Scotland’s first purpose-built film & TV studio wins formal government backing

Scottish ministers have granted planning permission in principle for the country’s first purpose-built film and TV studio following a long-running planning battle.

Developers PSL Land Ltd said the Pentland Studios, which will be based near Straiton, outside Edinburgh, could help kick-start Scotland’s film industry and create more than 900 jobs.

The decision to back the Keppie-designed facility overturns an earlier recommendation from a Scottish Government reporter that permission be refused.

The proposal was called in by the government after Midlothian Council failed to make a ruling on the application, which was originally submitted in 2014. Ministers deemed the studio to be of “national significance” and used its Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals to rule on the application.

Developers behind the £850 million development on the site of the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh tried to block the plans last January amid fears it could undermine its own project.

WSP in Edinburgh, which has been instrumental in helping client PSL Land Ltd achieve planning permission in principle, has welcomed the decision.

The engineering professional services consulting firm was appointed in 2014 to assist in the planning of the world-class film and TV studio. As the project progresses onto the next stage, the team in Edinburgh will continue to support on the civil and structural, environmental and geotechnical areas of the project.

PSL Land Ltd is now working towards securing planning in detail.

David Campbell, technical director at WSP, said: “We are delighted that the scheme has been granted planning permission from the Scottish Government. It’s truly a unique project and we’ve enjoyed helping Pentland Studios in the planning process. We now look forward to start working on the next stage.”

Director of development for PSL, Jim O’Donnell, added: “We are extremely pleased to have reached this major milestone in the studio complex’s journey, after a considerable period of time and work to date. We particularly want to thank those including WSP who have supported the project throughout the past three years, and we look forward to reaching the next milestone as soon as possible.”

ESPC 2017 review finds continued shortage in Edinburgh market

In their look back at 2017, ESPC found a continued shortage of properties in the Edinburgh market and a sustained increase in selling prices but have yet to see materialise fears that Brexit would have a negative impact on housing.

The average selling price of properties in east central Scotland increased by 6.2 per cent in 2017, when compared with the year before. Similarly, the average selling price in Edinburgh increased by seven per cent to £248,384 year-on-year. However, there were price fluctuations within different areas of the city.

In the first three months of 2017, three bedroom homes in South Queensferry and Dalmeny demonstrated the largest increase in average selling prices, with a 33.4 per cent increase. From April to June, two bedroom flats in Morningside and Merchiston increased by 23.2 per cent. Over the summer months the average selling price of all properties in West Lothian increased by an average of 28.5 per cent, and from August to November, the average selling price of two bedroom flats in the New Town and West End increased by 24.7 per cent.

As with 2016, the property market in 2017 proved to be in favour of the seller, as a shortage of stock resulted in homes selling much faster than in previous years, with an average of 19 days. There was also an increase in properties achieving on or above their Home Report valuation, from 65.6 per cent between October and December of 2016 to 75.1 per cent in 2017. Over the year, the number of homes brought to market decreased by 2.7 per cent, and the number of homes sold in east central Scotland decreased by 3.2 per cent.

Paul Hilton, CEO of ESPC, said: “When reviewing 2017, we can see that a shortage of properties being brought to the market has led to a rise in selling prices, faster selling times and more properties meeting or exceeding their home report valuation.

“As with 2016, we have seen a decrease in the volume of properties for sale, and we believe this could be due to a reluctance to sell in the face of a shortage of properties, as sellers are concerned that they may have difficulties finding a new home. The second home tax, introduced in 2016, has also meant that the three per cent tax on those buying before they sell, has also led to a hesitation for sellers, while the changes to Stamp Duty has also had a slow-down effect on the top-tier properties.

“We are currently seeing a high demand for one and two bedroom flats, and this could be the result of more first time buyers being able to get 95 per cent mortgages and the popularity of buy-to-let properties. These points have all had an effect on the traditional patterns of buying up and replenishing active stock on the market.

“2018 could be a good time to sell property as it could be snapped up quickly and with greater competition at closing dates. Similarly, with favourable mortgage rates, despite the base rate rise, and a relief for first time buyers on the first £175,000 of a property’s purchase, 2018 could be a good year for buying.”

Green light for Edinburgh Marina retirement living scheme

A ‘unique’ waterside retirement living scheme which will form a key element of the forthcoming £500 million Edinburgh Marina redevelopment has secured detailed planning permission.

Living for Retirement has been designed by Wilson Gunn exclusively for the over 55s, comprising 104 apartments with their own dedicated guest accommodation, concierge, private storage and parking set within a private landscaped garden.

Developers Edinburgh Marina Holdings said the scheme will be a first for Edinburgh and for Scotland, designed to provide its residents with the means to lead an active, fulfilling retirement.

Residents will have full access to the new Health & Wellness Centre – incorporating steam and sauna rooms – as well as a private cinema, bistro, lounge, library and fully equipped laundry room.

Developer Kevin Fawcett said: “This development will take retirement living to a new level. We are delighted that detailed planning permission has been granted for our luxury retirement concept at Edinburgh Marina. Living for Retirement will bring a unique new offering to the Edinburgh property market delivering a level of design and service that raises the bar above any retirement living options currently available in the city.

“The creation of Edinburgh’s first prime waterside residential quarter encompassing our Living for Retirement concept, adds major impetus to the city’s attraction as one of the UK’s most attractive and liveable lifestyle destinations.”

Detailed planning permissions for the remaining elements of Edinburgh’s new waterside residential quarter are anticipated in early 2018, with construction scheduled to begin in the latter part of the year.

SES Engineering Services consolidates Scotland expansion with new Edinburgh office

National engineering specialist SES Engineering Services (SES) has opened its second Scotland office in Edinburgh.

The business, which recently completed its multi-million pound Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) project on the iconic Queensferry Crossing, has established itself as a key provider of on-site innovation, offsite manufacturing and digital engineering north of the Border.

Established in 1961, SES has a track record of delivering critical and innovative M&E projects right across the UK. The business first established a Scottish base of operations in Glasgow seven years ago recognising the scale, importance and complexity of projects across the border.

SES continues to expand its portfolio of stand-out projects, and recently provided full M&E services on the University of Edinburgh’s £25 million project to establish a world-leading Data Technology Institute as well as on the multi-million pound Edinburgh Gateway railway station and interchange.

Last month, SES and its specialist prefabrication and offsite manufacturing facility, Prism was shortlisted in the prestigious Construction News Specialist Awards Project of the Year category, in recognition of its innovative work on the standout £1.35 billion Queensferry Crossing. The replacement road bridge over the Firth of Forth is Scotland’s largest infrastructure investment in a generation.

The shortlisting is testament to the company’s reputation for delivering innovative, cost and time saving offsite manufacturing and Building Information Modelling (BIM) solutions to UK critical projects.

Colin Walker, business director Scotland, said: “The opening of our Edinburgh office is built on the strong foundation of the work we have completed and have secured with our partners across the whole of Scotland.

“This new office brings even more opportunities for our people, and the communities in which we work.

“Supplementing our Glasgow team base with our new Edinburgh office, represents our ongoing commitment to Scotland, our success here has been made possible by the ever-increasing number of exciting projects bringing critical investment into the country.

“We continue to provide time and cost-saving innovative solutions on and off site, across Scotland’s most outstanding infrastructure, education and science & research projects. In line with SES’ national growth strategy, we’re looking ahead to another outstanding seven years.”

Building consultancy Paragon launches Edinburgh office

(from left) Director and head of Edinburgh office, David Philip; Paragon joint managing director, Robert Perry; joint managing director, John Munday; and associate building surveyor, Jamie March

London and Manchester-based independent building and project consultancy Paragon has opened an office in Edinburgh as part of its ongoing controlled growth strategy.

Located on George Street, the office is led by David Philip, who was previously building consultancy partner at Knight Frank in Edinburgh, where he worked for the past 11 years.

David has joined Paragon as a director and head of office alongside Jamie March, who worked with him as an associate at Knight Frank over the past three and a half years. Jamie joins the business as an associate building surveyor.

The consultancy already provides a range of services to clients either based or owning property in Scotland including Aberdeen Standard Investments, Rockspring Property Investment Managers, Tristan Capital, Ediston Real Estate and Oval Real Estate.

David Philip

John Munday, Paragon joint managing director, said: “We believe there is a great deal of opportunity for Paragon in Scotland. Our distinct collaborative approach provides clients with highly effective integrated services underpinned by smart thinking and delivered with practical advice. It gives us a clear point of differentiation and gives clients a much wanted viable alternative in the markets in which we operate.”

Founded as an independent consultancy in London in 2009 with ten directors and four employees, Paragon achieved revenues of £1.7m in its first year. In 2015, the consultancy opened a second office in Manchester to service its northern clients. The consultancy now employs more than 100 people and its revenues were £12.2m for the year ended 31 March 2017.

Paragon joint managing director, Robert Perry, added: “We have taken time to find and make the right appointments to allow us to realise our ambitions of opening an office in Edinburgh. In David, we have a hugely respected professional with a reputation for providing clear, commercial advice who also has an excellent professional network, whilst Jamie is a very talented and ambitious building surveyor.

“They are a proven team and we look forward to seeing them grow Paragon’s presence in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland.”

David has over 20 years’ experience as a building surveyor and has acted as project manager and contract administrator on numerous high profile refurbishment and office fit out projects. With considerable expertise in professional services, including dilapidations, David has carried out technical due diligence over some of Scotland’s most prestigious buildings.

Jamie March

Jamie became professionally qualified in 2014 and began working with David that year. His expertise includes space planning and audit, dilapidations, contract administration, schedules of condition, building survey reports and application for statutory consents.

Commenting on the Edinburgh office launch, David said: “Paragon’s ambition, expertise and collaborative approach are ideal for the Scottish market. The opening of the Edinburgh office has immediately created opportunities for Paragon and Jamie and I are enjoying taking our consultancy’s dynamic offer to the marketplace.

“Our intention is to rapidly develop the Edinburgh office, so we are very pleased with the start we have had to the year. Working closely with the rest of Paragon’s senior management team, our aim is to maintain this momentum by providing existing and new clients with integrated, commercially astute advice across all aspects of building surveying and project consultancy.”

Edinburgh’s £12bn development pipeline

A £500 million waterside quarter development close at Edinburgh Marina

Developments worth more than £11.7 billion are underway, proposed or in the pipeline in Edinburgh, a survey of projects at the start of 2018 has found.

The website Skyscrapercity.com lists more than 120 developments across the capital, from the £1 million Treverlen Park in Duddingston to the £1.2bn Shawfair housing development.

Economy convener Gavin Barrie told The Scotsman: “Edinburgh has come through the recession very well and whatever is coming at us through Brexit or anything else, jobs and employment will prevail because of these developments.”

£3m property investment loan for new mixed-use Edinburgh project

AMA Homes is to deliver a residential and commercial development in Edinburgh after securing a £3 million property investment loan.

The loan will provide the developer with an extended period to redevelop Belford and Douglas House into a major new residential site with 50 apartments and 2,000 sq ft of commercial space.

Belford House is a seven-storey, 23,000 sq. ft. office building which is currently owned by AMA. Douglas House extends over five floors with a total area of around 14,768 sq. ft. – AMA owns the ground and first floor. The two buildings are adjacent to one another and inter-connected through the first floor.

The deal marks the first transaction in Scotland for business and property bank OakNorth.

Joint managing directors of AMA Homes, Mike and Ali Afshar, said: “Last year saw a 17% increase in new prospective buyers registering in the second quarter and a 3% increase in viewings year on year. However, this rising demand has not been matched by an uptake in supply which has resulted in heightened competition for best in class properties and some selling for above their Home Report valuations. The team at OakNorth worked tirelessly to get the deal completed in the timeframe we required and we appreciated the speed at which they responded to our queries.”

Ben Barbanel, head of debt finance, and Damien Hughes, property finance director at OakNorth, added: “This is a very exciting transaction for us – it is our first to a Scottish business and we’re delighted to be working with such a well-established and experienced management team. AMA Homes have an incredibly strong property portfolio and are behind several of the country’s award-winning developments, including Evolution West Port and Springside in Fountainbridge. We look forward to working with them in the future and have no doubt that the redevelopment will be a huge success.”

Edinburgh students build futures in construction industry

(from left) Jamie Savage, site manager for Robertson; Jordan Walls; Jay Anderson and Linzie Robb, community development coordinator for Robertson at West Pilton

Robertson has welcomed several Edinburgh-based secondary pupils interested in the built environment industry on site for extended work placements.

Eight senior pupils have enjoyed placements as part of Edinburgh City Council’s Job, Education and Training (JET) programme, providing them the opportunity to develop employability skills through a mix of vocational training and real-life work experience.

The budding constructors were placed at several Robertson sites across the city, gaining experience of different trades to broaden their knowledge of construction careers.

Gemma Gourlay, director of social sustainability for Robertson Group, said: “We’re always looking to provide new opportunities for young people, introducing them to the varied skills they can develop through a career with Robertson.

“It’s also important for us as a business, as offering placements allows us to introduce potential employees to the skills and expertise that we look for when hiring.

“As we face a construction industry skills shortage, programmes such as JET are absolutely critical in helping address this by highlighting our industry to the next generation.”

(from left) Jordan Walls (15) and Jay Anderson (15) are joined by Linzie Robb and Jamie Savage of Robertson

Garret Brady, development officer for JET, said: “Construction is a growth sector and to ensure that young people are prepared for employment it is important to provide them with practical opportunities to learn about the world of work.

“By providing Industry Insight Days and extended work placements, Robertson has played a key role in supporting young people to develop these skills.

“In particular, Robertson offered extended placements to a number of Winter Leavers and this experience has been a lightbulb moment for the young people – with some even securing apprenticeships with the company.”

Fifteen-year-old Jordan Walls is currently on placement at Robertson Partnership Homes’ West Pilton site, where 29 new homes will be created as part of the Small Sites Affordable Housing Programme, procured through Scape Group’s National Major Works framework.

Jordan said: “I’ve loved working with the different trades and figuring out my preference, and it’s been great to have real-life experience before leaving school.”

Jordan has now secured an apprenticeship with Tilley Electrical, the electrical subcontractor on the project.

New details emerge for ‘world class’ Edinburgh Marina

Detailed plans have been released for a £500 million waterside quarter development close to Edinburgh city centre.

Built around a purpose-built marina, the Edinburgh Marina masterplan proposes a mix of leisure and accommodation, establishing the city as a viable alternative to established west coast sailing destinations.

Detailed planning consent has now been granted for the marina, which forms part of the masterplan consent for the wider Edinburgh Marina development that was previously granted for the 28 hectare site.

Developers Edinburgh Marina Holdings believe the new marina will enable the city to compete with the established west coast sailing destinations for part of Scotland’s £3.7 billion marine tourism industry, and help to grow the overall market.

Offering 317 full-service berths, visitor berths and additional dry berths for vessels up to 60m in length the marina will include its own office and boatyard and will operate 24 hours a day, ensuring it can accommodate everything from a small cruiser to a ‘superyacht’.

Developer Kevin Fawcett said: “The new world-class Edinburgh Marina at Granton’s Western Harbour is the most important new marina development in the UK for several decades.

“It harks back to a long and distinguished international maritime connection that Edinburgh and Granton Harbour once enjoyed, will help to re-establish Edinburgh’s maritime economy as well as creating a vibrant new city destination that will enhance Edinburgh’s reputation as one of the UK’s most attractive lifestyle destinations.”

Detailed planning consent for the remaining elements of the plan is expected early next year, with construction of the marina buildings scheduled to begin in the second half of the year.

A720 Sheriffhall flyover contract awarded

Humza Yousaf

A contractor has been selected to take forward ground investigations as part of the work to build a flyover on the busy Sheriffhall junction on the Edinburgh City Bypass.

Transport Scotland has announced the award of a £1.2 million ground investigation contract to Soil Engineering GeoServices Ltd.

The work is programmed to start in January and is expected to be on site for a period of three months.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “Motorists using the Edinburgh City Bypass are well aware of the traffic bottleneck at the Sheriffhall roundabout. As the only junction on the A720 trunk road which is not grade-separated, it is often the scene of congestion and significant queuing, particularly at morning and evening peak times.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to delivering improvements at this busy junction and having let the public see and comment on the preferred option earlier this year, we have stepped up the design work with vital ground investigations to get underway early next year.

“The preferred option will grade separate the junction, separating local traffic from the strategic traffic on the bypass and will allow the traffic on the bypass to flow freely, improving road safety and journey times for all road users. The completed scheme will also include provision for non-motorised users, including cyclists.

“We are taking forward the detailed development and assessment of the preferred option, with a view to publishing draft Orders for the scheme in 2019 for formal comment.”