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Blog: Scotland’s churches are part of our national treasure, but valuation presents a professional challenge

Adam Jennings

Chartered surveyor Adam Jennings on the intricacies of valuing churches.

Scotland’s churches are part of a long and proud heritage. They stand tall at the heart of every community, crafted from native stone and embellished with often stunningly beautiful architectural complexity.

However, times change, and buildings which were designed to accommodate congregations of hundreds, or even thousands, now struggle to attract and retain dwindling bands of regular worshippers.

This poses a dilemma for church authorities which, increasingly over recent years, have been forced into disposal programmes to rationalise the estate and to raise funding to maintain and restore remaining church buildings.

It also creates a serious challenge for surveyors who are tasked with valuation of buildings with a vast range of differing characteristics, often in the absence of discernible trends or comparable sales evidence.

The sale of church buildings is not new. Declining attendance has been at the heart of ecclesiastical concerns for many decades, but there is little doubt that the pace of disposals is accelerating.

But disposal has to be seen in the context of the historic scale of the church estate in Scotland, which runs into thousands of buildings.

New church provision ran at a frantic pace through the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. After the Great Disruption of 1843, the Free Church of Scotland alone built more than 700 new places of worship by 1847. The established church added more than 500 parishes between 1843 and 1909. Competition, naturally, led to oversupply.

That is the legacy now being dealt with. As attendances diminish, congregations in close proximity to each other may decide to amalgamate and sell off one of their churches to raise capital for the maintenance and repair of the remaining one.

Though our commercial department has compiled its own substantial body of evidence in this specialised arena, the remarkable range of buildings, disparity of styles and vagaries of location make like-for-like comparison uniquely difficult.

But while church buildings have their own issues – traditionally built from sandstone, pitched slate roofs, often listed – there are buyers out there. There is a growing trend of purchase by other faith groups who may see the option of an existing church as a cheaper alternative than building their own place of worship from scratch.

And many churches fall into the Class 10 category in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1997, meaning that they are in the same use category as children’s nurseries, créches, libraries, meeting halls, exhibition halls and some education facilities.

Some obsolete churches have also been acquired by community groups which have secured funding and are attracted by good sized floorplates together with a suitable range of support accommodation.

In general terms, the more marketable church buildings tend to be located in urban areas, often benefitting from adequate parking provision and distinctive architectural features.  Should the above criteria be met in affluent areas, developers can justify the cost of conversion to, for instance, flatted dwellings, subject to planning.

One such example would be the recent disposal of former traditional, Grade ‘B’ listed church premises on Great George Street in Glasgow’s West End, with DM Hall acting on behalf of London and Scottish Investments.

Interest levels were considerable, resulting in a closing date for offers.  The successful buyer is presently creating 21 flatted dwellings within the original church building, with a further three new build units to be constructed on site.

The economics of conversion, however, may not add up in lower value areas – even if the church was similar – because the end values on completion would be significantly less attractive.

Church buildings occupying rural locations, with a lack of services, those surrounded by graveyard grounds or in a state of disrepair are often subjected to protracted marketing campaigns.  Indeed, in a number of circumstances, some such properties are ultimately disposed of via the auction route.

So, while the number of properties coming to market is only likely to increase, it will become no easier to paint a picture of the market in general and surveyors will essentially have to continue to provide a bespoke valuation process in this specialised area.

  • Adam Jennings is a surveyor in the Glasgow North office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.

Blog: Remember the Third Party Right of Appeal? Well its back in a different guise

Keith Geddes

Keith Geddes discusses the Planning Bill and the potential for the community right to appeal being introduced and slowing up house building in Scotland even further.

Now known as an Equal – or Community – Right of Appeal, supporters are now campaigning for its inclusion in the Planning Bill, now at Stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament. Amendments in support of equalisation will be tabled, as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.

And campaigners are not short of political support. Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s new planning spokesperson, has said that: “The planning system needs rebalanced: the Scottish government is wrong to dismiss equal rights for communities”. Both the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats also support the “equalisation” agenda while Conservative MSP’s have expressed similar views. For example Alison Harris MSP argued: “Where is the fairness in applicants’ being able to appeal against a local authority’s refusal to grant planning consent when the same right is not given to objectors when planning consent is granted?

And SNP MSP, Gil Paterson asked: “We are all aware that, when it comes to developments, the developer has much more power than the community…. Does the minister envisage that, following the consultation the balance of power might change somewhat?”

Those who support the Equal Right of Appeal, also have media support. The Sunday Herald editorial (10/9/17) argued: “Crucially, communities should be given equal rights of appeal, so that they have the same recourse as property developers. The system needs to be fairer – so let’s level the playing field.”

What does the Community Right of Appeal mean for housebuilders in Scotland? It would potentially:

  • Extend the development process even further
  • Make many small developments unviable and increase the cost of new homes to first time buyers
  • Require more planning officers at a time when planning staff are being reduced
  • Push developers to invest in building homes outside Scotland, where a Community Right of Appeal was not in place, and
  • Delay further the building of much-needed new homes – 10 years after the crash Scotland is still not building enough homes.

The practical mechanics of triggering an appeal are not clear. Who would be able to appeal? Anyone whom objected? A local community council or community group? People who live within a certain distance of the proposed development?

And perhaps of greater importance, who would stand up for those families looking for a suitable home? How would their voice be heard?

And equality does not apparently apply to investment by communities and developers. Developers will typically commit many thousands of pounds on a variety of technical reports, before their application even comes before committee.

The Scottish Government’s view is that a Community Right of Appeal is unnecessary.  Their Places, People and Planning Position Statement argues: “We are convinced that stronger, early engagement …..would be much more constructive. We will build on the existing strong provisions to involve people early in the planning process rather than at the end, and ensure that our system works for all, including those who want to invest in the quality of our places and our economy.”

Consultation on the Bill closes on February 2. If your organisation or company has not yet responded to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee call for evidence, now is the time to do so.

  • Keith is a past president of CoSLA and former leader of the City of Edinburgh Council. He has also served on a number of public bodies, including Scottish Enterprise, the Accounts Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Arts Council, and is chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust. He has extensive experience in local government, planning, housing and education.

Blog: Gentle undulations, rather than peaks and troughs. Just the property market we’d wish for

Eric Curran

Eric Curran talks about how the Scottish property market is shaping up in 2018.

As we look back over the residential property market in Scotland in 2017, it is encouraging to note that the optimism expressed at this time last year has, by and large, been justified.

Lack of supply, with the exception of Aberdeen, has once again been the principal, indeed overriding, theme and the same market distortion looks set to dominate as we enter the first few weeks of 2018.

Aberdeen, of course, is a market unto itself, as London is in England. If there was one disappointment in the Granite City in the past year, it must be its huge missed opportunity to realign itself away from its dependence on oil and invite other industries to the dynamic north.

No doubt Aberdonians will argue that that is exactly what they have been trying to do but the local economy is still far too heavily dependent on what happens in the grey waters of the North Sea.

Aberdeen aside, the market in Scotland has performed admirably, with acceptable, sustained growth over the longer term and an absence of disruptive peaks and troughs – exactly the conditions property professionals fondly wished for in the bleak years of the recession.

As last year, so in 2018 there have to be concerns about the new build sector, which is growing fat on a diet of government incentives which it receives to the exclusion of all other property types.

It is legitimate to ask if Help to Buy schemes simply push up prices across the board while funnelling funds into one, effectively subsidised, sector. If the aim is to help first time buyers, why is that help confined to 5% to 10% of the market?

Another trend which bears scrutiny is the rising appetite for the private rented sector (PRS), which is now offering serious competition to more traditional social housing models. Cui bono is a reasonable response.

There is no doubt that some PRS schemes on the drawing boards are of high quality and aimed at sustainable community building. But do such schemes simply lock Generation Rent – those unfortunate 20- to 34-year-olds – out of home ownership for even longer?

The Scottish Government has to be given credit for trying to do something different to address the housing shortage, such as providing incentives and rental guarantees for Build-to-Rent projects.

But the best laid plans gang aft agley, as with the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. Its zero rate on homes under £145,000 was intended to encourage lower earners into the market, but is has been seized on by investors who are delighted to construct portfolios with no transaction implications.

So, there have been artificial effects on the market and these are likely to continue, but there has been a reasonable level of performance and we have continued to see modest price increases.

The Brexit factor is waning. This is not because the consequent uncertainty has diminished. It is simply that people become used to anything and there is a palpable wish simply to get on with our lives while the geopolitical battles rage on in the distance.

Rather than hanging on for a suitable property to buy before selling, some individuals are biting the bullet, selling advantageously and renting while they wait for something else to come along. Whether this is a profitable strategy can only depend on individual circumstances.

Brexit fluctuations will continue in 2018, but the uncertainty of a second Scottish referendum is largely now old news and there is a sense that, despite the continuing clamour in Holyrood, it is extremely unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

Perversely, just as the market is stabilising in the way most property professionals have wanted, risk is being reintroduced by, of all people, the lenders.

In their continued drive for economies and speed, they are actively developing automated valuation models designed to create valuations using mathematical modelling combined with a database.

These calculations will be based on specific points in time and analysis of comparable values. But, in taking out the human element, they are also removing professional eyes on the property, opinion based on experience and deliberation and analysis.

This is a short-sighted strategy which has the potential to seriously disrupt the integrity of valuation and possibly even create another lending bubble – which could burst again at any time.

Does anyone seriously think that is a good idea?

  • Eric Curran is managing partner of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, based in the firm’s Glasgow North office

Blog: The consequences of ‘Concurrent Delay’ in construction projects on either side of the Border

Michael Conroy

In light of the recent woes brought on in part by delays in high risk construction projects, Harper Macleod’s head of construction, Michael Conroy, compares the Scots and English law positions in relation to ‘concurrent delays’ and suggests practical steps to be taken by parties to contracts which may reduce or mitigate their exposure from disputes.

The recent collapse of Carillion has again brought into focus the low margins and high risks faced by contractors involved in complex high value construction projects.

Where contractors on such projects can be working to extremely low margins, the impact of a failure to recover losses incurred due to extended delays on problem jobs may be fatal to their business.

For any delayed project there may be a myriad of circumstances which have occurred to cause delay and disruption to the regular progress of works, some being the fault of the contractor and others not. Unravelling which of these should determine any extension of time or entitlement to loss and expense for a contractor and thereafter quantifying such time, loss and expense is not straightforward nor is it an exact science with much scope for divergence of expert opinion.

The position is not assisted by the failure of the most commonly used standard form contracts (JCT in England and their Scottish SBCC equivalents) to specify methodologies for determination of fair and reasonable extensions of time.

In particular the standard forms do not provide a determination mechanism for those circumstances where there is a concurrency of delays (broadly where there are two or more causes of a particular delay one of which is the fault of the contractor and the other(s) is/are “Relevant Events” entitling the Contractor to an extension of time or “Relevant Matters” entitling the Contractor to loss and expense).

Where the standard forms are silent as to dealing with concurrency the position is further exacerbated by the law being less than clear. Further confusion arises where there is a divergence as to the treatment of these circumstances under English law and Scottish law.

Scots law versus English law

The following table sets out the differing principles formulated by the Scottish and English courts:

 

Scots Law

 

 

English law (“the Malmaison Approach”)

 

Leading Case: City Inn v Shepherd Leading Cases: Henry Boot v Malmaison

Walter Lilley v McKay

 

There is true concurrency between a relevant event and a contractor default where they both existed simultaneously regardless of which started first.

 

Note: Focus on the occurrence of the delay events.

 

Concurrent delay denotes a period of project overrun which is caused by two or more effective causes of delay which are of approximately equal causative potency.

 

Note: Focus on the period of project overrun.

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with unequal causative potency the dominant cause will be treated as the cause of delay

 

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with unequal causative potency the dominant cause may be treated as the cause of delay

 

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with equal causative potency then it may be appropriate that delays are apportioned between the parties

 

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with equal causative potency then the contractor will be awarded an extension of time

 

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with equal causative potency then it may be appropriate that losses are apportioned between the parties

 

Where there are two or more effective causes of delay with equal causative potency the contractor will not be entitled to loss and expense.

 

Practical Steps

Many construction companies will operate UK wide. It is important that their understanding of exposure for contract default takes account of the differences between English and Scottish law.

Whereas in England contractors may be entitled to a full extension of time but no loss and expense, in Scotland for the same circumstances they may get some of the time and some of their loss and expense. Those responsible within the contractor’s organisation for the entering into of contracts should be educated as to these differences so that an acceptable/desired risk profile can be achieved.

For employers it is common to amend the standard forms to achieve more favourable terms. Amendments which we commonly include for employer clients are statements that no extension of time or loss and expense will be awarded or loss where there exists at the time of a Relevant Event or Relevant Matter any concurrent delay which is the fault of the contractor.

Other possible amendments could include: a clear statement of what constitutes concurrency; guidance as to identification of the dominant cause; and a statement that the dominant cause will prevail over another effective cause

For both parties it may be preferable that detailed provisions are included to deal with programme issues to identify clearly methodologies and principles to be applied by the Contract Administrator to the analysis of delay events and his/her formulation of a fair and reasonable opinion on these matters.

Conclusion

The topic of this brief note is the subject of extensive commentary and ongoing debate. The purpose is simply to raise some awareness and should not be regarded as an authoritative exposition on this area of construction law.

If you wish any further guidance or advice around these issues please do not hesitate to contact Michael Conroy, partner and head of Harper Macleod’s Construction Law Practice.

t: 0141 227 9316

e: michael.conroy@harpermacleod.co.uk

This blog originally appeared on the Harper Macleod website.

Blog: Construction Act reform – potential impact on the industry

Rebecca Barrass

Rebecca Barrass looks at the details of a UK government consultation reviewing changes to construction legislation. 

The government is currently consulting on a proposed package of reforms to the construction provisions contained in Part 2 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”). The consultation is running in parallel with a consultation in relation to retention payments in the construction industry, both of which are due to close tonight at 11:45pm.

This is not the first reform we have seen in relation to the 1996 Act. In October 2011, the government introduced amendments to the 1996 Act. Both the 1996 Act and the subsequent amendments sought to recognise the problems faced by contractors in the industry, particularly the prevalence of cash flow issues faced by smaller contractors. The amendments introduced a host of changes with the objective of:

  • increasing transparency in the exchange of information relating to payments;
  • encouraging parties to resolve disputes by adjudication, where appropriate; and
  • strengthening the right to suspend performance.

The amendments, amongst other things, removed the restriction on who can serve payment notices; clarified the content of payment and withholding notices; introduced a “fall back” provision, allowing payees to submit payment notices where the payer fails to do so; and, prohibited “pay when paid” clauses, ensuring that payment is not dependent on payments being made under another contract.

The amendments also introduced changes to the law surrounding adjudication, including removing the possibility of contracting parties allocating the costs of adjudication to a particular party and, inserted provisions to allow parties to suspend performance in the event of non-payment.

The government undertook to review the amendments after five years and the result is the current consultation. The consultation relates to the law and practices that apply in England. However, Scottish businesses should not dismiss it. The relevant law in Scotland does not differ significantly from that in England and the results of the consultation will therefore likely be a good indication of the issues in Scotland. The construction industry, more than any other industry, has a tendency to transcend UK borders.

We see a huge number of Scottish based clients coming to us with disputes that have arisen under contracts governed by English law. Often contractors will have limited opportunity to negotiate the finer contract terms and if working for an English or England based employer, will frequently find themselves tied to a contract governed by English law – often not even realising that is the case!

The primary purpose of the consultation is to establish how effective the 2011 changes have been and whether the above objectives have been met. There is a focus on the clarity and transparency of the payment under the 1996 Act. This was a major aim of the legislation and there is clear motivation to establish whether that has been achieved.

The consultation sets out questions in respect of the 1996 Act’s fitness for purpose, including the complexity of the existing payment framework, the effectiveness of establishing a clear debt or basis of adjudication and the frequency of adjudication. It also looks at the effect of the suspension of performance provisions on payment.

The consultation further considers the measures implemented in 2011 relating to Adjudication. Adjudication was introduced as a means of quickly and cost-effectively resolving disputes that arise under, and typically during, a construction contract. The speed of adjudication as a means of dispute resolution cannot be denied but we are seeing adjudication being used more and more in high value, complex disputes and questions have been raised as to whether adjudication is the appropriate forum for resolving such disputes. The consultation addresses the costs of adjudication, requesting information in relation to the affordability of adjudication, whether there has been a significant decrease to costs, and if parties were more inclined to adjudicate following the 2011 amendments.

When the consultation closes the government will consider the answers received and determine whether there is a need or a want for further reform. The effects of the 1996 Act have been huge and in most respects, beneficial to contractors but no system is without its flaws. We are seeing a big increase in the cases coming to court concerning payment provisions since the 2011 amendments. In recent years the courts have been asked a number of important questions in relation to payment notices, default notices and the applicability of the Scheme for Construction Contracts.

To some extent, we would always expect the courts to determine issues of legislative interpretation but given the government’s resolve to review the current legislation it seems the ideal opportunity to address any issues. Whatever the outcome, and bearing in mind the current government has its hands full with all matters Brexit, the consultation is still an important opportunity to have your say and those in the industry should take full advantage of that opportunity.

  • Rebecca Barrass is a solicitor at MacRoberts

Blog: With city centre offices in short supply, being forced to look elsewhere might be a blessing in disguise

By Guy Marsden, director at Highbridge Properties PLC

Ask any commercial property agent about the current market for Grade A office space in Glasgow city centre, and they’ll tell you that there’s high demand, low supply and no speculative new-build development.

This already low supply has been further diminished recently, thanks to a cluster of major deals taking place as businesses look to invest in Glasgow again. JP Morgan has taken 20,000 sq ft of office space at 141 Bothwell Street, Zurich has snapped up 17,250 sq ft at St Vincent Plaza, and the Scottish Courts will soon be occupying 80,000 sq ft at Atlantic Quay. This flurry of activity saw the total take-up for 2017 exceeding 600,000 sq ft.

This upturn in fortunes leaves only around 60,000 sq ft of Grade A new office space available in Glasgow city centre. Similarly, supply in Edinburgh is at its lowest level since 2010, with the majority of under-construction office space in the capital already committed. This, predictably, is pushing rents sharply up. We are now moving into a market dynamic where pre-lets are likely.

With the combination of increasing demand and decreasing stock, businesses may find themselves unable to expand or move within Scotland’s two biggest city centres due to lack of availability. This leaves companies with the option of a refurbished office, or going out of the city centre.

“Being so close to sporting amenities might actually inspire workers to get active on their lunchbreaks instead of sitting at their desks or shopping.” – Guy Marsden

But isn’t a city centre the only place for a self-respecting blue-chip company to be? Not necessarily. Areas on the outskirts of a city, close to both the centre and outlying commuter towns, offer many advantages. Many forward-thinking companies are realising that most of the workforce doesn’t actually live in city centres, and that they might not relish the thought of an expensive and time consuming commute every day. Could locating offices in areas closer to where employees live result in a happier, healthier and more loyal workforce? I certainly think so.

The Clyde Gateway city centre expansion area, for example, has a workforce of 1.5 million within a 60 minute commute, because it is not only well connected to the city centre by rail and road, but also to Lanarkshire towns like Rutherglen, Cambuslang, Hamilton and East Kilbride. A railway line also connects it directly to the west end of Glasgow. The evidence to date shows how popular a business location this is – of the 800,000 square feet of Grade A office and industrial space that Clyde Gateway has already developed, over 85% has been let or sold.  It was this success that first brought Clyde Gateway to my attention.

Like many peripheral business locations, Magenta, the new office park that we are developing in partnership with Clyde Gateway, will offer substantial savings on similar city centre properties. But it’s not all about money – there’s also employee wellbeing to consider.  Magenta is within walking and cycling distance of the numerous residential developments that are springing up in Glasgow’s east end. There are already 2,500 homes in the immediate vicinity, which could grow to 6,000 in the near future. Being so close to the Cuningar Loop woodland park and sporting amenities like the Emirates Arena, might actually inspire workers to get active on their lunchbreaks instead of sitting at their desks or shopping.

While getting people onto public transport is to be encouraged, the reality is that many employees need their cars to do their job. And while parking can be impossible – or at least, prohibitively expensive – in city centres, satellite locations often offer high parking ratios that at least makes taking cars to work a viable option.

Then, of course, there’s the economic and physical regeneration argument. Our Cobalt business park near Newcastle transformed a brownfield site and brought 14,000 jobs and big name companies like Hewlett Packard, Santander, Proctor & Gamble, Newcastle Building Society and Accenture to the area. Magenta could do the same for Glasgow. The parallels between Magenta and London Docklands, where Highbridge developed the first tower block, are striking. I believe that the same positive outcome that was achieved there will follow through at Magenta.

So perhaps we shouldn’t see low supply of city centre offices as a bad thing – instead, look beyond and consider that urban business districts could be the answer. Your employees – not to mention your finance department – might just thank you for it.

Blog: Top construction contract tips

Craig Bradshaw

Craig Bradshaw gives his top 10 tips for reviewing design responsibility in construction contracts.

Construction is a fast-paced and competitive business environment. Contractors face a constant need to win business and maintain good customer relations, all while managing time pressure, availability of resources and lengthy multi-authored contracts.

Then along comes the recent Supreme Court decision in MT Hojgaard A/S v E.ON Climate & Renewables UK Robin Rigg East Limited and another [2017] UKSC 59.

The contractor was held liable for €26.25m of remedial works on the basis that the failed offshore wind turbine foundations were not fit for purpose, even though it was accepted the contractor had used due care and professional skill, adhered to good industry practice and complied with an international design standard.

So what is a busy contractor to do? Here are 10 tips to help manage allocation of design responsibility in construction contracts.

1) Complete copy contract
Construction contracts often contain various documents and documents incorporated by reference.

To properly review the contract, it is important to have a full copy. Carry out a preliminary review to check you have a full copy of the contract, the correct versions of documents and no missing pages. Superfluous documents should be removed.

2) Priority of documents 
Check if there is a clause regulating priority among the various documents – if so, then review its suitability for the particular contract; if not, then consider having one included.

3) Discrepancies / inconsistencies 
Where construction contracts are made up of various items of documentation there is a real possibility of unintended discrepancies or inconsistencies.

Clauses dealing with such discrepancies or inconsistencies need to be identified and reviewed to assess impact.

4) Responsibility for design 
Often a range of parties will contribute towards the overall project design – in that context there are various ways design responsibility might be allocated between the parties to a contract.

Ideally an agreement in principle should be reached regarding design responsibility and then reflected in the contract.

Take into account issues such as: does the contractor have any design responsibility? What is the employer’s design responsibility? Is the contractor responsible for design of the whole or only part of the works? Does responsibility lie in completing the design or assuming responsibility for all existing and future design? What is the legal standard of care to be exercised in relation to design?

5) Legal duty of care 
The contract should expressly describe the agreed legal duty of care for design. Make it clear that it takes priority over any higher standard of care that might otherwise apply. Include the clause in a document with suitably high priority under any priority-of-documents clause.

Without an express clause describing the standard of care, the default position for a contractor undertaking design is likely to be a ‘fitness-for-purpose’ obligation.

6) Exclude fitness for purpose
If a ‘reasonable skill and care’ design obligation applies – rather than ‘fitness for purpose’ – then the MT Hojgaard case demonstrates the merits of having a clause excluding a fitness-for-purpose design obligation.

7) Technical documents
Generally, the technical documents should be reviewed – taking into account any priority-of-documents clause – to understand the scope of and uncertainties in the technical design requirements.

Where there is a) a requirement to comply with a prescribed design, and b) also a requirement to comply with prescribed criteria, then this may require the contractor to depart from or improve upon the prescribed design to satisfy the prescribed criteria. A contractor should review technical documents to identify and address any such issues.

Check if there is a design life provision. If so, is it acceptable in the context of the contract and legal rules on prescription and limitation (see ‘duration of liability’ below)?

8) Financial liability in respect of design 
In the context of the contract and your insurance arrangements, do you require a financial cap on liability? A financial cap on liability would need to be drafted and included in the contract.

9) Duration of liability
In the context of the contract and applicable legal rules on prescription and limitation, do you require a clause regulating the duration of your liability? Any such clause would need to be drafted and included in the contract.

10) Professional indemnity insurance
A party responsible for design will want its design liabilities to be covered by professional indemnity insurance. Therefore, consultation with insurers should take place.

Blog: AWPR – New Year message from Keith Brown

Keith Brown on a visit to the new River Don Crossing construction site

Cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown, says the £745 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) is due to be completed by the spring and is already delivering benefits to local communities.

Less than a decade ago, no-one in the north-east could envisage the Aberdeen bypass ever being built.

One of the most ambitious road infrastructure projects in Scotland, indeed the UK, was stopped at a red light – held up in court while other major projects in Scotland were pressing ahead.

Fast forward to early 2015 – the legal battle had been fought and won, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon turned the first turf to kick start a three quarters of a billion pounds major road infrastructure scheme.

Not only has the new road delivered thousands of jobs during its construction – it will support 14,000 more for the north-east over the next 30 years – it will also provide £6 billion to the local economy over the same period.

The project will see 30km of access roads, 40km of side roads, 58km of new dual carriageway, nearly 1,200 bridge beams supporting 75 new bridges, 70 new culverts, two major river crossings, two wildlife crossings, and a railway bridge being built. The feat of engineering to deliver this mammoth scheme is truly staggering and everyone who is playing their part can already take immense pride in being involved.

Of course, the new bypass is already delivering benefits – we pledged from the outset to open sections of the scheme as they became available and bring early benefits to local communities, and we’ve done just that. The new merge onto the A90 at Stonehaven, for instance, has significantly reduced traffic flow through the town, reducing congestion . We’ve recently seen the link road open at Foveran, Contlaw Road bridge become operational and numerous side roads opened, with more sections due to open in the weeks ahead.

Naturally, the work has impacted on traffic in some areas, particularly as we move through to the final stages, where we will connect up the new infrastructure to the existing road network.  I would like to thank road users for being patient whilst we deliver this massive investment.

Aerial view of Craibstone junction nearing completion

The bypass will see journey times slashed – we can estimate a typical trip from Stonehaven in the south to Aberdeen Airport during peak times to be cut in half to around 28 minutes. Congestion in and around the city will be significantly eased with the effective removal of long haul traffic currently using Anderson Drive. Roads will also be safer because the volume of traffic will lessen in the Aberdeen City Council area, air pollution in the city will also be reduced and public transport can be improved.

Following the opening of the bypass, we can look forward to Haudagain roundabout, Aberdeen’s most notorious bottleneck, finally being consigned to history. Preparation work on this project has been progressing well and construction work is expected to start on completion of the new bypass.

It’s been some time coming, and I know it has caused unavoidable disruption, but I’m proud to have seen the bypass evolve from the drawing board to full construction. I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year – local communities should ready themselves as the complexion of the region is about to change for the better, with 2018 set to be a defining year for transport in the north east.

Blog: A decade of transport investment

Keith Brown at opening of the new M8/M73/M74

Cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown, looks back on transport investment over the last ten years and looks to 2018.

This year has proven to be a landmark one for transport in Scotland.

2017 marked ten years of sustained investment in our roads, rail and other modes of transport by the Scottish Government. A decade that has seen nearly £20 billion pumped into much needed transport initiatives that will improve connectivity around Scotland and help stimulate Scotland’s economic growth.

It was our determination that we would move transport into the 21st century, following years of under-investment by previous governments, and that investment is now starting to reap huge dividends.

Our flagship road schemes speak for themselves – in less than 10 years since it was first announced to Parliament, we have opened the new £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing on the Forth Estuary, a complex engineering feat that has put our workmanship to the front and centre of global engineering. We are immensely proud of that achievement, but is only one of many.

The motorway network around Glasgow has seen the M74 ‘Missing Link’ completed in addition to the M80 upgrade, and a further half billion pound investment has delivered major improvements to the motorway network around Glasgow including a new M74 Raith Interchange. Since its opening earlier this year, it is re-energising our largest city with the wider benefits being felt right across central Scotland and beyond.

We have completed the first stage of dualling the A9 all the way from Perth to Inverness, and planning is well underway to dual the A96 from Inverness to Aberdeen – part of our ambition to connect all of Scotland’s cities by motorway or dual carriageway.

We shouldn’t ignore the smaller, but no less challenging schemes which have significant impacts right across the country. A new viaduct built on the side of Loch Lomond at Pulpit Rock was complex but has removed traffic signals which have been there for nearly thirty years! And a much needed bypass at Crianlarich has reduced traffic in the town by half – both improvements benefitting road users and local communities along the A82.

In Aberdeenshire, we promised to remove the A96 bottleneck at Inveramsay Bridge and have done just that. And anyone in Aberdeen will know that the bypass, the longest road currently under construction in the UK, is moving into its final phases. This will see 58km of new dualled road wind its way around our oil and gas capital, improving journey times and delivering over £6bn of economic benefits and 14,000 new jobs over 30 years.

The Queensferry Crossing from south approach road. Image reproduced courtesy of Transport Scotland

We’ve made significant improvements to key areas on the A75 and A77 delivering better connections to and from our key port at Cairnryan, and work on new bypasses for Dalry and Maybole are moving apace.

Crucially this investment is helping to make our roads safer too. Although we have seen a reduction of over a third in people killed and seriously injured on our roads, we will invest further.

We want to see more people walking and cycling with all of the associated health and social benefits, so have doubled our investment on active travel to £80 million. Over 500 kilometres of new walking and cycling infrastructure has been built across Scotland, with over 150 kilometres more resurfaced. Over 230,000 children have received ‘Bikeability’ cycle training to make young riders better, as well as encourage participation into adult life.

Rail is now more popular than ever having seen investment of nearly £8bn since 2007 to enhance the network. This has seen services increase to 2,300 daily with a further 200 from next year. 160 extra carriages have been added to ScotRail’s fleet with an additional 200 to follow, as well as 75 new coaches planned for the Caledonian Sleeper.

The Borders Railway has returned services there for the first time in nearly 50 years, the new Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line has opened, as has the Airdrie-Bathgate line and its new stations. The network has expanded with 76 kilometres of new track built, and we’re electrifying the rail network across the central belt which will transform rail travel with more capacity and quicker journeys across many routes.

We’ve capped fares at or below inflation to make rail a more affordable transport alternative. We’re linking more journeys by making more cycle spaces at key locations on the rail network, and wi-fi is being rolled out around the country.

Our substantial and on-going investment to 2019 will truly transform the rail network and give passengers and freight users in Scotland the best railway they’ve ever had.

Scotland’s unique geography means ferry services are crucial for our island and remote communities, which is why we’re investing over £180m this year alone. We’ve delivered seven new vessels with two green ‘dual-fuel’ vessels currently being built at Ferguson’s shipyard on the Clyde, and port and harbour infrastructure upgrades are under way across the network.

On buses, over £200m is being spent this year to retain the National Concessionary Travel Scheme, and we have widened entitlement to ensure more people can enjoy the benefits of free travel anywhere in Scotland. Investment in smart ticketing and payment technology continues to modernise our transport networks.

£60m has been spent on lifeline air services for remote communities, as well as help introduce 25 new international air routes to and from Scotland.

Transport is therefore at the very centre of people’s lives. It supports thousands of jobs, and creates thousands more, including graduate and modern apprenticeship places for our young people. Transport connects businesses to the marketplace, and people to work and leisure. And transport gives our economy confidence – if the mechanisms are in place to help an economy to thrive, then businesses will continue to invest.

As we look to 2018, vital links are needed to ensure a vibrant and successful future, and transport will remain at the heart of our plans for Scotland.

Blog: Registered property factors – consultation on a draft revised Code of Conduct

Kevin Stewart

Housing minister Kevin Stewart on why the Scottish Government is giving both property factors and homeowners the opportunity to respond to its consultation on a draft revised Code of Conduct.

Property factors play an important role in housing in Scotland. They help many homeowners ensure that the shared spaces connected to their property- roofs, communal stairways, shared gardens and so on are properly maintained.

The Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 established a framework to better protect homeowners who use factoring services. The 2011 Act created a compulsory register of property factors in Scotland and introduced a Code of Conduct (the Code) which registered factors must comply with. This sets out minimum standards that homeowners should expect from their factor.

In the five years since the Act came into force, the number of registered property factors subject to the Code has increased. We now have around 400 registered property factors and 620,000 property addresses searchable on the register. And while there is evidence that the Code has helped to make some improvements, further improvements could be made in factoring services, particularly in relation to how property factors communicate and consult with homeowners, as well as handling complaints.

The 2011 Act requires for a draft Code to be prepared from time to time and we are now taking the opportunity to consider whether the requirements of the Code need strengthening. Therefore, we are undertaking a consultation on a draft revised Code and related amendments to the 2011 Act and we would like your views on this.  At the same time, we would like to know whether you think the Code has improved the quality of factoring services and if the 2011 Act has improved the wider regulation of property factors?

We’re giving both property factors and the homeowners who use them the opportunity to have their say in this consultation. Whatever your role, your views will help ensure that the minimum standards of property factor services continuously improve and that we strike a fair balance between the duties of property factors and the standards of service that homeowners should expect.

So do let us know what you think. The consultation runs until 15 January 2018 and you are welcome to respond online.