Cruden Group

Cruden Homes starts on two new East Lothian developments

A view of the new Abbey Gardens development at Old Craighall

Housebuilder Cruden Homes has commenced construction at two new developments in East Lothian.

Abbey Gardens at Old Craighall near Musselburgh will comprise 32 properties for sale, in a mix of four-bedroom semi-detached and detached family homes and two-bedroom cottage flats along with 12 affordable homes in a mix of one and two-bedroom cottage flats. All the property styles have been designed exclusively for the location.

Heading east along the coast to Aberlady, Cruden Homes has also commenced construction at Meadowside, a new residential development located to the west of the village.

Cruden’s Meadowside development at Aberlady

Meadowside will comprise 81 properties for sale in a mix of three, four and five-bedroom homes along with 26 affordable homes in a mix of one and two- bedroom cottage flats and two and three-bedroom terraced and semi-detached houses, again all designed exclusively for the location, with open green space and linkages to the existing village and beyond.

A new junction through the site to connect Kirk Road with the A198 will minimise the disruption to protected trees located along the roadside boundary, which are an important part of the character of the coastal route and the western approach to Aberlady.

Hazel Davies, sales and marketing director of Cruden Homes, said: “Cruden Homes has a long and established history in East Lothian and we are absolutely delighted to be now underway at two new developments in this hugely popular location. East Lothian is not only a great place to visit, it’s a great place to live and work and we are in no doubt both our new developments at Old Craighall and Aberlady will be very popular with homebuyers.”

Latest output figures paint mixed picture for UK construction

Allan Callaghan

Output in the UK construction sector has contracted for the sixth consecutive period in the three-month on three-month time series but increased month-on-month in November, official figures have revealed.

The latest output figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the three-month on three-month output fell of 2% in November 2017, representing the largest fall since August 2012.

There were three-month on three-month decreases in both all new work, and repair and maintenance, which fell by 2.1% and 1.7% respectively, although private housing new work grew by 1.2%.

Despite the overall three-month on three-month fall, construction output increased by 0.4% month-on-month in November 2017.

The month-on-month increase in construction output occurred as a result of a 0.5% rise in repair and maintenance, and a 0.4% increase in all new work, the ONS said.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “It’s disappointing to see a fall in output activity in the sector.  In contrast, at Cruden we are seeing continued confidence in the housing market and have already secured a strong order book for 2018.

“Although access to skilled labour and rising material costs remain industry-wide concerns, quality, affordable homes are in high demand and it’s encouraging that the Scottish Government has placed housing as a top priority, with a commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland by 2021.

“The construction industry is vitally important to the Scottish economy and key its sustained growth will be investment in future talent. We continue to play our part through our Cruden Academy. This continuous programme of investment in our employees’ lifelong learning and training, coupled with and our successful modern apprenticeship programme, ensures that we have a solid pipeline of skilled employees to help us face any challenges and take advantage of new opportunities in the future.”

Construction output contracts for sixth consecutive period

crane-stockOutput in the UK construction sector has contracted for the sixth consecutive three-month period, falling by 1.4% in October, new figures have revealed.

Output in the Construction Industry statistics, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that the three-month on three-month fall in output stemmed from falls in both repair and maintenance, and all new work, which fell by 3% and 0.6% respectively.

Construction output also contracted month-on-month in October 2017, decreasing 1.7%, in part due to a 1.5% fall in all new work.

On a positive note, new orders saw record growth in Quarter 3 (July to September) 2017, growing by 37.4% compared with the previous quarter. The record growth was driven predominantly by growth in the infrastructure sector, caused by the awarding of several high-value new orders relating to High Speed 2 (HS2).

Housing new orders also grew in Quarter 3 2017, increasing by 9.5%, recovering from a fall of 4.2% in the previous quarter.

Blane Perrotton, managing director of the national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, said: “What began as a cooling is fast turning into a deep freeze. The loss of momentum has caused the construction sector to suffer its sharpest fall in quarterly output for more than five years – and this is eroding confidence too.

“The picture is especially bleak on the commercial property side. Months of false dawns on Brexit negotiations have whittled away confidence and left many businesses feeling punchdrunk.

“Against a backdrop of seemingly perpetual flux, businesses have understandably postponed big investment decisions, and we’re regularly seeing larger companies activate Brexit contingency plans and smaller firms mothball plans to scale up their premises.

“Even residential construction – so long the industry’s star performer – declined, revealing the scale of the task facing the government as it seeks to stimulate a wave of new housebuilding.

“Nevertheless there are some bright spots. On the front line we’re seeing consistent appetite among developers to convert office buildings into residential units under the extended and popular Permitted Development Rights.

“November’s increase in interest rates has yet to fully filter through and developers are still finding funds available. But finance is increasingly coming from the challenger, rather than high street, banks.

“This greater caution among the mainstream lenders is likely to set the tone for the industry as a whole as 2017 limps across the line.

“Last night’s Brexit deal may have unblocked the negotiations for now, but as long as confidence and clarity are lacking, the construction industry will continue to make halting progress at best.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, added: “After almost a year of slower growth in a climate of uncertainty the industry could now be turning a corner. Although output was down again in October, a record boost in new orders in Q3 means a strong pipeline of new work. Infrastructure and particularly HS2 activity has been the key driver of this increase, with potential benefits for the whole supply chain along the first phase of the route.

“Infrastructure investment provides long term certainty and stability for both the economy and the industry, but the government should work with the National Infrastructure Commission to ensure a joined-up approach on delivery. The pipeline of new projects must be undertaken in a sustainable way, avoiding peaks and troughs, to help to ensure capacity and alleviate pressures on the availability of skills.

“Now that the government has made some significant progress on Brexit negotiations and can move on to trade talks, the underlying economic uncertainty around Brexit will also begin to be addressed.”

Allan Callaghan

Allan Callaghan

North of the Border, Allan Callaghan, managing director at Cruden Building, said the recently published Planning Bill needs to provide a catalyst for the growing need for new homes.

He said: “Although construction output as a whole has fallen again this month, new orders for housing have grown and the demand for more housing across Scotland – both private and affordable homes, remains strong.

“Key to addressing this need will be investing in planning and other statutory approvals and having adequate resources from planning departments to deal with all applications, rather than stifling housing developments, leading to delays in construction companies starting on site.

“While the proposals unveiled in the Planning Bill have gone some way in moving in the right direction, the Bill simply doesn’t go far enough.  Local authorities are hugely under resourced and if we don’t have the right processes in place to speed up the system, this will threaten the scope of future development right across the country and exacerbate the problem for young people who are struggling get on the property ladder.”

Cruden begins £9.3m revamp of former east end hotel

Councillor McLean (pictured far right) and the team behind the development

Councillor McLean (pictured far right) and the team behind the development

A multi million pound transformation of a historic Glasgow building into new east end homes with begins in earnest with the redevelopment of a former hotel in iconic Monteith Row close to Glasgow Green.

The street has an important place in Glasgow’s rich history and dates from 1891.

Now Thenue Housing is preserving the building by turning it into new flats and also building new ones in a project costing £9.3 million.

Councillor Kenny McLean, city convener for neighbourhoods, housing and public realm at Glasgow City Council, got the work underway on a visit to Monteith Row.

Forty nine new flats are being created with building work scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Monteith Row was once home to well-heeled Glaswegians in the 19th century.

One of its remaining buildings – the former Monteith Hotel which is named after a former Lord Provost – will form the centrepiece of the development.

Its new lease of life and additional flats is the latest housing boost from Thenue and is the third development of new homes the housing association has announced in the last nine months.

It brings to £23.6 million the amount of money Thenue is spending on giving people new homes in this location, in Bridgeton and in Castlemilk. The total number of homes being built is around 120. The development is being built by Cruden Building.

Charles Turner, chief executive of Thenue Housing, said: “This is an important step forward in bringing much-needed new homes to the east end.

“Monteith Row is an iconic Glasgow street and preserving a much-loved building by creating modern, energy-efficient new homes will be greatly welcomed by the community.

“We are grateful to Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Council for contributing to the cost of this significant project. Without them it simply would not have been possible.

“It is wonderful that a building with such a rich historical connection to the city is being given a new lease of life.”

Councillor McLean said: “It is great to see work beginning on these 49 new homes in this famous building on a historic Glasgow street. This will be an interesting and attractive development, located close to the city centre, and I’m sure will be enjoyed by the new residents when work is complete.

“The council is pleased to work with Thenue Housing Association, and all of our other partner housing bodies, to deliver high-quality new homes such as these across the city.”

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, added: “We are delighted to work with Thenue Housing to deliver this landmark development of much needed quality, affordable housing in Glasgow’s east end.

“This development will also breathe new life into a once-great city building, the Monteith Hotel, as we convert it into modern, energy efficient homes which will overlook Glasgow Green. During this development, we will be working with local suppliers and providing valuable training opportunities to the local community.”

Thenue and college partnership receives £5000 boost to help people learn

Cruden Building director Gordon Lee and Wendy Kilshaw who has just completed the latest Learning Works course

Cruden Building director Gordon Lee and Wendy Kilshaw who has just completed the latest Learning Works course

Opportunities for jobless people to learn new skills have been given a £5,000 boost from generous construction firm Cruden Building.

The company has dug deep to deliver the cash injection to assist Thenue Housing and Glasgow Kelvin College which work together to help unemployed people.

This week Cruden Building handed over a cheque which will now be used to fund Thenue Housing’s award-winning Learning Works initiative.

Working in partnership with Glasgow Kelvin College in the trail-blazing project, the free course has helped hundreds of jobless people find a pathway to success with a job or further learning opportunities.

The donation from Cruden will help underpin the future of Learning Works and contribute to other learning initiatives from Thenue.

Remarkably, almost 240 people have been through the free course which has just completed its 21st intake. Course 22 will soon be underway.

Learning Works is aimed at unemployed people in the area of Glasgow served by the regeneration agency Clyde Gateway and offers learning across a range of specialisms. These include computer skills, the importance of goal setting, personal development as well as the opportunity to brush up on literacy and numeracy.

It is all designed to make individuals as appealing as possible to potential employers and to defeat joblessness.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “At Cruden Building, we don’t just build quality, affordable homes, we create and become part of the local community.

“We are passionate about nurturing and growing talent within our own organisation, so we’re delighted to support the Learning Works programme and help local people gain invaluable skills through this fantastic initiative.”

Thenue Housing chief executive, Charles Turner, praised Cruden for the donation and added: “This money will help people to keep on learning and give many more the chance to gain new skills and ultimately get a job.

“We are extremely grateful to Cruden Building which shares our vision of helping communities at grass roots level. Learning Works has been a shining example of how organisations working together can transform people’s lives.”

Glasgow Kelvin College vice principal, Alan Inglis, said: “We are delighted to once again be involved in recognising the achievements of the remarkable students on this hugely worthwhile programme.

“The success of the Learning Works groups underscores the value of working together to support learners as they achieve success.  We feel privileged to be part of this dynamic partnership and are grateful to Cruden for their generous contribution to the programme.

“Congratulations go to all the learners who are here today, and to the dedicated staff who have supported them on their journey. Our thanks go to Thenue Housing Association for their continued trust and confidence and we look forward to working as closely with you all in the future.”

Lawrence McCabe, community regeneration manager at Thenue, added: “Helping people back into the workplace so they can earn a wage and improve their lives is vitally important. We are delighted at the support this initiative has been given by Cruden Building.”

Cruden and Hart look to the future with new HQ and new image

Steven Simpson, managing director of Cruden Homes (East) Ltd (left) and Colin Macdonald, managing director of Hart Builders

Steven Simpson, managing director of Cruden Homes (East) Ltd (left) and Colin Macdonald, managing director of Hart Builders

Cruden Homes East and sister company Hart Builders have rebranded and relocated from their former head offices as part of the Cruden Group’s continuing growth strategy.

The new homes and building divisions were formerly located in Juniper Green in Edinburgh and Macmerry in East Lothian respectively but are now both centrally based in Cruden House at the South Gyle Business Park.

There are currently 65 staff in the new office, all benefitting from parking spaces and a well positioned location which provides easy access to the city by road, rail and tram, while the Edinburgh bypass, M8 and M9 motorways are minutes away.

Additional staff benefits include three brand new recreational areas for eating or breaks with each fully equipped and interior designed with feature furniture and lighting. Specifically designed high level desks have been installed in key locations for reviewing architectural plans.

There are also several breakout areas for informal meetings, a range of sleek meeting rooms with the latest AV facilities and a fully equipped gym.

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Various interiors of Cruden House at 36 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh

Steven Simpson, managing director of Cruden Homes (East) Ltd, said: “These are very exciting times for us. Cruden Group has just recorded its 18th consecutive year of profitable trading with another annual increase in turnover, profit and home sales. Both Cruden Homes and Hart Builders continue to make a significant contribution to these results and this relocation puts us in an ideal position to maximize our continued growth and manage the expansion of our operations.

“Going forward, we benefit from a sound financial base and have a number of exciting projects at various stages of the planning process. With the quality and commitment of our people, this move gives us a strong footing to further develop our reputation and continue our growth in the east of Scotland.”

Colin Macdonald, managing director of Hart Builders, added: “Being centrally based at South Gyle provides us with easy access to other Group companies, which in turn is already providing significant economies of scale that strengthen our operating capacity, enhance synergy and stand us in good stead for the Group’s 75th anniversary in 2018 and beyond.”

In addition to the move to Cruden House, a new look for all Cruden Group divisions has been unveiled ahead of the firm’s 75th anniversary next year. The new brand identity has been styled to both highlight Cruden Homes and Hart Builders’ individuality while at the same time, a cohesive approach to the design emphasises each division’s Group connection.

The new address and contact details for both Cruden Homes East and Hart Builders are as follows: Cruden House, South Gyle Business Park, 36 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9EB.  Tel: 0131 285 6600.

Construction output suffers second consecutive quarterly drop

demolition shadow stockOutput in the UK construction industry fell by 1.6% during September to record consecutive quarterly contractions for the first time in five years.

Data published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that construction output contracted by 0.9% in the three months to September 2017.

The fall follows a decline of 0.5% in Quarter 2 (April to June), representing the first consecutive quarter-on-quarter decline in current estimates of construction output since the third quarter in 2012.

The 0.9% decline in output was attributed to decreases in both repair and maintenance, which fell 1.4% and all new work, which fell 0.7%.

Meanwhile the 1.6% month-on-month drop stemmed from falls of 2.1% in repair and maintenance and 1.3% in all new work.

The estimate for construction growth in Quarter 3 2017 has been revised down 0.2 percentage points from negative 0.7% in the preliminary estimate of gross domestic product (GDP), which has no impact on quarterly GDP growth to one decimal place.

Allan Callaghan

Allan Callaghan

Despite the disappointing figures, Allan Callaghan, Managing Director of Cruden Building, told Scottish Construction Now that there is positivity on the horizon.

He said: “At Cruden Building, we are seeing continuing confidence in the housing market, with strong sales across our new housing developments. Similarly, aspiration and demand for affordable housing is also rising from housing associations and local authorities alike in a bid to address the identified housing shortfall. We are currently working on live projects will deliver in excess of 1,300 new homes in the West of Scotland.

“This potential boost in activity has to be viewed against a backdrop of the trailed effects of Brexit creeping in, as large pan-European suppliers to the building industry are warning that material costs could rise by around 15%. This will put construction companies under huge cost pressures to deliver more with less. Clients need to recognise this and address pricing and the industry needs to continue engaging multi-skilled staff to focus on sustainable, steady growth in order to achieve long term success.”

Quarterly construction output down despite return to growth in August

construction worker stockA growth in construction output across the UK in August failed to offset a fall in output over the quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found.

Construction output grew 0.6% month-on-month in August 2017, predominantly driven by a 1.7% rise in all new work thanks to private housing, which grew 2.3% and infrastructure, which increased by 3.6%.

According to ONS data the output in August 2017 was 3.5% higher than it was at the same time last year.

However, construction output shrank by 0.8% in the three months to August 2017 compared with the previous three months due to decreases in both repair and maintenance, which fell 0.6% and all new work, which fell 0.9%.

Responding to the figures, Kier Construction Scotland’s regional business development manager, Gordon Reid, said: “It’s encouraging to see construction output growing month-on-month and these positive figures echo Kier Construction Scotland’s performance, where our robust set of financial results show that we are expanding our order book and providing diverse and local employment and training opportunities throughout Scotland.

“We have recently been appointed as a partner on the £160m Aberdeenshire Council Social Housing Improvement Framework and we are also seeing steady growth from the education, health and heritage sectors.

“While these exciting projects bring the chance to attract new talent, the sector is facing a skills shortage and a lack of attraction by youngsters to careers in the construction sector which is exacerbated by poor careers advice. To help combat this, Kier has pledged one percent of our workforce who will act as school career ambassadors in a bid to change the outdated perceptions of working within construction and to highlight the breadth of career opportunities that the industry offers and the significant boost that the sector delivers to the economy.”

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building & Renewals, added: “While there is no doubt that the construction industry has faced significant challenges in recent months, including economic and political uncertainties, the house building industry in particular, remains resilient.

“In fact, at Cruden, our order book has continued to grow, and we have recently reported our eighteenth consecutive year of profitable trading.  Proof in itself that quality, affordable homes remain in high demand.

“It’s important that we look ahead and ensure we have the right skills and resources in place to continue to grow. We invest heavily in our Cruden Academy to do exactly that – delivering best practice training and education as well as an award winning modern apprenticeship programme.

“I’ve no doubt the construction sector will continue to weather the storm and Cruden in particular will continue our steady and sustainable growth over the coming months and into 2018.”

Cruden Group breaks £200m turnover barrier following ‘fantastic year’

Cruden Group managing director Kevin Reid

Cruden Group managing director Kevin Reid

Construction and residential development firm Cruden Group has exceeded the £200 million turnover mark for the first time as the business recorded an eighteenth consecutive year of profitable trading.

Audited results published today for the year up to 31 March 2017 have revealed an increase in turnover, profit and home sales.

Pre-tax profits hit £10.4m for the year to March from £7.5m last time as turnover increased to £200.6m from £154.2m. The company’s net assets now stand at £43.6m (an increase from £38.8m in 2015), and access to a £9m bank facility remains undrawn.

The number of homes sold by the Group increased from 139 in 2016 to 280, reflecting the greater number of sales outlets this year. Of these homes, 62 were sold through joint ventures compared to 34 in 2016. Whilst the average sales value in 2017 (including joint ventures) was £226,000 (a decrease from £259,000 last year) sales were achieved across a broad price range (£99,000 to £1,300,000) demonstrating the diversity of the Group’s product range.

Construction turnover also grew from £136m in 2016 to £160m – an increase of 18%. Key activity remains the construction and refurbishment of residential housing for clients in the public sector.

Cruden’s King’s View development in North Toryglen, Glasgow

Cruden’s King’s View development in North Toryglen, Glasgow

Kevin Reid, Cruden Group managing director, said: “I’m very pleased to report that 2017 has been a fantastic year for Cruden, delivering the Group’s highest turnover and profit in its history. To have had eighteen consecutive years of profitable trading is a wonderful achievement, especially against the challenging economic backdrop we’ve had in recent years.

“The Group board is delighted with the strong performance of the business, and we look towards our 75th anniversary next year with optimism. We fully expect our business to continue to grow sustainably in the years ahead.

“In terms of residential sales, business remains encouraging in this area as a result of the suitability and affordability of many of our homes for first time buyers, along with our team’s expertise in providing guidance and support to this market sector. The continued availability of Help to Buy (Scotland) has also been beneficial to our first time purchasers.

“Training and skills development is a key focus within the Group, so it is also fantastic news that we have continued to retain in excess of 50 apprentices on our books – this will provide a pipeline of skilled and talented employees for the future.

“Winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise as part of the City Legacy consortium was another wonderful moment for the whole team at Cruden Group. I am extremely proud that Cruden continues to be recognised at the highest level for the top quality build projects that we deliver, and also for our excellent team of employees who provide impeccable customer service.

“As a company with CSR firmly at its heart, I’m also proud that one of the Group’s shareholders, Cruden Foundation, has now donated £6m to community based charities in Scotland.”

The Woodcroft development in Edinburgh

The Woodcroft development in Edinburgh

Key achievements in 2016/17 – Residential Developments 

  • At the King’s View development in North Toryglen in Glasgow (374 units in total), work is complete on 100 units for rent and the first phase of 55 units for sale has sold out months ahead of schedule. Sales are now ongoing on Phase Two, with only a limited number of units left. This development was voted Affordable Housing Development of the Year in 2016 at the Herald Property Awards, with Cruden Homes also being recognised as Residential Sales Team of the Year.
  • At the Helenvale development in Glasgow (237 units in total) sales have also got off to a flying start, with the first phase sold out, and limited availability in the second phase.
  • In 2015/2016, the Group delivered 97 highly sustainable apartments and houses as part of the continuing regeneration of Craigmillar.  Construction has now commenced on the next phase of this project, with a further 150 units becoming available in due course.
  • Demonstrating the breadth of the Group’s activities, at The Grange in Edinburgh, the award-winning Woodcroft development (81 units) sits in one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious residential addresses and consists of 24 luxury three-storey townhouses and 57 executive apartments, including a number of impressive penthouses and this development has been extremely well received by the market – only 1 flat remains available. At the Hydro Gardens development in Peebles (delivered under the Queensberry JV), only 4 homes remain available out of 33.
  • Subsequent phases of the popular Raploch and Wauchope regeneration developments are now under construction, and the first of a number of developments in East Lothian is set to commence with 44 family homes and flats at Old Craighall. This will be followed by a much anticipated development of 107 executive family homes in Aberlady.
  • Cruden Homes West won Best Family Home for the small/medium family atthe Herald Property Awards 2017 for The Oak house type, which is being sold at both King’s View and Helenvale, Glasgow. Hart Builders, part of the Cruden Group, was also commended in the Affordable Housing Development of the Year category for the Harbour Point development in Edinburgh.

Key achievements in 2016/17 – Construction 

  • The Group has been appointed as a preferred contractor on the Scottish Procurement Alliance Framework. Through the Framework, Cruden will deliver in excess of 700 units over the next three years on currently identified sites. These appointments include four projects for River Clyde Homes (totalling 237 units), four projects for South Lanarkshire Council (totalling 125 units), seven projects for Eildon Housing Association (totalling 289 units) and three projects for Berwickshire Housing Association (totalling 66 units).
  • The continued roll-out of the award winning build solution – Cruden C4S.  This solution incorporates off-site prefabrication and component manufacture, producing bespoke building fabric which optimises air quality, saves energy and produces and distributes high efficiency heat.
  • The Group is delivering another 146 flats for mid-market rent for the innovative National Housing Trust programme at the Harbour Point development in Edinburgh – this brings the total number under this Scottish Futures Trust initiative to approximately 500.
  • The Group’s continued focus on the health and education sectors has also culminated in a number of new projects, including completion of a new care home at Pinkhill at Corstorphine in Edinburgh, and ongoing care home construction at Balcarres Street,and Trinity in Edinburgh, and Mill Wynd, in Haddington.  Student accommodation projects have also been delivered in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
  • As part of the City Legacy consortium, Cruden won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for the hugely successful Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village, a project which was delivered on budget and on time.  Attention is now being turned to Phase 2 of this project.
  • The Grouphas trialled and rolled out a highly successful employability programme which provides an intensive three-week training programme targeted at unemployed people who wish to join the construction industry but have no direct experience. Through this initiative, in conjunction with both Dundee City Council and East Lothian Council, Cruden Group has provided opportunities for 14 unemployed people to learn a new semi-skilled trade installing insulation.  From those so far 12 have gained full time employment, 10 of which were directly employed by Cruden Group.

Blog: Project management – like never before! The technical team behind the Social Bite Village

Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group and project director of the Social Bite Village

Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group and project director of the Social Bite Village

In February of this year, Gill Henry, head of business development at The Cruden Group, agreed to take on the role of project director for the Social Bite Village in Edinburgh.

This exciting project is translating Social Bite’s co-founder, Josh Littlejohn’s vision to eradicate homelessness, into reality.

Initially agreeing to work pro-bono one day a week, Gill’s task was to oversee the design, manufacture and on-site delivery of a new community in Granton.

Inevitably, her role has grown exponentially as the project has developed and after several months of leading the technical team, she now takes this opportunity to explain some of the challenges and pressures of making this unique project actually happen.

From a standing start at the end of February this year, using contacts and relationships built up over many years by The Cruden Group, we assembled a multi-disciplined team without whom the project would simply not be where it is today.

In addition, we are also very fortunate that the profile of this project allowed us to engage much more closely than normal with both Scottish Power and Scottish Water, who, along with utility contractor, Clancy Dowcra, have joined the technical team and are working collaboratively with us to make this all happen.


The Social Bite Village technical team

The Social Bite Village technical team

Technical Team

  • Gill Henry – The Cruden Group – Project Director
  • Gill Cooke & Andy Nolan – Will Rudd – Project Engineers
  • Mike Armstrong – Pottie Wilson – Project Cost consultant
  • David Bell – Fouin & Bell – Project Architects
  • Anthony Keenan – Peter Graham & Partners – Principal Designer
  • James Culbertson and Kevin Keenan – Keenan Consultancy – Project M&E advisors
  • Tina Muldowney – Wardell Armstrong – Project Landscape Architect
  • Patrick Barry – Mason Evans – Site Investigation Consultants
  • Matt Stevenson – Carbon Dynamic – Nest house manufacturer
  • Jonathan Avery – Tiny House Scotland – Nest house designer
  • Bob Gould & Ronnie Bathgate – Robertson Group – Groundworker

The team has worked tirelessly to finalise the design of the nest houses with Tiny House designer Jonathon Avery and Carbon Dynamic who are manufacturing the units, develop the site layout, develop and brief and design for the hub, develop the site works and cut and fill design to minimise costs and to secure all necessary consents.

Identifying a suitable principal contractor has also been challenging as we are benefitting from so many free services and materials which the principal/main contractor will be required to co-ordinate.  Luckily we have the knowledge and experience of Mike Armstrong assisting in contractual arrangements which are slightly less standard than normal contracts.

Co-ordinating all of the above, in parallel with structuring legal agreements for the site with landowner EDI, finalising the necessary contracts for the various work packages and managing the site utilities to ensure the project is deliverable, has required a significant amount of resource, commitment and leadership from The Cruden Group.

The proposed site is currently overgrown, self seeded and has a significant slope from top to bottom.  It is also a well used through route for both pedestrians and cyclists. Because the village is temporary, it has been really important to minimise the cost of the infra-structure. We also have to obtain a caravan licence to allow Social Bite to occupy the village.  Working under caravan legislation, we don’t need a building warrant for the structures, just the drainage, which has significantly helped us to achieve the end date for completion.

Launch of the nest house prototype at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh

Launch of the nest house prototype at St Andrew Square in Edinburgh

Led by Gill Cooke, the project engineers Will Rudd worked closely with Mason Evans to identify how best to deal with the ground conditions in a manner that would produce a robust solution on a temporary basis whilst still meeting all the legislative requirements.

The units themselves are very light,  so the groundworks strategy involves scraping back the site, carrying out an extensive cut and fill exercise to platform the site for the units to sit on.  The excess material will be stored on site in a mound so we don’t have to take anything off site, which helps keep the site works cost as low as possible. The point loads of each unit are such that standard foundations are not required, just a layer of hardcore.

Thanks to Jen Knighton and her team at Scottish Water, the drainage and water consents have been in place for some time, well in advance of the planning consent being issued which is testament to the efforts Scottish Water have made to enable the project to start on site as early as possible. Equally, Deborah Philips and her team at Scottish Power have also played a significant role in co-ordination and delivery of multi utilities on site with sub-contractor Clancy Dowcra.

The project is gathering significant momentum now. We are currently finalising a Heads of Terms with EDI for the site and the plan is to now to get the project complete for the end of January 2018 – which is slightly later than originally planned but still only 10 months in total. We are aiming to demonstrate how this very innovative project can be delivered and then potentially rolled out on a more commercial basis.

Josh Littlejohn is extremely persuasive, very talented in mustering support and clear on his vision. With the assistance of Josh and Tony Hackney of BSW the team have collectively managed to procure as many services and materials free gratis as we can with the project benefitting from huge assistance from a wide variety of organisations and individuals.  Josh’s unerring determination and total inability to understand the word ‘no’ has created many challenges along the way for the technical team. At times, trying to translate his vision into practical reality within an extremely challenging programme has been both frustrating and stimulating in equal measures.

The house types set for the Social Bite Village

The house types set for the Social Bite Village

Every project management bone in my body shouts ‘NO NO NO’ on a daily basis, as the sequence and approach we are taking to actually make Josh’s vision happen goes against everything I would normally do in terms of managing a project and the risk associated with it.

However with this in mind we have been able to work, freed from the normal shackles and look at how to do things better, quicker and more innovatively.  It has demanded true partnership working and collaboration which I feel is one of the best outcomes of the project so far.  With everyone so supportive of the vision, we are all working outwith our normal comfort zones to make the project happen.

At time of writing, we are now in week 29 of the project and if I am being honest, I really did not think we would be at this stage so quickly when we didn’t even have a site, brief or design at the beginning of March.

The Carbon Dynamic team is also worth a serious mention. They have been utterly fantastic in terms of driving the project forward and having a prototype ready for St Andrews Square during the festival.

I was involved in installing the prototype on St Andrews Square which was quite possibly one of the most stressful days of my career. We arrived on site just after 5.30am to find two low loaders provided by Ferguson Transport containing the prototype and two forklifts. With tremendous assistance from Grant Stewart of Essential Edinburgh, the Carbon Dynamic team somehow managed to unload the house just as rush hour started and manoeuvre it over the gates, between the trees into position – which took almost 6 hours, the last hour or so under the watchful eye of the Scottish media!

How the Social Bite Village site is laid out

How the Social Bite Village site is laid out

We then spent 12 hours from 3pm in the afternoon to 3am in the morning on September 1, removing it from St Andrews Square on a busy Friday night and moving it out to and installing it at Edinburgh airport, which involved a large crane once we got to the airport.

These aren’t normally the types of activity I would be involved in, but given the profile of the project and the amazing commitment shown by all the partners I am lucky enough to be working with, I felt it was important to assist and lead these moves to ensure the team understands their valuable contributions are genuinely appreciated, which for me, is a big part of being the Project Director especially when most parties are all working on this for no commercial return.

I have no doubt that this project will be delivered.  Whether I will be sane and not an alcoholic at the end of it remains to be seen!  However despite the complexities and frustrations, I am thrilled to be leading the project and to be working with such a fabulous team on what I believe is a particularly important project which will change the way homelessness is managed in Scotland.

I would also like to thank The Cruden Group who have been fantastically supportive in allowing me time to service the project to a significantly greater extent than any of us ever envisaged at the outset.  The Group will also be participating in the “Sleep in the Park” event on December 9.