated as part of the refinancing. Interserve anticipates that the total interest expense in 2018 will be approximately £56m of which circa £34m will be cash interest.

Debbie White, Interserve’s chief executive, said: “Today’s announcement is a significant milestone for Interserve and a major step in securing a firm financial platform to underpin the Group’s future.  We are encouraged by the support from our lenders in respect of these new facilities, which will allow the new management team to execute our business plan, focused on delivering a great service for customers, driving growth and restoring value.”

Morgan Sindall hands over £16m Balloch Campus

A new state-of-the-art campus which enables three schools to co-locate in a modern and collaborative learning environment has opened its doors in Balloch, West Dunbartonshire.

The £16 million campus, which represents a major investment in the education offering in the area, has been delivered by Morgan Sindall.

The construction and infrastructure company was appointed by West Dunbartonshire Council through LHC’s Schools & Community Buildings Framework. Subsequently renamed the Scottish Procurement Alliance (SPA) in 2016, the framework supports the efficient construction, refurbishment and maintenance of social housing and public buildings throughout Scotland.

With multiple stakeholders across the three schools and the local authority, the framework procurement route afforded early-stage collaboration on design, budget and timescales; enabling successful delivery of the project.

It was completed on schedule and to budget, ready for the children to take full advantage of the facility’s sports pitch over the summer months.

The 53,280 sq ft campus has been built on the site of the former St Kessog’s Primary and provides a new home for it, co-located with the newly-formed Balloch Primary.

An Additional Support Needs (ASN) unit and a new Balloch Early Learning and Childcare Centre (ELCC) are also operating at the site.

Balloch Primary was created following a merger of Haldane and Jamestown Primaries, while Balloch ELCC is the new name for Jamestown ELCC.

In total there are 21 flexible learning spaces, while the ASN has capacity to assist 36 pupils with a range of additional needs.

David Lannigan, senior operations manager at Morgan Sindall, said “Merging three existing schools into a modern campus, which offers an improved learning experience for children in the area was a major undertaking for West Dunbartonshire Council.

“The framework procurement route enabled us to work closely and collaboratively with the council and school from day one. As its construction partner, we’ve worked with the council to ensure the new school met its requirements and budget. The finished campus is something everyone involved in the project can be very proud of, and will deliver lasting benefits to education provision in the region.”

Councillor Iain McLaren, West Dunbartonshire Council’s convener of infrastructure, regeneration & economic development, said: “We are delighted with the new school and I know the staff and children are very much enjoying being in what is a wonderful building and environment.

“We’re determined to give our young people the best possible education and the Balloch Campus will certainly help to shape and support them now and for the future.”

Administrators appointed at Aberdeenshire construction companies

A project by Alan Grant Grampian in Cottonhillock

Two associated Aberdeenshire construction businesses have entered administration with the loss of 33 jobs.

Accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael said yesterday it had been appointed administrator of Alan Grant Grampian and ACG Contracts.

Both companies operated from offices at Main Street, Alford, Aberdeenshire with Alan Grant Grampian being involved in the construction of new homes, primarily for private individuals while ACG Contracts delivered civil engineering services to commercial, private and public sector organisations including local authorities.

The administrators have made 14 of Alan Grant Grampian’s 19 employees redundant, while 19 of ACG Contracts’ 21 staff employees have also been made redundant. The remaining employees have been retained to assist Johnston Carmichael restructuring partners Gordon MacLure and Matt Henderson.

Mr MacLure said: “Alan Grant Grampian and ACG Contracts are long-established businesses which, like many building contractors, have in recent years suffered from reduced margins and cashflow difficulties.

“Our immediate focus is on the employees of both companies and we will be liaising with government agencies, including PACE (the national partnership scheme for responding to redundancies) to ensure they receive all possible support at this difficult time.”

£20m hotels and restaurant plan approved for historic Dundee furniture store

Plans to convert a former furniture store in Dundee into two hotels and a restaurant have been given the green light by councillors.

Willison House on Barrack Street, which is most commonly known as the old Robertson’s furniture store, is to be part-demolished and then converted into two separate hotels and a bespoke restaurant.

Glasgow-based architects McNally Associates, who submitted the plans on behalf of Structured House Group, last year dropped earlier proposals to create student accommodation on the site after receiving a “lack of support” from Dundee City Council planning officials.

The proposals for the B-listed Art Deco building had already been revised once to include the retention of part of the facade of the former furniture store, after more than 700 people signed a petition calling for the building to be saved.

The store has been derelict since Robertson’s closed in 2011 after trading in Dundee for more than 100 years.

Large parts of the building will still be knocked down and rebuilt to house the new hotels.

The six-storey hotel block with 115 beds will be set back from the retained tiled façade and a separate six-storey hotel building with 100 beds will sit to the west of this.

In addition to this, there will be a licensed restaurant on the building’s ground floor.

City development convener, Councillor Lynne Short, said she was delighted the development was given the nod and that the developers would retain the iconic exterior.

She said: “I was involved in discussions with the community group who were keen on keeping the façade as intact as possible.

“I am delighted about the council’s decision and delighted this distinctive piece of Art Deco architecture is going to be maintained.

“The officers and the developers were keen to work together and I understand they are also keen for further work on projects and investing in developments on the waterfront.”

Hotel and retail development village planned for A9 site

William Frame and architect Mark Fresson on the Tomatin site

Plans have been unveiled today for a multi-million pound hotel, food and retail village on the A9.

William Frame, managing director of Tomatin Trading Company, has submitted a planning application to revitalise the currently disused site at the Tomatin junction, within easy reach of both Aviemore and Inverness.

Mr Frame said the plans – which have just been lodged with Highland Council – will bring a much-needed economic boost to the local area with the creation of a 97 bedroom hotel, farm shop and 200-seater restaurant, drive-through bakery and food outlet as well as four retail units and fuel filling station.

The brownfield site currently has detailed mixed-use live consent for hotel, restaurant and retail use which was granted in 2007, however the new plans will reinforce this with the creation of a new retail and food destination on Scotland’s longest road.

The site was historically occupied by the Freeburn Hotel which was built in 1895 and was reputed to have been a stopping off point for Bonnie Prince Charlie. The hotel ceased trading in the 1960s and became a Little Chef which was later demolished in 2008.

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William Frame is excited about the opportunity to bring national retailers and world renowned whisky brands to the area.

He said: “This is an exciting new chapter for the site at Tomatin and I remain committed to creating a hotel and retail/food village at this location.

“I first bought the site in 2005 and believe this is now the right time to take forward our plans with the commitment of Transport Scotland to improve accessibility to the Highlands. The dualling of the A9 will include the stretch in close proximity to the site of the proposed development and the Highlands are an increasingly popular tourist destination.

“There is high demand for quality, affordable hotel rooms within easy reach of both Aviemore and Inverness as well as the many attractions of the area from the North Coast 500, Loch Ness and Cairngorm National Park through to many of Scotland’s renowned distilleries.

“The development will showcase the best of the Highland region, from the products in the retail outlets to the locally sourced produce in the restaurant and farm shop, which will represent the best of Scottish food and drink.

“This offering will be supported by a leading hotel which will tie into the Highland landscape while providing quality, affordable accommodation.”

Architect Mark Fresson of NORR said: “Our vision for the site is to create a cluster of memorable buildings appropriate to its spectacular Highland setting. The development will complement the surrounding landscape using a mix of traditional materials such as stone, timber and slate echoing its historic past while looking to the future.”

Property consultant Jack Cadell from Cadell Property said: “The A9 has always lacked a full-service stop providing a wide range of retail and food / beverage choices. The development at Tomatin will provide road users, tourists and local people the opportunity to stop and sample some of Scotland’s best in a high-quality village style environment.

“We have been delighted by the interest we have had at such an early stage by a real breadth of occupiers who recognise and understand the potential of this landmark development”

David Kirkwood, managing director of Thomson Bethune Limited, added: “We’re delighted to act as Project Managers on this exciting and ambitious new hotel, restaurant and retail development in the heart of the Highlands of Scotland.  It’s fantastic to be part of a project that will ultimately boost the local economy, from the construction phase onwards.”

If planning is approved it is anticipated that the new hotel, food and retail village would open in late summer/ autumn 2019.

Robertson to take on staff from stricken AECC cladding firm

The company charged with cladding work on the new £333 million Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) has gone into administration, though Robertson Group has ensured that the project will finish on time.

The Evening Express has reported that Leeds-based Cover Structure was placed into administration towards the end of last week.

Now Robertson, the main contractor on the AECC construction project, has pledged to take over the sub-contract directly and employ the former Cover Structure workers for the remainder of the project.

It is understood the firm employs up to 100 staff in Aberdeen.

Robertson chief executive officer, Derek Shewan, said the move will ensure the Bucksburn project will be completed in summer 2019 as scheduled.

Plans for the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

He told the Evening Express: “Robertson was made aware on Friday that Cover Structure, the subcontractor handling much of the cladding work on the AECC, was unfortunately about to go into administration.

“We worked proactively over the weekend to find a solution that would ensure the continuation of the project, while securing the jobs of the contractors employed by Cover Structure.

“It is envisaged that Robertson will take over the remainder of the sub-contract directly, including securing equipment and materials, while maintaining the existing operatives in their roles.

“We do not anticipate any delay to the completion of the AECC project.”

Aberdeen City Council co-leader, Councillor Douglas Lumsden, said: “It is disappointing to hear that the main cladding contractor has gone into administration with the impact this will have on those employed.

“It is pleasing to hear, however, that the main contractor Robertson has stepped in so quickly to find a solution to secure the jobs of those involved and also pleasing to hear that they do not anticipate any delay on the completion of the project.”

25 of Scotland’s best new buildings named on RIAS shortlist

Ripple Retreat, Callander – Kettle Collective for Its Good 2 Give (c) Shannon Toft

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has announced a 25 strong shortlist for its 2018 awards.

The judging panel for this year, which whittled down the shortlist from 76 entries, includes RIAS President, Stewart Henderson, Joanna van Heyningen OBE RIBA, van Heyningen and Haward Architects (representing the Royal Institute of British Architects), Stuart McKill, senior executive and managing director, Saint-Gobain (Emerging Architect Award representative), Jon Stevenson, director of Wood for Good (Timber Award representative) and Rachel Tennant Hon FRIAS, Landscape Institute Scotland.

Ian Gilzean FRIAS, chief architect at the Scottish Government (Client of the Year Award representative) and Steven Robb, deputy head of casework, Heritage Directorate at Historic Environment Scotland (Conservation and Climate Change Award representative) were also on the shortlisting panel.

RIAS President Stewart Henderson said: “When shortlisting this year’s entries for awards the panel were struck by the continuing high standard of submissions. The quality of architecture being produced the length and breadth of the country is hugely impressive. Practices, large and small, continue to demonstrate the strength and purpose of the profession in Scotland.”

The shortlist for Scotland comprises the following buildings (shown alphabetically):

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Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, designed by Richard Murphy Architects for Fife Council, won the 2017 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award. Having already won multiple RIAS Awards, the Library will be considered for a RIBA National Award 2018.

Buyer confidence supports 13% profits increase at Tulloch Homes

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside a development in Inverness

The robust residential property market has helped housebuilder Tulloch Homes to maintain its consistent progress.

The latest set of annual results for the Inverness-headquartered group, covering its financial year ending 30th June 2017, show that it generated turnover of £43.5 million while posting an operating profit of £8m (up 8.1% from 2016) and pre-tax profits of £7.7m (a rise of 13.2% on 2016).

While the total number of homes it sold decreased slightly from 201 to 180 compared to the previous year, the average value rose from £203,000 to £210,000.

Predominantly building in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, the 90-year-old company has over the past year made a new foray into the Central Belt of Scotland with a development in East Kilbride.

The Tulloch board remain confident about its prospects, and pointed to favourable market conditions and a strong pipeline of properties awaiting construction as indicators that further growth was achievable in the year ahead.

George Fraser, Tulloch Homes group chief executive, said: “Our measured investment in suitable sites combined with low interest rates and a relatively stable economy in our primary areas of activity have contributed to another positive year for the firm.

“From what we have seen confidence among house buyers remains robust, and that has continued over the past six months.

“We have a very healthy land bank which we continue to maintain, and we are pleased with the success of our development in East Kilbride with it being our first in central Scotland for a number of years.”

Tulloch employs over 150 people directly and has over 300 subcontractors across its local communities in the Highlands and North East

Mr Fraser added: “By focusing on building high-quality stock in key areas, and with the continued support of our dedicated employees and subcontractor pool, we expect to see unit numbers and prices remain consistent in the year ahead.

“We are also in the final stages of our non-core asset disposal programme, which we set out at the time of the management buy-out to focus on returning the company to being purely a housebuilder. That has contributed to a significantly strengthened balance sheet and puts us on a strong footing for continued investment in the years ahead.

“The long-term stability of the company is our priority, and the steady improvement in the performance of the business means we can re-invest in training and recruitment and in turn boost the economies of our local communities.”