Morrison begins final phase of Inverness flood scheme

The final phase of works to alleviate flood risk to the communities of Smithton and Culloden has begun.

Morrison Construction is now on site for the largest phase of the Smithton & Culloden Flood Protection Scheme which will protect 129 properties that would otherwise be at risk of a flooding during a “once-in-200-years” event.

The works as part of this final phase will complement those undertaken in earlier phases and include the replacement of a culvert between Lochlann Court and Redburn Avenue, the creation of flood storage areas in Culloden Park and Smithton Park, the removal of a culvert beneath Smithton Park and the removal of a culvert between the railway at Murray Terrace and Smithton Park.

The Scottish Government is funding 80% of the project costs with Highland Council providing the remainder.

Vice chair of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee and local ward councillor, Trish Robertson, said: “The council gave a commitment to do all we could to reduce flood risk in the area and these new site works once complete will be key to making the community safer from potential flooding.”

Councillor Robertson joined the Provost of Inverness Cllr Helen Carmichael for a visit to the site yesterday to meet the team from Morrison Construction who will be carrying out the work.

Morrison Construction, which has experience in construction of flood schemes, most recently in Moray, will be undertaking various community initiatives during the contract. These will include providing updates at community groups, attending schools to engage with children in relation to the construction and by providing work placement opportunities and apprenticeship opportunities for senior high school pupils and university students.

Morrison Construction managing director infrastructure Scotland, Jim Steele, said: “I am delighted to be here to celebrate this exciting milestone for a scheme that will provide vital flood defences to protect the Smithton and Culloden communities.

“As a local company we have a successful working relationship with The Highland Council and look forward to further collaboration to deliver this important infrastructure.

“Throughout construction we will continue to engage with all stakeholders while creating education and employment opportunities to ensure the project has a lasting positive impact for the community.”

The majority of works are due to be complete by the summer of 2019. There will be a noticeable increase in traffic due to the construction vehicles and there will be necessary traffic lights and pedestrian diversions at various locations throughout the works. The council and Morrison Construction will work closely to ensure that disruptions are kept to a minimum.

New partnership pledges to deliver quality Highlands housing

(from left) Calum Macaulay, chief executive Albyn Housing Society; Dawn Kane, business development manager, Bancon Construction; Scott Clark, project manager, Bancon Construction; Brian McGuiness, contracts manager, Bancon Construction. Front: Yvonne Simpson, asset investment officer at Albyn Housing Society

Albyn Housing Society has started work on its next phase of affordable homes in Inverness having partnered with north east housebuilder Bancon Construction for the first time.

The new Balvonie Braes development will have 49 modern homes including one, two, three and four bedroom flats, semi-detached, detached and terraced units.

Over 30 of the homes will be available for social rent, while nine will be available for mid-market rent and four through the LIFT (Low Cost Initiative for First Time Buyers) scheme administered by Albyn’s mid-market housing partner Highland Residential.

In recent months, Albyn Housing Society has completed homes in Alness, Conon-Bridge, Inverness, Aviemore and Kirkhill delivering significant progress on its commitment to bring 750 new homes to the Highlands by 2020.

The new development represents a total investment of £7.5 million including £4.8m support from the Scottish Government and £54,000 Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal financing. Bancon Construction began construction on the site in July 2018, with the handover to Albyn Housing Society expected to take place in January 2020.

Calum Macaulay, chief executive at Albyn Housing Society, said: “Our main commitment as a housing society has always been to bring high quality homes to those who need it most. Our new partnership with Bancon Construction will help us to further our commitment to support sustainable communities and bring more quality housing to the Highlands.

“We pride ourselves as being a housing society that can deliver housing at scale. We will continue to do this by building quality, affordable, energy efficient homes for rent and for sale in the communities that need them most, which ultimately, will contribute not only to the region’s housing demand, but the continued sustainability of the region and its distinct communities as a whole.”

Gavin Currie, managing director of Bancon Construction, said: “We were extremely pleased to be awarded the contract by Albyn Housing Society to build 49 properties at the Balvonie Braes development in Inverness, which reflects our extensive experience in constructing high quality homes.

“The properties are a mix of detached, semi-detached and terraced homes as well as apartments, which use a mix of materials and have been specially designed to blend well with the existing development.

“As well as marking a move into the Highlands for Bancon Construction, this is our first project with Albyn Housing Society and we are looking forward to working closely with the team during construction.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart added: “I’m delighted to see further work begin at Balvonie  Braes, a highly desirable area in Inverness. Supported by £4.8 million of Scottish Government funding, this development will provide a mix of high quality, affordable new homes for rent, mid-market rent and shared equity.  This project highlights the  positive partnership work ongoing in the Highland Council area through the work of the Highland Housing hub.”

The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal sets out the areas where the Scottish Government will commit investment of up to £135m and the UK government will commit investment of up to £53.1m, which, together with £127m of further investment by Highland Council and partners, will deliver a step change in digital connectivity, digital healthcare, skills, innovation and infrastructure.

Chair of Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, said:  “The £315m Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is already benefiting the Highlands and this important housing project will provide much needed attractive and affordable new homes in the city which will help us retain a young, vibrant workforce.

“Working with our partners, we have other City Region Deal funded housing projects underway across the Highlands and I’m glad to say that we are on target to deliver 750 new mid-market homes over the coming years.”

Macallan Distillery makes Wood Awards shortlist

The Macallan distillery and visitor centre in Speyside

The Macallan Distillery & Visitor Experience in Speyside has been named among 20 “exceptional” buildings across the UK to have been nominated for the Wood Awards 2018 shortlist.

Established in 1971, the Wood Awards aim to encourage and promote outstanding design, craftsmanship and installation using wood.

The Awards are split into two main categories: Buildings and Furniture & Product. Within the Buildings competition there are five subcategories: Commercial & Leisure, Education & Public Sector, Interiors, Private and Small Project.

Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners for owner Edrington, The Macallan is one of the most complex timber structures built in the UK.

The scheme’s five domes mirror the surrounding landscape but also allow height for the stratification and exhaust of hot air. A 3x3m lattice of beams is imposed orthogonally on the form-found shell of the roof. This approach allows for structural robustness and gives space for increased shear capacity.

The timber is reinforced with steel to act compositely where needed. All the timber elements were fabricated in Austria using advanced CNC machinery. The roof is 207m long and has an area of 13,620m2. The roof package comprised 350,000 separate pieces, including fixings, and almost every piece was different.

Main contractor Robertson, structural engineer Arup and L&S Baucon GmbH (installation) make up the project team.

The Macallan has been shortlisted in the Commercial & Leisure category alongside the City of London Freemen’s School Swimming Pool, Fallahogey Studio in Londonderry and Storey’s Field Centre & Eddington Nursery in Cambridge.

The judging panel, led by three-time Gold Award winner Stephen Corbett of Green Oak Carpentry, will visit all the shortlisted projects in person. The shortlist will be showcased at the London Design Fair (Stand: 13.3, Hall: H13), Old Truman Brewery, September 20-23.

Winners will be revealed at the annual Wood Awards ceremony at Carpenters’ Hall on 20th November, by ceremony host David Hopkins, director of the Timber Trade Federation.

Major improvements planned at Glencoe visitor centre

The National Trust for Scotland has announced plans to transform its visitor centre at Glencoe investing in improvements which will allow visitors to learn about the world-famous site in a more immersive way than the current centre.

Glencoe’s wonder, wildlife, historical importance and cultural significance will be presented in a fresh, imaginative way enhancing the current facility which was constructed 16 years ago.

The investment at the site is part of the conservation charity’s five-year, £57 million programme to improve visitor experience and the condition of the heritage in its care.

Announcing the plans today, Simon Skinner, chief executive at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Glencoe is a perfect example of what we do. It’s an extraordinarily complex place where we welcome visitors from around the world, all coming for different reasons.

“It’s one of the eight national nature reserves in our care and many are drawn by the landscape and nature. Others come to find out about the history of the place and the Glencoe Massacre which still has the power to evoke powerful emotions. Increasingly too, we’re seeing more visitors to Glencoe thanks to its starring role on small and big screens.

“We have to continually adapt and review how we go about responding to the needs of the diverse groups who come to Glencoe and that’s what we’re doing with the new visitor centre. Our investment, which we do for the love of Scotland, will provide visitors with a much-improved experience at one of Scotland’s most significant national and natural treasures.”

Clea Warner

Clea Warner, general manager at the National Trust for Scotland North West Region, added: “Glencoe is such a unique location and we want to make sure that those who visit get the best possible experience, even if they are only there for a short time. The new visitors centre will make the most of the space and allow more people to experience and appreciate the site.

“The work will be carried out within the existing footprint of the visitor centre, although we will be using the space differently to better effect. The whole project will give visitors the chance to learn more about the story of Glencoe and its place in the history of Scotland, enhancing the entire visitor experience.”

The investment announcement follows the launch of the National Trust for Scotland’s corporate strategy last month which set out an ambitious programme for investment and activity, with plans to spend almost £60m on Scotland’s built and natural heritage over the next five years.

The Glencoe Visitor Centre upgrade is one of the National Trust for Scotland’s priority projects for 2018-9.

The proposal has been submitted to the Highland Council for planning consent.

If approved, works will be undertaken in autumn 2018.

Morgan Sindall appointed to Inverness school revamp and extension

Highland Council has appointed Morgan Sindall to carry out a £4 million extension and refurbishment contract for Smithton Primary School in Inverness.

Enabling works started in April, comprising the installation of decant accommodation, additional car parking and associated external works. These have also been undertaken by Morgan Sindall and are now nearing completion.

The main contract works will follow on with an anticipated project completion date of October 2019.

Chairman of Highland Council’s care, learning and housing committee, Cllr Andrew Baxter, said: “This contract is another key step in the council’s programme of refurbishment and renovation of Highland schools. The works at Smithton will address current and future capacity issues at the school and will improve the condition and suitability of the existing school accommodation. Additional nursery classroom space will also be provided to meet an increase in Early Learning and Childcare provision for 3 and 4 year-olds that is required to be in place by 2020.”

The contract comprises:

  • Demolition of the existing entrance and administration area.
  • Construction of a new 5-classroom extension with entrance lobby/reception, offices and associated staff accommodation.
  • Extension of the dining and games hall area.
  • Refurbishment of the senior classroom wing.
  • A temporary administration block which will be converted for use as nursery accommodation on completion of the works.
  • Increased car parking provision and a multi-use games area.

Springfield Properties submit plans for two new developments in Ardersier

Springfield Properties has submitted plans for 133 homes across two new developments in the coastal village of Ardersier.

The first application of 117 private and affordable homes covers 6ha of land off Nairn Road. The private homes include a mix of 87 flats, terraced and semi-detached homes surrounding a play park and plenty of open space. The remaining 30 homes will be allocated for affordable housing in partnership with a local housing association. One and two-bedroom bungalows and three and four-bedroom semi-detached homes have been designed.

The second, smaller application is for 16 affordable homes located just off Station Road. The proposals, which will be undertaken in partnership with a local housing association, will transform the former railway station into stylish new bungalows.

Springfield’s group partnership managing director, Tom Leggeat, said: “Ardersier is a great place – it’s a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Inverness, with scenic views of the coast in a quiet sea-side town. Our plans will feed into that. The development will bring jobs and development opportunities for youngsters, support shops and businesses and offer a mix of new private and affordable homes in the area.

“We had great attendance and feedback from locals when we unveiled our plans at the community consultation recently. The larger development is a natural expansion of the existing village and has been designed with this in mind. The plans for 16 new bungalows in the centre of the village will inject life into an unsightly section of land.

“We expect to hear the views from council members in the coming months.”

And finally… Vertical observation tower to improve visitor experience at Scottish botanical gardens

North-East view of tower. Copyright Darc Studio

Architecture practice Denizen Works has designed a timber observation tower proposal for Inverewe Garden in Wester Ross.

Estate owner National Trust for Scotland set an open brief to the London-based architects to create a viewing tower to draw more visitors to the property.

Denizen Works said: “Our response to this open brief from the National Trust for Scotland saw us explore the history of Inverewe and take inspiration from the natural world. Combining the rich artistic heritage of the Garden with nesting forms of local wildlife has resulted in proposals for our vertical gallery and bird hide.

“For the visitor, the experience will be one of intrigue: a structure where the internal functions are not necessarily understood from the outside, much like a burrow or woodpecker’s nest.

“Rather than creating a tower for its own sake, we were interested in creating an experience integrated into the natural route through the garden landscape.”

View from High Viewpoint. Copyright Darc Studio

The tower is accessed from the High Viewpoint where visitors will follow a path down the natural contours before crossing a short bridge to the tower. The staircase links to a further network of paths at the base via gallery spaces telling the story of the garden through different spatial experiences at each level, combined with art specially commissioned for the tower.

At the top of the tower, a bird hide affords stunning views across the tree canopies and allows visitors to observe the local wildlife, including nearby nesting herons and local golden eagles.

Planning has been submitted to Highland Council and the Garden Tower is due to start on site in Autumn 2018.

Credits: Denizen Works: architects and Darcstudio: visualisations.

Sutherland site to host UK’s first spaceport

Artist’s impression of a UK spaceport. Credit: Perfect Circle PV

A remote peninsula in Sutherland has been chosen as the home of the UK’s first spaceport.

Vertically-launched space rockets and satellites will take off from the launch site at A’Mhoine, business secretary Greg Clark has announced.

Initial funding of £2.5 million will go to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the site which could see lift-off from the early 2020s and create hundreds of jobs. It will use innovative rocket technology to pave the way for a world-leading spaceflight market in Britain.

The UK Space Agency said it selected the Sutherland site because Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach highly sought-after satellite orbits with vertically-launched rockets.

The UK government is also making available a new £2m fund to boost further horizontal launch spaceport sites across Britain – such as Newquay, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia – subject to business case.

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “As a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, we want Britain to be the first place in mainland Europe to launch satellites as part of our Industrial Strategy. The UK’s thriving space industry, research community and aerospace supply chain put the UK in a leading position to develop both vertical and horizontal launch sites.

“This will build on our global reputation for manufacturing small satellites and help the whole country capitalise on the huge potential of the commercial space age.”

Welcoming the announcement, Charlotte Wright, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “The decision to support the UK’s first spaceport in Sutherland is tremendous news for our region and for Scotland as a whole. The international space sector is growing and we want to ensure the region is ready to reap the economic benefits that will be generated from this fantastic opportunity.

“HIE expects to be in a position to make an announcement on further financial support for the space sector later today.”

The commercial space sector is estimated to be worth a potential £3.8 billion to the UK economy over the next decade and will support Britain’s modern Industrial Strategy by creating high-skilled jobs and boosting local economies.

Cabinet secretary for finance, economy and fair work, Derek Mackay MSP, said: “The development of a small-satellite launch facility at the Mhoine, Sutherland is a significant first step towards stimulating space sector activity across the whole of Scotland and beyond.

“This very exciting development will build on our existing strengths and ensure we maintain momentum in the development of vibrant space industry.  Through companies such as ClydeSpace and Spire Global, we have already taken the title as a front-runner in the small-satellite industry across Europe. But by building a spaceport we are taking big steps towards creating a fully integrated supply chain – to manufacture, launch and operate – all from Scotland.

“A spaceport will open up a wide range of market opportunities and give our businesses a competitive advantage to keep us ahead of the curve. The additional activity generated will create high-skilled jobs and encourage foreign direct investment. It is a must that we take these opportunities to build strong international relations, not only across Europe but on a global scale, to ensure a prosperous future for Scotland and its emerging space sector.

“Sutherland is only a starting point for these opportunities and we will ensure that its benefits are spread across the country.”

Springfield unveils plans for new homes in Drumnadrochit

Springfield Properties has submitted plans to Highland Council for 94 private and affordable homes just off Kilmore Road in Drumnadrochit.

The plans include designs for private two, three and four bedroom homes. Among the 25 affordable homes on the site, flats, semi-detached houses and bungalows have been proposed. The development will benefit from scenic views, a play park, and footpaths to existing walking routes and is within walking distance of Loch Ness.

Springfield’s north sales manager, Joyce Hadden, said: “This is the first application Springfield has submitted in Drumnadrochit. We are excited by the prospect of offering our stylish range of highly energy efficient homes in the area – just 14 miles from Inverness.

“This land has been vacant for some time and is unkempt and overgrown. Our proposals will address this, complete the streetscape and offer homes that are inexpensive to run. It will support the local economy by bringing new infrastructure, new jobs and new families to the area.

“We’ve worked closely with the council to offer a mix of homes in the area to suit a range of buyers and will await their feedback in the coming months.”

Morrison Construction’s Tornagrain project recognised with CEEQUAL award

Morrison Construction has been awarded an Excellent Construction Award from CEEQUAL with a score of 82.5% for the Tornagrain Pump Away Scheme.

The Civil Engineering Environmental Quality Assessment and Awards Scheme (CEEQUAL) is an international sustainability scheme delivered by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) under the certification business BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), which evaluates, rates and recognises infrastructure projects.

The three-year project in the Highlands involved complex waste water works to future-proof prime development land, while connecting the new town of Tornagrain, the nearby Inverness Airport Business Park and Castle Stuart Golf Links.

The CEEQUAL assessment scored the project at 100 per cent in the areas of people and communities, land use and landscape, historic environment, water environment and transport, contributing significantly to the final score. The Tornagrain project was also recognised earlier this year, winning Gold and Silver at the Considerate Construction Scheme National Site Awards.

Morrison Construction Water Scotland operation’s director, Stephen Slessor, said: “Being awarded an Excellent Construction Award from CEEQUAL is an achievement to be proud of and I would like to congratulate everyone involved.

“The high score we achieved during assessment demonstrates the dedication of our highly-skilled team to deliver quality infrastructure projects, which benefit the communities we work in many years into the future.”