Highlands & Islands Enterprise

Work starts on £5.7m Highlands creative hub

Work is underway on a “game-changing” transformation of former Inverness school buildings to give the Highlands its first creative hub.

The initial £1.2 million project is the first phase of a wider £5.7m scheme to transform the Midmills buildings (once part of the Inverness Royal Academy and later Inverness College but now empty) into a new Inverness Creative Academy.

Work on one building, which will provide high quality, affordable workspaces for 39 artists and makers, is expected to be complete by the summer of 2018.

Wasps Artists Studios, which is leading the project, is also fundraising for work on a second building which would provide exhibition, performance and events space, a public café, workshop areas and offices for business working in the creative industries.

Matt Sillars, who will be running a community-based photographic initiative called the Inverness Darkroom at Midmills, said: “The arts community has been hoping that Wasps would set up a major centre in Inverness for years, so the enthusiasm was overwhelming when it was announced.”

The message was reinforced by Kirsten Body, a member of the local Arts Steering Group, who said: “I was involved in the initial demand study for a creative hub in 2015 and was struck by the responses we got – there is a desire to feel part of a wider creative community and for the possibility of more collaboration with other creative professionals.

“There is undoubtedly a strong need for a focused, vibrant space where people can come together to share ideas.

“I’m really keen to see this new hub as a place that caters for events, provides networking opportunities as well as a gallery space for emergent contemporary artists to showcase their work and take risks. The Midmills building has huge potential to function as a production centre and true meeting place highlighting the wealth of creative talent from our area.”

Lindsay Dunbar, of rural theatre innovators Play Pieces Arts, added: “I really welcome the exciting development of the Creative Academy. Play Pieces Arts has run a successful programme of events in Inverness throughout the years however we are often placed in a vulnerable position due to venue availability as well as limited capacity spaces.

“The creative industry hub, as well as potential performance space, would be a game-changer for not only Play Pieces Arts but for the emerging and established makers of all art forms who want to base themselves in the Highlands.”

How the atrium section of the building will look once completed

As one of the largest developments of its kind outside the Central Belt the Creative Academy is expected to play a valuable economic role by supporting jobs and providing new business opportunities.

Tenants could include everything from visual artists, theatre groups and craft makers to media companies or businesses at the cutting edge of the digital arts.

Wasps has had great success with similar hubs such as South Block in Glasgow.

The Creative Academy will be a first for the Highlands, helping the region tap into the growing importance of the creative industries, which generates £3.7 billion a year for the Scottish economy and provides 73,600 jobs.

This is in line with HIE’s ambition for the creative sector to account for 7% of the economic activity – equalling the Scottish average.

Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive officer, said: “Scotland is a powerhouse for the arts, craft making and the wider creative industries.

“But people wanting careers, or to build businesses, in these sectors have faced major obstacles in the Highlands because of an acute shortage of quality workspace and of hubs that allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.

“The Creative Academy has a great deal of support from the large creative community in and around Inverness.

“We are very proud that this will be one of the largest projects of its kind in the whole of Scotland and we hope it will enable creative people from all across the Highlands fulfill their ambitions and dreams.”

The project supported by The Highland Council, HIE, Creative Scotland, Inverness City Heritage Trust and McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Limited.

The Phase 1 work is being carried out by Elgin-based Robertson Northern.

James Gibbs, area manager for HIE, said: “Wasps is a social enterprise with an excellent track record of bringing economic benefit to cities. This facility will allow workers in the creative industries sector to share skills and ideas and promote collaboration and innovation.

“HIE assisted Wasps’ development to help grow a strong creative cluster in Inverness and bring new economic activity to the city centre.”

Clive Gillman, Director, Creative Industries at Creative Scotland, added: “Wasps have built a strong sustainable model for supporting our creative communities the length and breadth of Scotland. We are proud to have helped them on that journey and especially through partnerships such as that in Inverness, which will see a significant building brought back to life to support the rich creative community in and around the city of Inverness.”

Report highlights importance of housing to Highlands and Islands development

Housing on the Orkney island of Stronsay

Housing on the Orkney island of Stronsay

Housing has a crucial role in supporting sustainable and inclusive economic and community development and population growth in all parts of the Highlands and Islands, according to a new report.

Given the complex interplay of factors required to address the challenges of housing development, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) undertook research to better understand the market failure, and consider what needs to be in place to address it.

The report, entitled ‘Stimulating Housing Development in the Highlands and Islands’, was compiled following extensive consultation with the region’s seven local authorities, other public and private housing providers and key stakeholders.

The study found that effective partnership working and a holistic ‘place based’ approach to housing provision in the Highlands and Islands could better respond to current community needs and aspirations for development in the future.

Housing supply and affordability are crucial factors in enabling growing businesses to recruit and retain employees. In many areas, business development and expansion are adversely affected by the lack of affordable accommodation for workers.

The study was carried out for HIE by Ipsos Mori in partnership with the Indigo House Group. It suggests the process of assessing housing need is based on past trends, rather than reflecting community aspirations to reverse these.

Private sector housing completions tend to be close to urban centres, with far less activity in the more rural or fragile areas. Affordability of private sector housing is also a considerable issue, particularly in more fragile areas and popular tourism destinations with higher numbers of second homes. Young people in particular can face additional challenges in forming homes in these areas, facing higher average house prices and lower average incomes.

Balmacara – a village on the north shore of Loch Alsh, Ross-shire

Balmacara – a village on the north shore of Loch Alsh, Ross-shire

The short and decreasing supply of appropriate land was highlighted as a major constraint in more rural areas. The associated risks and costs to enable viable development are often too great for developers to progress without intervention. In these areas, community-led activity is often the catalyst for new housing but the processes can be complex and time consuming, and resources of support organisations are spread thinly.

The Scottish Government is committing a record level of resources focused on increasing affordable housing supply, researchers observed. In outlining the scale of the gap between housing need, demand and supply, the report indicates the need for more, or different, positive action and intervention across tenures.

While the Rural Housing and Islands Funds, the Self-build Loan Fund and Croft House Grant scheme are directed towards smaller rural and remote communities, new interventions around infrastructure appear to be focused on strategic and larger sites in urban areas, the report notes.

Douglas Cowan, HIE’s director of strengthening communities, said: “The issue of housing is constantly being raised in relation to different aspects of regional development, and has been for many years. There is of course no easy fix, with complex challenges such as access to land, transportation costs, infrastructure, skills and labour supply.

“This report is extremely useful in providing more in-depth understanding of where the key challenges lie, and informing discussion on what might be done to strengthen the approach. It is clear from the study that changing the way housing is planned and developed in the region could potentially be a huge boost to both business and community growth.

“We fully appreciate there is a lot happening in the region to address some of the challenges facing housing, with local authorities and housing associations in particular playing key roles. To that end we are sharing this report with our partners, particularly through Community Planning Partnerships, with a view to us all working together to seek to address some of the issues raised.”

Hotel development opportunity arises at Inverness Campus

Campus - hotel plot - markedDevelopers are being invited to register their interest in developing a hotel at Inverness Campus.

Campus owner, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), is promoting a site of around three acres for the development of a business-class hotel with around 120 bedrooms, meeting rooms, bistro, bar and lounge.

Inverness Campus is already home to several public and private sector organisations, including Inverness College UHI, Scotland’s Rural College, Scottish Vet Referrals, Corporate Health International and Aqua Pharma.

There are more than 600 people working there and this figure is expected to rise to around 1300 within five years.

Improved access to leisure, restaurant, café and bar facilities will further enhance the appeal of the Campus to employees, students, visitors and local people. It will also make the site more attractive to potential investors and continue the growth of the commercial sector within the Campus.

One of Scotland’s most innovative projects, the Inverness Campus development is designed to provide a range of academic, research and commercial opportunities, with an emphasis on the life sciences sector.

The provision of a quality hotel and associated facilities is seen as an essential element of the 215-acre development.

Ruaraidh MacNeil, HIE’s Inverness Campus project director, said: “We have been exploring options for a hotel development on Inverness Campus for a number of years now, and are delighted to be able to present this opportunity to the market.

“We are looking for a hotel developer who will embrace the collaborative ethos of the Campus, support local supply chain companies and provide employment and training opportunities, particularly for young or disadvantaged people.”

Commercial real estate firm, GVA, is marketing the hotel site on behalf of HIE and is inviting registers of interest from developers by Friday 17 November.

Funding announced for Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum revamp

Scapa-Flow-Oil-Tank_950Work on a major renovation of the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum in Lyness looks set to start in spring next year after the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) approved a grant of up to £1.155 million.

Designed by Studio MB, the project will involve the restoration of the historic buildings, the enhancement of interpretation and displays, and the creation of a new building which will house an exhibition space, café, toilet facilities and information areas.

The HLF support completes a major funding package made up of grants from Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council’s LEADER fund and Capital Projects programme.

Tender documents will be issued towards the end of the year, with work due to start in spring 2018.

The museum is set to re-open in time for the commemoration marking 100 years since the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919.

Councillor Rob Crichton, chair of the council’s education, leisure and housing committee, said: “Attracting such a high level of external funding to this project is a real success story for one of our most fragile island communities. The restoration will not only ensure the future of our collections, but also support the local community in Hoy, which relies on the centre to attract visitors to the island, with more than 14,000 visits in 2016.”

Wilfred Weir, the council’s executive director of education, leisure and housing, said: “This is great news and results from a huge amount of work by colleagues to get to this stage. The renovated museum and visitor centre will be a fantastic asset to Lyness, Hoy and Orkney as a whole and celebrate the importance of Scapa Flow in the history of our country. As well as being a valuable resource for visitors to our islands, it will help preserve artefacts for current and future generations at home here and abroad.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, added: “Scapa Flow has an internationally important story to tell and thanks to players of the National Lottery, we’re delighted to support a project which will do just that. Rare military equipment from both World Wars, along with stories from some of the 12,000 people once stationed there, will help bring the sheltered harbour’s incredible history back to life, exploring how it shaped the history of travel, trade and maritime warfare.”

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum is based in wartime naval buildings at Lyness in Hoy. The museum tells the story of the anchorage in World War 1 and World War 2. This is made all the more resonant and powerful by being situated in the unique buildings which were themselves part of the story.

Scapa Flow had strategic importance and was the Royal Navy’s principle fleet anchorage during the two world wars. Lyness became the Naval Headquarters in Orkney during 1919, having been used since 1917 as an oil depot. Work began in the late 1930s to enlarge the base, which housed 12,000 military and civilian personnel by 1940.

The museum is centred around the former fuel oil pumping station. It illustrates the importance of Scapa Flow as a base for the British Fleet through photographs, text, artefacts, films and an audio exhibition plus a collection of large military vehicles, cranes and artillery.

The large exhibits and the audio visual display are housed in one of the oil tanks that once held 12,000 tons of fuel oil for the fleet.

Threesixty Architecture appointed to deliver Orkney Research and Innovation Campus

Plans for the primary school

Plans for the primary school

Threesixty Architecture has been appointed for the redevelopment of the Old Academy and former primary school of Stromness.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council have joined together to create a research, academia and business campus in Stromness. The campus will house both existing and future occupants such as institutes, consultancies and new start companies, thereby generating long term economic development across Orkney.

Seating AreaThe design by Threesixty Architecture will renovate and unify the two existing buildings as one campus. Each building will feature new entrances, improved circulation, open plan offices, and shared meeting spaces which frame views to the Stromness harbour to create an inspiring setting for users and visitors alike.

The historic Old Academy building façades will be largely preserved while the primary school envelope will be entirely upgraded, harmonising it within the urban context of Stromness.

16098IA_170427_Academy 4Torrance Partnership (Project Manager), TGP (Landscape Architects), CDMM (Building Services) and Fairhurst (Structural Engineers) complete the project team.

The project will start on site 2017 and has a planned completion date for both buildings in 2019.

Construction consortium wins Scottish Enterprise collaboration prize

Offsite Hub (Scotland)A new consortium of firms involved in offsite construction is celebrating after winning a share of the £60,000 Collaboration Prize, delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Offsite Hub, which formed following the UK government’s release of its 2025 Construction Strategy identifying offsite construction as a vehicle for delivering improvement targets for the construction sector, scooped one of the six £10,000 awards.

Launched for entries in September 2016, the Collaboration Prize attracted a record number of responses from across Scotland.

Comprising nine companies, Offsite Hub’s goal is to promote improved market awareness, address emerging skills challenges and to foster a collective approach to ongoing research and development in the use of timber construction technology.

Together with a number of public sector partners (such as Napier University and SDI), it aims to realise the full potential of Scottish Offsite Modern Methods of Construction by improving the working environment in the construction industry, reducing waste from that sector, and significantly improving the performance of buildings in terms of construction, comfort and long-term running costs.

Offsite Hub (Scotland)Offsite Hub will receive £5,000 to implement its collaborative idea, advice to set up as a consortium co-operative and up to £5,000 business support delivered by Scottish Enterprise.

Calum Murray, chairman from Offsite Hub, commented on the win: “Support in translating ideas into practical action will be hugely useful for us and we plan to utilise this support from Scottish Enterprise. For instance, in approaching UK wide institutions with the right message as a group, the assistance will be essential. We are exploring other possible uses for the funding and support, including a ‘learning journey’ being proposed for Sweden next year and representation at a conference on offsite construction in Salford next year.”

Sarah Deas, director, Scottish Enterprise, added: “The response to this year’s Collaboration Prize has been fantastic and as a result we have six brilliant winning consortia, all of whom will be using the support and funding they won to structure their consortiums, develop their business ideas and access new markets.

“Through the Prize the aim is to inspire businesses to be innovative and consider collaboration as a means to achieve growth.  By collaborating businesses can reduce costs, share risks and create new platforms for growth.”

The Collaboration Prize was delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Island Enterprise in partnership with Business Gateway and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

The member businesses in Offsite Hub are:

  • CCG Off-Site Manufacturing, Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire
  • Alexanders’ Timber Design, Troon
  • Carbon Dynamic CLDB Ltd, Invergordon
  • MAKAR Ltd, Inverness
  • Oregon Timber Frame Ltd, Selkirk
  • Robertson Group, Stirling
  • Scotframe Timber Engineering Ltd, Inverurie
  • Stewart Milne Group, Aberdeen

Funding agreed for £6.5m Orkney research and innovation campus

Highlands and Islands EnterprisePlans for a £6.5 million research and innovation campus in Stromness in Orkney are set to go ahead after the two organisations behind the venture agreed funding for the project.

The 3.75-acre campus will support the growth of existing research and innovation activity and the expansion of companies in Orkney’s world-leading marine renewables, energy and low carbon sector. It will also attract additional research activities to Orkney, both from the commercial and academic worlds.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved up to £5.15m for the project, including £1.48m of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money administered by HIE, while Orkney Islands Council is to provide £1.5m.

The local authority will also transfer the ownership of the Old Academy and former Stromness primary school to the partnership.

Under the plans, the two adjoining buildings will be refurbished, updated and extended to create the campus.

Graeme Harrison, HIE area manager in Orkney, said: “This is a huge investment in Orkney’s future business and academic infrastructure, the impacts of which will be felt across Orkney.

“It will support the growth of existing businesses and the creation of new enterprises.

“Crucially, it will provide more opportunities to attract and retain young people looking to live, work and study in the islands.”

Economy secretary Keith Brown added: “I’m sure that this investment will increase the competitiveness of Orkney in the marine renewables sector, encourage business diversification, growth, inward investment and foster international partnerships.”

A planning application for the project is expected in due course with work to create the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus due to begin on site before the end of 2017.

Sheppard Robson announces completion of Inverness enterprise centre

An Lòchran Enterprise & Research CentreArchitectural practice Sheppard Robson has announced the completion of an office, academic, business and research hub in Inverness for the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

An Lòchran Enterprise & Research Centre is located on Plot 10 on the Inverness Campus, a major educational and business location where companies and academic institutions interact and collaborate which was opened in May 2015.

The building’s occupiers include Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), UHI, and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) which offers research and consultancy services.

Commenting on the design of the new building, James Dick, Partner at Sheppard Robson’s Glasgow office, said: “With different functions beyond simply office, teaching and research accommodation, the building sets out not only to encourage collaboration between its various users, it creates a venue to support vital internal and external business investment to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.”

Crucial to the success of the design, the UHI wing of the overall building was arranged as separate blocks to meet the needs of the different stakeholders. This then gives each stakeholder the opportunity for their own identity and also allows for flexibility and to address future requirements in terms of adaptability and expansion or change to accommodation over time.

James Dick added: “The external design concept is strongly influenced by the surrounding landscape and also embraces the design principle set out by HIE for the masterplan of the Campus. The space planning of the HIE wing accommodates staff covering a wide variety of functions coming together in the one building.

“All internal occupied spaces that require daylight and ventilation will achieve this naturally. The building successfully supports different types of working environment either for individuals or groups along with formal and informal meeting areas and a social space.”

HIE’s interim chief executive, Charlotte Wright, said: “An Lòchran has been designed specifically for multi-occupancy. It is very much at the heart of our vision for Inverness Campus as a centre for collaboration involving business, research, academia and the wider community.

“The co-location of HIE, University of the Highlands and Islands and SRUC very quickly created excellent new opportunities for joint working.”

Health and housing experts team up to create sustainable homes of the future

Image courtesy of Scene-it Media

Image courtesy of Scene-it Media

Experts in housing, healthcare and home-design from across the Highlands have come together to form a unique partnership to build sustainable homes for people with assisted living needs.

Led by NHS Highland, Albyn Housing Society and Carbon Dynamic, its aim is to create highly adaptable homes which can support people to live independently in their homes for longer through technology and remote monitoring by social care agencies.

The project is said to be the first of its kind in the UK and will take input from a wide variety of stakeholders including patients and public service providers.

As part of this process, the partnership held its first interactive co-design session at Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s new headquarters on UHI Inverness campus on Friday.

“In order to source feedback from a whole range of multi-professional health and care staff, we have used the very latest technology to create a virtual reality model, helping users to experience the built environment in an innovative way,” said Professor Angus Watson, NHS Highland’s director of research, development and innovation. “We are excited about this first interactive co-design session, which will enable people to drop-in and find out more about this innovative project.”

Lucy Fraser, head of innovation at Albyn Housing Society, added: “The central concept of the homes is that they will include ambient, physiological and building sensors to collect data that can be monitored and responded to by a variety of agencies – potentially transforming the way health and social care is delivered.

“The collaboration includes potential residents, doctors, nurses, therapists, health and social care managers, technologists, enterprise executives – anyone who can offer experience, expertise and insight to ensure this project results in a sustainable and successful model for the future.”

The first building phase at Dalmore, Alness, is set to get underway in August, and will include 14 new homes and two community spaces. A further 32 houses, including homes for veterans, will be built in Inverness.

The innovative homes are constructed off-site by Carbon Dynamic and delivered to their location 90 per cent complete.

Carbon Dynamic’s founder and chief executive, Matt Stevenson, said: “This project has enabled us to harness our advanced in-house design package and agility to engage with the co-design process to participate in an exciting new way of putting the user need at the core of the developmental processes.

“The virtual reality model is a fantastic asset through which to explore co-design, ensuring the end product is an invaluable solution to a universal need and growing challenge.”

Ten-year £315m City Deal announced for Inverness

Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle

Inverness is to benefit from a major investment into the city’s infrastructure over the next decade following the award of a £315 million City Deal.

The Scottish Government, which is contributing £135m, said the Inverness City Deal will be used to improve transport and digital links in the Highland capital.

The UK government will commit up to £53m and The Highland Council and regional partners will contribute £127m.

It is hoped that the City Deal will lever in around £1 billion of investment over its lifetime.

Funding will be targeted towards improving the regions transport and digital connectivity networks, fostering innovation of high growth businesses through the creation of a Northern Scotland Innovation Hub, promoting tourism and delivery of local housing and assisted living schemes.

The City Deal will provide a step change in providing opportunities to enhance and accelerate the delivery of long-term aspirations, through;

  • Significant investment in the trunk road network to deliver the strategic A9/96 Link Road improvement and grade separation of the Longman interchange to improve congestion and accessibility to Inverness
  • The delivery of substantial investment in Inverness Castle to support local tourism and the regional economy
  • Investment to deliver 6,000 new houses over 20 years of which, 1,800 are to be affordable homes
  • Support the commercialisation of new medical products and technologies at the new multi-disciplinary centre for clinical research and teaching on the UHI campus.

Welcoming the City Deal, Infrastructure secretary Keith Brown said: “Cities and their regions are the engines of our economy. Today’s City Deal announcement demonstrates our clear and strong commitment to Inverness and the wider Highland region, which we recognise have a key contribution to make to the future prosperity and economic growth for Scotland.

“That is why the Scottish Government has agreed to invest £135m as part of a £315m City Deal for Inverness that will deliver significant long-term benefits for the city, region and Scotland as a whole.

“This deal provides an opportunity to enhance and accelerate the delivery of long-term aspirations held by the Scottish Government and The Highland Council, the impact of which could help increase the population, create thousands of jobs and help to up-skill the local labour market.

“The significant investment in Inverness’s transport infrastructure will support much needed improvements to the trunk road network, including infrastructure improvements on the A9/96 Link Road and the Longman interchange. This investment will improve access to and within the local communities and at the same time improve accessibility to jobs, education and healthcare including the University of the Highlands and Islands and development along the A96 corridor.

“The Deal will also support the transition of Inverness Castle into a world class visitor attraction to boost regional tourism and furthering growth in an important sector. Through the deal, we will identify and explore ways to extend digital coverage, including Superfast Broadband and Mobile 4G connectivity across the region to support The Highland Council’s ambition to be the most digitally connected rural region in Europe.

“The successful delivery of the Inverness City Deal will bring significant positive benefits to both the local and national economies and I am delighted that we have been able to secure this.”

The Highland Council has worked closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands to develop these proposals and with the Inverness Chamber of Commerce and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.
Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson, warmly welcomed the announcement which seals the deal after two years of background work and negotiations.

She said: “The city of Inverness and the wider Highlands offers a unique and wonderful environment to live, work, study and visit and is a globally recognised location. This Deal will make a significant contribution to the long term productivity and economic growth of our area by promoting it as the best digitally connected rural region in Europe. Effective broadband and mobile coverage is essential so that businesses can fully exploit commercial opportunities and international markets.

“The majority of the businesses in the Highlands are small and medium businesses and this deal will enable them to expand and develop, as well as attracting new high skill, high value businesses to the area. The Deal also focuses on the attraction and retention of young people in a region which has tended to see out-migration to other areas and countries. The development and infrastructure which will result from the Deal will provide hundreds of job opportunities and greatly improve the supporting infrastructure to grow business.

“This Deal will provide a step change in terms of providing the opportunity to enhance and accelerate the delivery of the long term aspirations for Inverness and the wider region. I am grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this very positive outcome for the people of the Highlands.”