Highlands

Developers sought to lead ‘ambitious’ expansion of John O’Groats

john o groatsAerial image with red outlineAgents have been appointed to attract new investors and developers to realise “ambitious” plans for expansion at the iconic location of John O’Groats.

Located on the far north coast of Scotland in the county of Caithness overlooking the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, the popular tourist destination is famous for lying on the north-eastern point of one end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland, with Land’s End in Cornwall lying 876 miles to the southwest.

John O’Groats has benefited from the Natural Retreats’ development and regeneration in recent years and the investment of other local operators. The area is also reportedly starting to see the economic benefits of Meygen’s long-term commitment to developing tidal energy within the Pentland Firth.

Outline planning consent is now in place for a masterplan development which proposes a structure formed around a series of six zones: harbour front and public realm; central core; natural retreats site; artisans and craftsmen; events field; and residential quarter.

Heritage GB and Natural Assets have appointed Shepherd Chartered Surveyors and Strutt & Parker as joint agents.

Sandy Rennie, partner in the Inverness office of Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, said: “Expressions of interest are sought from third party investors including developers, operators and any potential tenants. This is a unique opportunity to invest in an iconic location within the UK and capitalise on the tourist trade within Scotland, which has gone from strength to strength, particularly the success of the North Coast 500 route which has rapidly established itself as one of the most scenic driving routes in the world.”

Euan MacCrimmon at Strutt & Parker, added: “We are very excited about the appointment and opportunity, particularly given that John O’Groats is very much enjoying a surge in popularity, following the last five years of large scale new developments and the NC500 effect, which has created another wave of visitation to the area.”

The six masterplan zones are:

  • Zone 1 – harbour front and public realm– sea front with Last House, cafes, small retail, harbour and public areas. Buildings largely existing but scope for careful insertions.
  • Zone 2 – central core – mixed use development around a pedestrian square, including food and beverage, retail, small residential units, existing retail buildings retained and upgraded.
  • Zone 3 – natural retreats site– holiday accommodation and ancillary functions.  Public park and play area. This zone is largely developed except for landscaping improvements, park and possible insertions into gaps.
  • Zone 4 – artisans and craftsmen– small artisan industrial units such as micro-brewery, distillery, weavers, etc. Community buildings such as children’s centre, medical centre, etc.
  • Zone 5 – events field– green space at the centre of the village suitable for large scale community events as well as day to day recreation. Potential pavilion building.
  • Zone 6 – residential quarter– family housing, detached cottages, villas and terraced houses. Walled market garden/allotments and overflow car parking.

Morrison Construction starts work on £15m Ardross Distillery

Ardross Distillery - Scene 7 - Stone Option - 01.12.16Morrison Construction has started works on the £15 million Ardross Distillery development in the scenic Averon Valley, 30 miles north of Inverness.

The project for Ardross Investments Ltd will involve the refurbishment and extension of a dilapidated farm complex on a private 50-acre site that includes Loch Dubh.

Once part of Ardross Mains Farm established in the nineteenth century, the steading buildings, farm house and cottages will be retained for the distillery. Stone and slate will be salvaged from existing buildings that have collapsed and will be used to rebuild walls and roofs of the development.

Walls at the rear of the main steading will be removed and rebuilt to increase the size of the building for a two-storey still house, tun room, mash house and milling area. This building will surround two large courtyards with parking to the front.

The two detached one-and-a-half storey cottages to each side of the main steading will become offices and staff accommodation. An old dairy building behind the staff accommodation will become a blending and product development lab. A three-storey house at the rear of the site will become a vaulted cask storage area and marketing suite, the boiler house will also be located at the side of this building.

Ardross Distillery - Scene 4 - Stone Option - 01.12.16In early 2018 two large copper stills and other process equipment for the distillery will be transported to site. Ardross Distillery will also house a customised gin distillery with the intention of launching its first product onto the market in late 2018.

Donald Mclachlan, Morrison Construction managing director, said: “Beginning construction is an exciting time and we look forward to continuing our work with Ardross Investments on this new distillery in the Highlands.

“We are proud to be working on this development, which reuses existing materials onsite, preserving the character of historic buildings.

“We will continue our engagement with local schools and wider community throughout construction ensuring the development has a lasting positive impact.”

This is the second distillery project that Morrison Construction will work on this year, having previously completed a whisky maturation warehouse at Glenmorangie’s Tain distillery.

Five year strategic plan approved for 2,500 new Highland affordable homes

invernessThe Highland Council has pledged to approve 500 affordable housing units each year for the next five years of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership.

Councillors on the environment, development and infrastructure committee yesterday agreed a Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) for 2018-2023 and to reaffirm the council’s commitment to deliver new homes in the Highlands.

The Plan sets out how investment in affordable housing will be directed up until 2023 with 2,500 new homes built by 2020 and another 500 per year after that. Money will come from a mix of City Region Deal cash, prudential borrowing and grants from the Scottish Government as part of its pledge to build at least 50,000 affordable homes over the period of this parliament.

Since the Council House Build programme began in 2008/09 in Highland over 1,000 council houses and flats have been completed or are under development.

Chair of the committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, said: “Not only is this investment helping to support jobs in the building industry, but it is also providing people and families with access to good quality, affordable homes where they can be safe and warm.

“Housing is and will remain a priority for the council. There is no doubt that it is a very ambitious goal but I am confident that over the next five years we will reach the target thanks to the effective and productive partnership approach we have developed with the Scottish Government, Housing Associations and the private sector.

“In our wider enabling role, we will continue to work to bringing forward sites we own for re-development and work with the private sector to unlock the constraints for other strategic sites throughout the Highlands, using or own Landbank Fund, the Scottish Government Infrastructure Loan Fund and any other opportunities that become available.”

Highland Council puts developer contributions guidance out to consultation

Highland Council colour newCommunities and developers will be invited to have their say in shaping a refreshed approach to dealing with developer contributions for developments across Highland.

Members of the Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee yesterday gave the go ahead for a six week public consultation on the Draft Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance which will begin in early 2018.

This follows a comprehensive review of the council’s existing Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance was adopted by the council in March 2013 to support the implementation of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan. The review has included benchmarking of specific types of contribution against other council areas and examination of the costs for the provision of facilities and infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the council proposed raising the maximum developer contributions for schools in the Inverness area from £2,013 to £6,983 for each new build to help the local authority cope with increasing rolls at city schools.

The new Draft proposes a number of key updates, including removing the current threshold which limits contributions for education and community facilities to housing development of four or more homes. This would mean that all scales of housing development, including single homes, would be required to make a proportionate contribution.

Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: “Our existing guidance has been in place for a number of years and it is good practice to review it to ensure the methodology for each type of developer contribution is up to date and accurately reflects the costs for providing new services and infrastructure to support our future communities.

“The guidance is needed to ensure Highland Council has a coordinated and consistent approach to developer contributions. All developers will have the key information they need to know in front of them from the very start. This will be vital to help deliver sustainable economic growth in the Highlands without compromising the level of services, infrastructure and facilities currently enjoyed by those living, working and visiting the area.”

Approval of the draft guidance means it will be taken into account alongside the adopted guidance in determining planning applications.

Full details of how developers, community groups and individuals can take part in the consultation will be provided when the consultation is launched early in the New Year.

Findings of the consultation, along with a finalised version of the guidance, are due to be presented to committee in May 2018.

Newton Property Management completes Inverness acquisition

Joint managing director of Newton Property, Derek MacDonald and Newton Property director, Ross Watt, with Allied Souter & Jaffrey managing director, Richard Smith, and Derek Rudkin who joins the Newton team in Inverness

Joint managing director of Newton Property, Derek MacDonald and Newton Property director, Ross Watt, with Allied Souter & Jaffrey managing director, Richard Smith, and Derek Rudkin who joins the Newton team in Inverness

Newton Property Management has invested in the North of Scotland through the acquisition of a division of one of the area’s most respected property firms.

The company, which has offices in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, has acquired Allied Souter & Jaffrey’s factoring division, further expanding the business in the Highlands.

Allied Souter & Jaffrey is the trading name of the former Souter & Jaffrey partnership, originally formed in 1951, providing professional property services throughout the Highlands and Islands. The company has offices in Inverness, Elgin, Dingwall and Fort William and has been working as one of the area’s main property factors for more than 30 years.

Newton currently has 45 members of staff and manages 18,000 factored and 600 leased units across the whole of Scotland. Through the acquisition, the firm will manage an additional 2,500 factored units in the North, including 67 private estates, seeing its national coverage span as far north as Tain and as far south as Gretna Green.

As part of the deal, Allied Souter & Jaffrey’s property management staff will join Newton to assist with operations at the firm’s new Inverness base situated in the Longman area, with plans in place to quadruple the number of employees in the next five years.

In addition, through Newton’s extensive property portfolio, the acquisition will offer local contractors the opportunity to extend their reach to other parts of the country through work with the firm.

Joint managing director of Newton Property, Derek MacDonald, said: “We are delighted to make the acquisition with such a well respected company. We believe strongly in the region and feel it is essential that we have a permanent base and that we continue to invest in the area to ensure our clients are offered a top quality service at all times.

“At Newton we challenge the traditional approach to factoring and provide a modern, customer focused service that offers our customers excellent value for money and peace of mind.

“We are proud to be in the top five privately owned property factoring companies in Scotland, and work hard to be number one for customer service.

“Newton is committed to providing the best value for our clients, and with our extensive residential expertise in factoring we look forward to continuing to invest and offer new services to our new client base in the North of Scotland.”

Allied Souter & Jaffrey, managing director, Richard Smith, added: “We have been the main factors in the North of Scotland for more than 30 years, and highly value all of our clients.

“We wanted the new owners of the factoring division to be the right fit for our customer base, and it took a lot of time to make the final decision about selling the department.

“Our business, under Allied Surveyors Scotland, still continues for Commercial Valuation and Agency with Residential Home Reports and Valuations, EPCs and Building Surveying.

“Newton Property Management is one of the largest and most successful specialist property factors in the country, and we are confident of their commitment to client care and satisfaction.

“We have no doubt that they will continue to provide a first class service.”

Sutherland golf proposals ‘more environmentally damaging than Trump’s Aberdeenshire course’

Coul LinksAn alliance of conservation organisations has submitted a damning objection to proposals to build a £10 million golf course on one of the last undeveloped coastal duneland habitats left in Scotland.

American billionaire Mike Keiser and his partners want to build an 18-hole championship course on an area known as Coul Links, near Embo.

But the charities say it would affect protected, internationally important salt marshes and dunes.

With less than a month until the planning consultation deadline, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife, RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are urging members of the public to oppose the “destruction” of Coul Links by submitting their own objections.

The group, which has submitted its objection to Highland Council, said Coul Links provided habitat for ducks, geese and also plant life, including a rare colony of coastal juniper trees.

It is also home to the Fonseca’s seed fly which is only found at a few sites in east Sutherland and nowhere else in the world, said the charities.

The charities have been objecting to the golf course plans since last year, and compare their struggle to the one of almost 10 years ago that opposed Donald Trump’s development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire.

Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: “Almost a decade since Donald Trump’s controversial Aberdeenshire golf course was approved, destroying part of a nationally important wildlife site and severely denting Scotland’s environmental reputation, it’s incredible that an even more damaging proposal could come forward.

“There are international obligations to ensure the protection of Coul Links due to its global importance for wildlife. The eyes of the world will therefore once again be on Scotland, and on the Highland Council when they make their planning decision, to see whether we now place more value on our special places.”

Craig Macadam, director of Buglife Scotland, added: “The dune systems at Coul Links have developed over thousands of year in to an internationally important site for wildlife. As a nation we have a duty to protect these dunes for future generations in the local community, Scotland and further afield. Highland Council must do everything in their power to protect this important natural heritage asset from these damaging development plans.”

The developers of the planned golf course said the environmental impact assessment process for the project had been extensive and carried out by independent consultancies.

They added that an original layout for the project had been changed to reduce its impact on protected areas and believe the course will bring a boost to the local economy.

In a joint statement, the developers said: “The wildlife and conservation value of the site has been a critical factor for the development team.

“Starting at the inception of the process, specialists were engaged to develop a golf course that minimises initial impact and that will provide long-term biodiversity gain for this special site.

“We would ask that the project is viewed on its own merits and not compared to other golf developments in Scotland, which have no connection to Coul Links.

“The support for the project locally has been overwhelming and this was further emphasised following the two public information events held in October, where the majority of attendees were in favour of the project.”

Inverness city centre office sold to hotel developer

bridge house invernessHotel development company Patio Hotels (Aberdeen) is planning to redevelop an office building in the heart of Inverness city centre after buying the property for an undisclosed sum.

The firm, which also operates the Kingmills Hotel in Inverness, intends to redevelop the 23,000 sq ft building, formerly known as Bridge House, into a 4-star hotel.

The four-storey and basement end terrace building is located on the west side of Church Street on a prominent corner position with Bank Lane close to High Street/Bridge Street within Inverness city centre.

Shepherd Chartered Surveyors sold the property on behalf of Threadneedle Pensions.

Sandy Rennie, partner in the Inverness office of Shepherd Chartered Surveyors, said: “This sale represents a very large disposal in the Inverness market and confirms the city’s growing reputation as a desirable location for hotel operators.

“The conclusion of this sale follows our recent sale of the adjacent building to Bridge House to Bar Revolution, formerly home to McEwen’s of Perth, and provides further evidence of a buoyant market for investment in Inverness’s buoyant hospitality sector.”

Major progress on plans for A9/A96 Inshes to Smithton Scheme in Inverness

A9-A96

A preferred option for the much-needed single carriageway connecting Inshes and Smithton in the Highland capital has been identified.

The new road will open up opportunities for the development of East Inverness, as well as providing traffic relief on the A9 and A96 trunk roads.

Following assessment work, Option 3 has been chosen as the preferred option.

This will see the new link road connecting between Culloden Road and Smithton Junction and will include new junctions at Ashton Farm and Cradlehall, a new link to the Inverness Retail and Business Park and a bridge over the Highland Main Line railway.

Additional lanes will also be added across the A9 at Culloden Road, providing two lanes of traffic in either direction.

The preferred option is on display today in Inshes Church and tomorrow in Smithton-Culloden Free Church. It can also be viewed on the scheme’s web page.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “We have been progressing option design and assessment work for a single carriageway road connecting Inshes and Smithton in Inverness as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment within the £315 million Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal which will see significant investment in Inverness’s transport infrastructure. This investment will improve access to and within the local communities and at the same time improve accessibility to jobs, education including the University of the Highlands and Islands, and development along the A96 corridor.

“The preferred option on show today and tomorrow and available to view online, marks a major milestone in the design of this new link road.

“As well as contributing to The Highland Council’s development plans for East Inverness, the scheme will reduce traffic on the A9 and A96 passing through Raigmore Interchange and improve safety by reducing traffic levels on key parts of the local road network. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to redesign the scheme to minimise impacts on the mature trees along Caulfield Road North, taking account of feedback following public exhibitions last year.

“The new road will also provide enhanced facilities for non-motorised users, including cyclists and the details of this will be developed during the next stage of design which will now be progressed.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest to come along to one of the venues today or tomorrow to view our plans and to have an opportunity to discuss them with our team and provide vital comments by 13 December 2017.”

Transport Scotland is working closely with The Highland Council to ensure that the scheme fits with their Development Plan for the area east of the A9. As part of that partnership working, a representative from The Highland Council will also be in attendance at the exhibitions to answer any questions on existing and planned development at East Inverness.

Council Leader, Margaret Davidson said: “We welcome the progress being made on this important Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal project and will continue to work in partnership with Transport Scotland as they move on to the next stage in the design process.”

Planning in principle secured for HMP Highland

HMP Highland (front) (image courtesy of BakerHicks)Councillors have given planning permission in principle (PPP) for the new HMP Highland, a state of the art facility that will be the first new prison in the north of Scotland for more than a century.

Following positive and significant pre-application discussions with Highland Council, and a pre-application public consultation, the Scottish Prison Service’s (SPS) ambitious modern design received the committee’s unanimous support.

Meabhann Crowe, senior planner with commercial property specialist Colliers International, which helped secure the green light, said: “As HMP Highland will be the first new prison in the region for 112 years, we are pleased that the planning application process has progressed so smoothly and swiftly.

“Discussions have progressed quickly and productively with the Highland Council and we are delighted to have achieved a successful outcome. Given that the proposal represents a technical departure from the Development Plan, this is an excellent result and particularly welcome, as it ensures that the Highlands, Islands and Moray areas will get a much-needed modern, fit-for-purpose prison facility in a timely manner. We expect construction work to begin on the site early next year.”

HMP Highland - arial (image courtesy of BakerHicks)Working on behalf of the SPS, Colliers International’s planning team lodged the PPP for the new prison facility on land to the south of Inverness Retail and Business Park. They worked alongside the Scottish Prison Service and a specialist consulting team, including BakerHicks, ITP Energised, Fairhurst Engineers, TGP Landscape Architects, AOC Archaeology and ERM Consulting in bringing the planning application together.

As part of the process, Colliers’ planning team coordinated pre-application discussions with The Highland Council, statutory pre-application public consultation on 30th March and submission of the overall planning application to The Highland Council on 25th May 2017.

The new HMP Highland will replace the 112-year-old HMP Inverness Prison, located in the city centre, with a new 21st century fit-for-purpose prison development. It will serve Highlands, Islands and Moray areas. SPS’ estates strategy involves the commitment to replace historic accommodation with modern facilities, which contribute to a Safer Stronger Scotland.

Images courtesy of BakerHicks

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.