Councillors back plans for 500 new homes and primary school in Elgin

The first phase of a development which will eventually bring 1,500 new homes to Elgin has been given the green light.

Moray Council yesterday approved plans for 500 homes, cycle paths and a new primary school at Findrassie on the northern edge of the town.

With an anticipated development period of 25 years, Findrassie is expected to feature 1,500 houses, community facilities, a primary school and a twelve hectare business park within several distinct phases.

Landowner Pitgaveny Estate revealed a public consultation would begin shortly as developer Barratt draws up final plans.

Co-owner Crinan Dunbar said: “The approval importantly provides a landmark opportunity for us all to see the wider vision for Findrassie, which has been carefully shaped and informed to respect the landscape and community, come one step closer.”

The application was unanimously approved at a meeting of the council’s planning committee.

Head of development services, Jim Grant, explained that alterations may be necessary if the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness dualling route passes to the north of the town.

Space has also been provided on the site for a farm shop, cafe and other retail space for firms to expand into.

John Cowe, chairman of the council’s economic development committee, said: “This is just the first step for what should be a big boost for Elgin and Moray.

“Another primary school is important and it ties in with a lot of our aspirations with the growth deal.”

More housebuilders celebrate five star ratings

McCarthy & Stone’s Beacon Court in Anstruther

McCarthy & Stone and Barratt Developments in Scotland are the latest housebuilders to have achieved the maximum five star rating from the Home Builders Federation (HBF) following an independent customer satisfaction survey.

The HBF Star Rating Scheme awards builders stars for customer satisfaction, based on homeowner feedback in an independent survey. Now in its 13th year, the survey questions owners shortly after moving into new build properties to establish their satisfaction with the quality of their home and the buying experience.

Star ratings are calculated on the number of customers who would recommend the builder to friends, with a five star rating requiring 90% or above.

McCarthy & Stone’s Scotland team is celebrating after the retirement housebuilder achieved the five star customer satisfaction rating for a record thirteenth consecutive year. McCarthy & Stone is the only housebuilder of any size or type to achieve this award for thirteen years running.

McCarthy & Stone achieved a combined customer satisfaction score of 93.5%, while over 90 individual McCarthy & Stone developments received a 100% customer satisfaction score from its homeowners. Of those developments, 11 were in Scotland; including Scholar’s Gate in St Andrews, Beeches Gate in Aberdeen, Templars Court in Linlithgow, Ashwood Court in Paisley, The Sycamores in Kinross, Conachar Bank in Perth, The Pines in Alloway, Campsie Grove in Bishopbriggs, The Hailes in Haddington, Beacon Court in Anstruther and Tantallon Court in North Berwick.

Lorraine Paterson, regional sales and marketing director for McCarthy & Stone in Scotland, attributed the success to a ‘culture of customer care’ within the business.

She said: “At McCarthy & Stone, everything we do starts with quality in mind. This includes the choice of locations, the thoughtful layouts of our apartments, our approach to construction and our in-house management services teams who support our customers after they move and help them to settle in.

“Five-star service is an integral part of our culture and we are continually striving to improve. We would also like to thank our customers for taking the time to pass on their feedback to the HBF.”

Barratt Developments in Scotland, which includes both Barratt and David Wilson Homes, is currently the only major national housebuilder to be rated as five star for nine years in a row, having first been awarded the accolade back in 2010. With 2018 also being the 60th anniversary year for Barratt Homes, the new five star rating award is a double celebration for the housebuilder.

Douglas McLeod, regional managing director for Barratt Developments in Scotland, said: “The fact that 90% of our customers would recommend us to a friend is testament to the effort we invest to make sure our customers enjoy the best possible experience when buying a Barratt or David Wilson Home.

“Being independently rated as a five star builder is a great endorsement of our approach, particularly as we the only major national housebuilder to have five stars for nine years in a row. To us this is the most important industry award which is why we put so much effort into building high quality homes and nurturing trusted relationships with our customers.”

Miller Homes has achieved five stars for the sixth time in seven years, family housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has earned the prestigious rating for the sixth consecutive year, while CALA Homes scored in excess of 93% to achieve the maximum rating.

For a full list of the customer recommendation scores from every participating homebuilder, click here.

Women building a career at Barratt North Scotland

Vicky Gray

Across the globe, 2018 is being dubbed the ‘year of the woman’ following a series of high profile headlines and social media campaigns. To celebrate the role women are playing in making Barratt North Scotland the success it is today, assistant site manager, Vicky Gray, and apprentice joiner, Jemma Sykes, have shared their experiences of building careers in construction.

Glasgow-born Vicky Gray joined Barratt North Scotland in 2015 as a graduate trainee after completing an honours degree in Architectural Technology at Robert Gordon University. After successfully completing the housebuilder’s Accelerated Construction Graduate Scheme, she was promoted to assistant site manager in 2016, and is now working towards becoming a fully-fledged site manager running her own projects and her own team.

Vicky (24) first became inspired to pursue a career in construction when she completed some voluntary work in India. She supported a local community to build an orphanage by assisting with basic hands-on construction. Speaking of her experience, she said: “Seeing the excitement on the children’s faces after we transformed derelict land into somewhere they could truly call home was phenomenal – a memory I will treasure forever.”

Vicky credits the support she received both as a student and as a trainee, for the success she has achieved to date. Her university lecturer pointed her in the direction of the Accelerated Construction Graduate Scheme and put her in touch with a contact at Barratt Homes who supported Vicky through the application process. As a trainee, Barratt North Scotland team provided Vicky with “the greatest support she could ask for”, giving her access to training courses, UK site visits and regular reviews with the construction manager throughout.

“I am confident that I have taken the first steps into a long and lucrative career, and I hope I can inspire other women to take those steps too.”

Vicky Gray

Now that she has completed her training, Vicky thrives on the variety her role provides, making every day a new opportunity to learn, tackle interesting new challenges and meet new people. Describing her role, she said: “On a daily basis I deal with a variety of different tasks, from coordinating on site tradesmen, completing health and safety documentation, and ensuring the build programme is on schedule and up-to-date, to liaising with suppliers and subcontractors, ordering materials and following up with aftercare for new homeowners.

“There is definitely no such thing as a typical day onsite, especially at Westburn Gardens where I’m currently based. This is a large and complex site featuring new build homes, multi-storey apartments, underground car parking, refurbished listed buildings and historic monuments. I’ve worked on this project for around a year and a half now and it has become an excellent learning experience because of the variety it entails.”

“Old fashioned perceptions are unhelpful and have no place.”

Jemma Sykes

As a woman working in a sector traditionally perceived to be a male-dominated sector, Vicky has clear views about how stereotypes and misinformed perceptions can be addressed. Also, while she does accept that the construction workforce is still predominantly male, she doesn’t believe that this should be seen as a barrier for women seeking employment in this field.

Speaking of her experience, she said: “The construction world is still made up predominantly of men, but my greatest barrier was coming into this role without a trade background. I was concerned that the tradespeople on site would not take me seriously, but I was quickly proven wrong – everyone has treated me positively and respectfully and I very much feel part of the team.

“There are many beliefs that construction is not for women because of the unsociable hours, physical work and so on, but this is all about dated attitudes and ill-informed perception. This is in fact the greatest barrier. By working hard to encourage more women into the sector, house builders can help to break down this barrier by improving awareness of the opportunities on offer. I am confident that I have taken the first steps into a long and lucrative career, and I hope I can inspire other women to take those steps too.”

Jemma Sykes

Jemma (26) has followed a different route into construction, opting to learn a trade rather than enter as a graduate manager. Originally from Salford, she is now in her second year as an apprentice joiner with Barratt North Scotland. As an older apprentice, Jemma was inspired to pursue joinery by her experience of building her own home as well her interest in creating bespoke furniture.

Speaking of her role, she said: “I like being hands on and active, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the finished result of my efforts in the final stages of a project. My experience so far has given me the practical and theoretical skills as well as the confidence to tackle my own projects too.

“A typical day for me starts at 7.30am. I unload my tools and take them to where I am working – which is normally up scaffolding – then collecting any materials I might need for the job. At the moment we are framing external walls ready for cladding to be fixed to them. We normally stop for a break at around 9.30, then for lunch at 12.30, before finishing on site at 4.30pm.”

Jemma believes that perceptions surrounding the physical capabilities of women need to be addressed if the industry is to inspire future generations of tradeswomen. She has never doubted her ability to do her job to the highest standard and aspires for future development in her career.

She explained: “By sharing experiences like my own, we can raise the profile of the fact that women are already doing these jobs successfully and that employers like Barratt North Scotland fully recognise the contribution women can make to the construction industry.

“Old fashioned perceptions are unhelpful and have no place – whether it’s an opinion shared by a family member, a school teacher or a colleague. Construction offers so many career paths, especially now as skills are in high demand. I’m really proud to be learning such a valued craft and I hope to inspire other women to consider a trade as a fulfilling career choice.”

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Barratt looks to increase volume and efficiency amid strong interim results

David Thomas

Housebuilder Barratt Developments has attributed a near 7% rise in interim profit to strong customer demand leading to confidence in the market.

In the six months ending 31st December 2017, Barratt made a pre-tax profit of £342.7 million (2016: £321.0m) on revenue up 9.5% to £1,988.0m (2016: £1,816.2).

Including joint ventures, total completions reached 7,324 (2016: 7,180). Of these, 1,270 were built with timber frames.

Commenting on the results, David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt Developments PLC, said: “With good consumer demand, a healthy forward order book and a robust balance sheet, overall we have had a strong first half and we continue to deliver against our operational and financial objectives.

“As the UK’s largest housebuilder, we enter our 60th year increasing our housing output, creating jobs and supporting economic growth across the country.

“Having built more than 450,000 homes since 1958, Barratt remains focused on quality, design and industry-leading customer service while delivering homes the country needs.”

Increasing volume and efficiency will be a priority for the company in the coming years, and further investment is being made into the researching and trialling the latest developments.

Mr Thomas added: “We are also implementing a number of key initiatives in terms of improving efficiency and growing volumes in the future. In addition to building around 1,270 homes during FY17 using timber frames, we have completed trials of light gauge steel frames and large format blocks with positive results. These provide similar benefits to timber frame, such as increased build speed and reducing our reliance on certain traditional construction methods. We continue to trial various new offsite technologies, including offsite concrete garages and offsite ground floor foundation systems. We are also researching and applying smart technologies to better understand the needs of our customers in the future.”

Developer takes appeal for almost 250 Aberdeenshire homes to Holyrood

A developer has launched an appeal to the Scottish Government in a bid overturn Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to reject its plans for almost 250 new homes.

Barratt North Scotland had proposed to deliver 247 homes on Fordoun Road in Laurencekirk.

However councillors on the council’s Kincardine and Mearns area committee voted against the plans in October citing concerns of housing density and the layout of roads for the plan at Fordoun Road.

The councillors also said the development would have a detrimental impact on the town’s open space, as well as failing to comply with the approved masterplan for the area.

Now Barratt has urged Holyrood’s planning and environment appeals division to overturn the refusal.

Chris Ross, development director at Barratt North Scotland, said: “We were disappointed by the decision from the Kincardine and Mearns area committee last year, but remain hopeful for the appeal to deliver 247 new homes in the area.

“This project would offer a mix of properties including affordable housing for the local community.”

Planning documents lodged with the Scottish Government said 62 affordable units would be built. These include a mixture of flats and houses.

Aberdeenshire Council now has until March 6 to give a response to the Scottish Government regarding the appeal.

A letter from the government to Halliday Fraser Munro, the agents for Barratt North Scotland, said: “Aberdeenshire Council, the planning authority that dealt with your original application, now has 21 days to give us a response to your appeal, along with any relevant documents or information.

“You will receive a copy of this response and then have 14 days to respond.”

A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “We note the appeal and will await the outcome.”

Barratt to deliver over 2,200 homes across Scotland in 2018

Douglas McLeod

Housebuilder Barratt Developments has announced plans to open 12 new sites creating 2280 new homes across Scotland during the course of 2018.

In addition to its home building programme, Barratt, which includes both the Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes brands, will also continue to increase its investment in land, as it looks to acquire and develop up to 16 new sites over the next twelve months, following a busy 2017 in which it acquired 14 new sites for development.

Barratt said the new sites will underpin over 6200 existing jobs and support around 100 new jobs in Scotland, reflecting the continued demand for new homes in key locations. The homebuilder predominately employs local sub-contractors and tradesmen – so local businesses and people will benefit directly from the jobs

New developments to be launched in early 2018 include Brae of Yetts in Kirkintilloch, Preston Square in Prestonpans and The Fairways in Drumpellier.

During the course of 2017, the housebuilder opened 14 new sites across Scotland with a total of 2500 new homes for sale. New sites launched last year include Mains of Culduthel, near Inverness, Weirs Wynd in Brookfield and The Woodlands in Dalkeith.

Barratt also sold out on a number of developments including Harlaw Gait in Inverurie, The Elms in Kirkliston, and Westlin Walk in Kilmarnock.

In recognition of Barratt’s success, ten of its site managers carried home awards from the National House Building Council’s (NHBC) Pride in the Job Quality Awards. Barratt was also, for the eighth year in a row, awarded a maximum 5 star rating in the HBF (Home Builders Federation) customer satisfaction survey 2017, meaning that more than 90% of its customers would recommend their homes to a friend.

Douglas McLeod, regional managing director for Barratt Developments in Scotland, said: “Despite some regional differences in market conditions across Scotland, the economic fundamentals are still favourable towards house building. Demand for good quality homes continues to outstrip supply. As Scotland’s largest housebuilder, we remain firmly committed to helping address the country’s housing shortage, and playing our part in addressing industry-wide skills challenges. We are investing further in our award winning apprenticeships and recruiting and training skilled workers from outside of the building industry. To increase the efficiency of our build process, we continue to lead the way in using modern construction methods.

“The quality of our homes and our high levels of customer service are key to our ongoing success. Our NHBC Pride in the Job Award winning site managers and our HBF five star status demonstrate our credentials and, more importantly, reflect the importance we place on putting our customers first. We’re looking forward to another strong year in 2018.”

Green light for hundreds of new homes in Inverurie

Malcolm Allan HousebuildersOver 500 new homes will be built across two sites in Inverurie after councillors approved plans for the developments, The Press & Journal has reported.

Malcolm Allan Housebuilders had submitted a fresh application for 416 homes and a small office and retail development at Portstown.

While the developer already had permission to build the properties, it now plans to build all 48 affordable homes and flats on one site.

As a result of a reduction in demand for larger houses in the north east, the firm will also change the design of some of the homes to reduce the number of larger properties and feature more semi-detached housing, including bungalows.

Since the developer already had permission to build a similar development, and the decision was effectively determining a change of house type, the committee voted in favour of the proposals.

Councillors also backed plans by Barratt North Scotland to build 125 homes at the nearby Boynds Farm, Uryside.

The developer already had permission to build 104 homes but has decided to build some smaller units due to similar market concerns. Work on the project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete, began in 2014.

The scheme also includes a new £11 million primary school, Uryside Primary, which opened following the October break.

Report highlights Barratt’s £298m boost to UK economy

Douglas McLeod

Douglas McLeod

Barratt Developments has delivered a £298 million boost to the UK economy over the past year, building 1,708 new homes in Scotland and supporting around 5,000 jobs over the period, a new report has revealed.

As part of its housebuilding activity, the housebuilder, which includes both Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes, has made £29.5m in local contributions to help build new local facilities and infrastructure in communities surrounding its new developments, including seven new community facilities and the provision of 140 new school places.

The achievements are highlighted in Barratt Scotland’s latest Social Economic Footprint report which measures the housebuilder’s social and economic contribution to Scotland over the past year. Included within the report are key measures relating to the company’s support for the housebuilding supply chain, local communities, environment, public services and employment.

Other highlights included in the report show that Barratt has:

  • Contributed £298m of Gross Value Added (GVA) to UK economic output
  • Directly employed 19 new graduates, trainees and apprentices
  • Supported 620 sub-contractor companies and 680 supplier companies
  • Planted or retained 17,250 trees or shrubs on its developments
  • Recycled 96% of construction waste
  • Created 86.8ha of greenspace through public open space and private gardens
  • Generated £55.5m in tax to support public services.

Douglas McLeod, regional managing director for Scotland, Barratt Developments, said: “Market conditions have remained consistent throughout Scotland and demand for good quality homes remains stronger than ever, something which is yet again reflected in our socio-economic footprint. By building over 1,700 new homes, we have continued to help meet the squeeze on housing, helping more people move onto the property ladder, and helping others move up the ladder.

“Our activity continues to deliver a significant social and economic impact, supporting Scotland’s construction industry and delivering new infrastructure and services to communities across Scotland. I’m also proud of our environmental record, having maintained our commitment of safeguard the environments in which we build through, for example, recycling and reducing waste, tree planting and the creation of green spaces.”

The report on Barratt’s Socio-Economic Footprint in 2017 was carried out by planning consultant, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP).

Help to Buy disproportionately helping larger housebuilders, analysis reveals

Building Professional Employee Builder Worker stockCritics of the Scottish Help to Buy scheme have called for the policy to be scrapped after an investigation revealed just three high volume housebuilders have received around £189 million in subsidised mortgages between them.

Freedom of information (FOI) data obtained by investigatory journalism platform The Ferret has shown that Persimmon Homes, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt have been the largest beneficiaries of Help to Buy since its inception, selling thousands of homes and building nearly half of the homes under the scheme.

The Help to Buy (Scotland) scheme allows people to purchase a new-build home without the need for a large deposit. It enables the Scottish Government to subsidise the cost of home-buyers’ mortgages with prospective buyers getting up to 15% of the purchase price of a new home.

According to The Ferret, York-based Persimmon Homes has benefited most from the scheme. It has sold 2,308 homes via Help to Buy – accounting for nearly one fifth of all the homes sold through the Scottish programme.

Based on the average equity stake per home provided by the Scottish Government, The Ferret estimates that the Scottish Government has put around £77.4m into the purchase of Persimmon built homes.

London-based Taylor Wimpey has received an estimated £57m worth of mortgage support, while BDW Trading, which is part of Leicester-based Barratt Homes, has benefited from around £54.8m worth of subsidised loans.

Courtesy of The Ferret

Courtesy of The Ferret

In early 2016, the Scottish Government announced it would ring-fence one third of its Help to Buy funding for smaller developers.

But the figures show that in the 2016 – 2017 financial year, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barrat built 52% of the homes supported by the scheme. So far in the current financial year, these three firms have accounted for 50% of the 1,264 homes which received Scottish Government subsidy.

Green MSP Andy Wightman, who also chairs the cross-party group on housing at the Scottish Parliament, urged the Scottish Government to end the scheme in the next budget, claiming it makes housing more expensive for everyone else by pushing up prices generally and does little to benefit those on low incomes.

He told The Ferret: “For too long now, boosting profits for senior management and shareholders has taken precedent over delivering homes that can properly be called affordable. Housing policy should focus on the supply side rather than demand.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said that the money would be better spent on supporting affordable housing for social rent.

“Help to Buy is not the right way of addressing the housing crisis. It adds public money into the market rather than lowering prices for everyone,” he added.

Directing resources to increasing the supply of affordable housing for social rent, he argued, “would reduce the threat of homelessness to many people who are currently struggling to keep a roof over the heads due to a combination of high rent, stagnant wages and welfare reform”.

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, emphasised to The Ferret that taxpayers were likely to get their money back over the long term, and could even profit, provided house prices rise, as the loans were repaid.

She said: “With housing completions still 36% down on pre-recession levels, Help to Buy has played a hugely important role in sustaining the construction of new homes, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and contributing £1bn in Gross Value Added to the wider economy since launch.”

The Scottish Government announced last year that Help to Buy enabed more than 30 households a week to purchase a new build home

The Scottish Government announced last year that Help to Buy enabed more than 30 households a week to purchase a new build home

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said that the Scottish Government was investing £3bn in building 50,000 affordable homes and that the Help To Buy scheme was in addition to this.

He told The Ferret: “We are committed to help struggling buyers purchase their own home through our shared equity schemes.

“Over 10,000 households have benefited from our Help to Buy programme since its introduction – two thirds of these were first time buyers and three quarters were aged 35 or under. The evidence also shows the scheme has had success in helping people move from social housing and from waiting lists into sustainable home ownership.

“Shared equity support is provided directly to buyers and builders receive no support from the Scottish Government. Help to Buy is led by demand from buyers and the Scottish Government has no control over the number of developments made available by each builder or where these developments are located.”

Responding to the report, the Common Weal think-tank has went further and challenged the Scottish Government to “answer a number of questions about its closeness to the property developer lobby in Scotland”.

Other revelations in The Ferret included evidence that the Scottish Government has asked industry representatives to come up with evidence that will justify continuing the subsidy scheme.

The FoI’s also show that Homes for Scotland (HfS) rejected the idea of a small developers fund to replace the current Help to Buy scheme.

Commenting on the findings, Common Weal head of policy, Ben Wray, stated: “These revelations open up serious questions about just how closely the Scottish Government and the property developer lobby are when it comes to designing housing policy.

“It’s perfectly reasonable that Homes for Scotland is listened to, but the Scottish Government appear to be reliant on the lobbyist for evidence to justify policy which its most wealthy members benefit from directly. The fact that HfS are direct partners in devising the new build-to-rent subsidy raises further alarm bells about the closeness of this relationship.

“The Ferret FoI revelations also show that HfS has specifically rejected a small housebuilder fund to replace the current help-to-buy, which the evidence shows is a cash cow for a few big corporate developers. HfS do not represent all opinion on housebuilding and all housebuilders in Scotland, and the Scottish Government would do well to remember this.

“Common Weal will be watching the Budget closely next week to see if subsidies for big corporate property developers are maintained, or if full funding commitment is put into building public rental housing.”

Nicola Barclay has since taken to Twitter to clarify that Homes for Scotland represents all developers and “supports an all tenure approach to give everyone the chance of a home”.

Planning approval for 680 homes in Edinburgh and East Lothian


The new homes proposed for Baileyfield South

Two new housing developments in East Lothian and the East of Edinburgh have now received planning approval, in a move set to help address local housing shortages.

The Barratt Homes’ developments, located in Portobello, Edinburgh and Wallyford, near Musselburgh in East Lothian, will provide an additional 680 homes in total.

Another view of the Baileyfield development

Another view of the Baileyfield development

Approvals of the new sites will result in a mix of two, three and four bedroom homes and apartments in Wallyford and one, two and three bedroom apartments, colonies, townhouses and terraced homes at Portobello.

The 245 homes set to be built in Wallyford will result in the creation of 368 direct and 1,103 indirect jobs in the area.

Baileyfield viewed from above

Baileyfield viewed from above

At Portobello, Barratt Homes will be building 435 new homes at Baileyfield South. Previously used for commercial purposes, the mix of property type at the site is designed to complement the builder’s nearby existing development, Barratt @ Portobello.

The new development will result in the creation of 665 direct and 2,000 indirect jobs during the site’s construction.

An aerial view of the Wallyford site

An aerial view of the Wallyford site

Mansoor Ali, development director for Barratt Homes East Scotland, said: “Edinburgh East and East Lothian are both extremely popular residential locations and these developments will meet the needs of a wide range of house hunters ranging from first time buyers to families.

“Our latest planning approvals in East Lothian and Edinburgh are good news and we will see building begin later in 2018.”