Highlands

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.”

Morrison Construction’s Nucleus project wins major architectural awards

The newly-opened £20 million Nucleus building in Wick, built by Morrison Construction, took home two awards at the inaugural Architects’ Journal Architecture of the Year Awards this month.

The building, designed by Reiach and Hall and home to the national archive for the civil nuclear industry, won Public Building of the Year and the Editor’s Choice of the Year awards.

The prestigious awards celebrate design excellence in UK architecture across 23 different categories at an event held in London.

Morrison Construction managing director for the Highland business, Donald Mclachlan, said: ”We are delighted at the recognition this wonderful facility has achieved on a national stage.

”Our highly-skilled teams work extremely hard to deliver excellent facilities to benefit the communities they are built in many years into the future.”

Architects’ Journal Architecture Awards judges commented: “This is an exceptional piece of architecture materially, aesthetically and functionally: it’s made well, looks stunning and fulfils, indeed exceeds, its brief – effectively reimagining what an archive building can be in both form and function.”

Nucleus facility was opened earlier this year and includes a large public area, reading room and community space.

More than 70 years’ worth of information and up to 30 million digital records are held in the facility, which also contains local archives dating back to the 16th century.

Mixed-use Inverness city centre plans lodged

Capital Developments Ltd has submitted a planning application for a new residential and commercial development in Inverness in partnership with the Highland Housing Alliance and the Highland Council.

The development at 79 Academy Street will add to the regeneration of a gateway to the city centre to potentially deliver four commercial units on the ground floor with 40 affordable homes to rent for local people.

Under the plans, 17 flats will be allocated for mid-market rent by the Highland Housing Alliance and 23 flats to be allocated for rent by the council.

Highland Housing Alliance chief executive, Gail Matheson, said: “Today a planning application has been submitted to the Highland Council for a new mixed use development that will reinvigorate Academy Street, a historic gateway to the city centre. 79 Academy Street will be  a landmark development for the city of Inverness, comprising 40 new homes for rent further opening it up to  city centre living.

“The new scheme builds on the success of our 2016 Academy Street development that delivered 17 National Housing Trust homes along with 14 rented homes for the Highland Council. Four commercial units will potentially add new business opportunities and the regeneration of Academy Street. Subject to planning, we hope to start on-site in Spring 2018 with completion by Autumn 2019.”

Bill Nelson of Capital Developments said: “The building, previously tenanted by Farm Foods, has been unoccupied for quite some time and is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Consequently, we are delighted to instruct our project architects NORR to submit a planning application to replace this building with a modern and attractive mixed use residential and retail scheme, that we believe will greatly enhance this part of Academy Street. If planning permission is granted we believe this significant investment will help revitalise the city centre.”

Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee, said: “This is good news for Inverness where there has been a shortage of affordable housing. The development is especially welcome given that it will contribute to regeneration of the city centre, providing new retail units on the ground floor as well as quality accommodation above.”

Blog: West Link Road opens in Inverness

westlinkinverness.1203x0-isA blog on Inverness by the Scottish Cities Alliance featuring The West Link as it opens to traffic and Inverness Airport Business Park’s opportunities.

A vital piece of infrastructure has opened in Inverness which will boost economic growth and ease congestion.

The West Link Road is an ambitious project which completes the link between the Dores roundabout and the A82 at Torvean, crossing the River Ness. It is an ambitious project which will deliver a greatly improved infrastructure to support the future development, growth and prosperity of Inverness and the Highlands.

The West-Link will reduce congestion in the city centre, enable housing development and associated developer contributions and provide additional capacity over the River Ness will remove unnecessary traffic from the city centre, along with fumes and noise. The link will make the city centre a more pleasant place for shoppers and pedestrians.

The new link will:

  • Help achieve the greater ambition for the City of Inverness and will enable further development
  • Bring a Benefit to Cost Ratio of nearly £4 of benefit to every £1 of public investment
  • Form part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315 million investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and University of the Highland and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.

The Scottish Cities Alliance’s Pitch Book features investment potential in Inverness.

One of the potential investments is at Inverness Airport Business Park which is a planning approved and master planned mixed-use commercial property development with approximately 275 acres of land available (over the long term) for occupancy across four key Development Zones – Phase 1, Hotel (Plot 1), Airside and Railside.

iapb.976x0-isThe Co-op recently announced plans for a new, bespoke distribution centre to be located at Inverness Airport Business Park (IABP). The new development will support the Co-op’s future store expansion and delivery network for stores in the North of Scotland when it opens in the late summer of 2018. The new IABP distribution centre will also ensure continued employment for the 40 staff at the site, which is located in the nearby Dalcross Industrial Estate, with potential for the creation of new jobs as the site develops following opening.

The new facility will continue to be serviced by double decker vehicles as opposed to single decker, resulting in fewer journeys reducing CO2 emissions and eliminating 1,800 road miles per day, making the Co-op’s logistics operation in Scotland a lot more environmentally friendly.

James Campbell, IABP chairman, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Co-op to Inverness Airport Business Park and look forward to working with them on the delivery of their new 12,000 sqft purpose-built distribution facility.

“Securing the Co-op as our anchor tenant very much sets the tone for what we are looking to achieve at IABP and the new facility is widely regarded as a ground-breaking development for Inverness and the Highlands. IABP provides occupiers with excellent transport links and connectivity by air, road and soon to be rail, with the proposed introduction of the Inverness Airport (Dalcross) Station.

“It’s a very exciting time for IABP and we are encouraged to see the continued growth and success at Inverness Airport and Tornagrain New Town as well as the major transport infrastructure projects already underway on the A96 and A9 trunk roads.”

Hundreds of new Inverness homes recommended for approval

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

George Fraser, chief executive of Tulloch Homes, outside another development in Inverness

Proposals for 767 new homes in Inverness look set to be granted planning permission by councillors next week.

Tulloch Homes has proposed building the mix of houses and flats in three phases on land between Dores Road and the River Ness.

The area, close to Inverness’ new West Link Road, was first allocated for housing in the 1980s.

Highland Council planning officers have recommended that councillors on the south planning applications committee approve the project.

Architects at BakerHicks begin full concept design for new Inverness prison

HMP Highland (front) (image courtesy of BakerHicks)Multi-disciplinary design and engineering company BakerHicks has started work on the full concept design for the new £70 million HMP Highland in Inverness.

The initial designs by BakerHicks, which were used to achieve Planning Permission in Principle, are now being developed by their design team to a point that the project can be tendered for construction.

The contract for the concept design, which includes the preparation of all ITT Documentation, was awarded to BakerHicks through the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) framework on a multi-discipline basis for Architectural, Civil & Structural, Mechanical & Electrical and Principal Designer Services.

The new prison includes a central Roundhouse as a focal point for visitors, the family centre and staff facilities, with the main building designed to reflect the river Ness. Using the long winding wave through the site means that, from eye level, the building can never be viewed in its entirety, making it less oppressive to pedestrians or prison visitors. The design is complemented by landscaped garden courtyards, which BakerHicks is partnering with TGP Landscape Architects on for landscape design services.

Laura James

Laura James

Laura James, head of Scotland at BakerHicks, said it is important that the best-in-class design also works well with the operational requirements of the prison.

Laura added: “We’re now taking our initial design and adding in detailed floor plans and internal layouts to the areas allocated on the Step One design.

“We’re working especially closely with the SPS team through a series of workshops to maximise the use of space and ensure the designs are appropriate for how the prison is managed and how it interacts with the local community.”

HMP Highland will serve the Highlands, Islands and Moray areas and hold up to 200 offenders in purposely designed accommodation units. It has double the size of the existing prison which it is intended to replace. It will be the first new prison in the Scottish Highlands for more than a century.

The project is being developed taking full consideration of the Highland Council’s Sustainable Design Guide which has been prepared to encourage agents, architects, builders and clients to opt for buildings that are designed to respond to the local landscape and climate. The SPS Three Step Process has been used, encompassing: Step One – Initial Concept and site investigation; Step Two – Planning Permission in Principle; and Step Three – Preparation of ITT Documentation. BakerHicks has been working with the commercial property firm Colliers International throughout.

BakerHicks has considerable experience in the prisoner and custodial sector, having previously completed projects for HMP Perth and the Young Offenders Institute at Polmont.

Approval for five-year vision for 6,000 new Highland homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

Inverness is regarded as a high priority area for the new homes

A five-year strategy to enable the delivery of 6,000 new homes across the Highlands, of which 2,500 will be socially rented, has been agreed by councillors.

Members of The Highland Council’s people committee have approved the council’s Local Housing Strategy for 2017 – 2022, which has indicated that 45% of the new homes will be required as a high priority in Inverness and the surrounding area.

Other communities that have also been identified in the strategy as a high priority for housing development include: Aviemore, Wick and Thurso; Fort William; Nairn; Dingwall; Ullapool and Gairloch; Portree, Boradford, Plockton and Dornie; and Dornoch, Clashmore and Embo.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, who chairs the council’s people committee, said: “I welcome this strategy which will help to deliver the council’s Programme priorities to provide homes across the Highlands so that both young and old have a secure roof over their heads; that the council and its partners will aim to build 500 new affordable homes every year for the next five years; and improve the quality and condition of the housing stock and minimise fuel poverty.”

He added: “Members have scrutinised the draft strategy and we are now confident that as a living and working document it is fit for purpose to deliver the council’s housing priorities.”

The Highland Housing Strategy sets out the council’s vision for housing over the next five years and what the council will do to:

  • increase the supply of homes in Highland so that there are enough houses in the right places to meet housing needs;
  • contribute to the effective integration of health and social care so that housing design and delivery of housing and housing-related services meet the changing needs of individuals;
  • prevent and respond to homelessness and make sure people have the right help to let them make decisions on their housing options; and
  • improve the condition of housing and minimise fuel poverty to improve the quality, comfort and affordability of homes.

Peer review feedback from the Scottish Government was taken into consideration on the draft strategy along with comments from a public consultation held this summer.

The council also consulted widely on the Highland Local Development Plan and the main issues for Local Housing Strategy in a series of public events during September to November 2015.

The strategy has been developed collaboratively through the Highland Housing Strategy Group which includes the council’s Planning, Development and Housing Services; registered social landlords; developers; Cairngorms National Park Authority; and NHS Highland.

Inverness planning blueprints for up to 3,000 new homes approved

Inverness stock 2Two major planning documents that will shape the growth of Inverness have been approved by members of the Highland Council’s city of Inverness area committee.

The Draft Inverness East Development Brief sets out plans for developers to deliver up to 3,000 new private and affordable homes and a suite of community and employment uses that will now be published for public consultation.

In addition, the Inverness City Development Brief will now be referred to Scottish Ministers for formal adoption and then taken forward as part of the council’s Development Plan. This will replace the existing Inverness City Centre Development Brief adopted in March 2013.

Provost and leader of Inverness and area, Councillor Helen Carmichael, said: “Councillors welcome these major steps forward which support the Council’s Programme priorities under ‘A Place to Live’ to provide affordable homes and development opportunities that promote resilient and attractive communities while regenerating our city.”

She added: “I would like to thank everyone for their interest in the Draft Inverness East Development Brief and in particular to the young people at Inverness College and Culloden Youth Forum who have contributed to the preparation of this exciting master plan. I would urge anyone with an interest to keep an eye out for the public consultation in the New Year.  This will be promoted in due course and published online.”

Describing the Inverness East Development Brief, Scott Dalgarno, Highland Council’s development plans manager, said: “Inverness East is the next major urban expansion of the city, and it is important that it is developed in a way that works for existing and new communities. We have involved local communities from an early stage to develop a Brief that prioritises walking; cycling and public transport and promotes creating great places to live, work and visit.

“Existing landscape features are incorporated into an ambitious master plan that identifies new facilities such as a district park, sports facilities at Inverness Campus, a new urban centre, two new primary schools and a high school, and high quality walking and cycling connections in addition to the proposed East Link road.”

Former Inverness College grounds to be transformed into new homes

robertson groupRobertson Northern is starting work on a £3.6 million contract to build a selection of affordable homes in the Midmills area of Inverness.

The contract, awarded by Highland Council, will see Robertson Northern build 31 new apartments at the former Inverness College site.

The works at the Midmills site are due to start in November 2017 and are expected to be complete by December 2018.

Frank Reid, managing director at Robertson Northern, said: “This development will breathe new life into the former college grounds and help meet the need for more affordable homes in Inverness.

“The planned works will help transform the existing space into a thriving community area with beautiful homes and great communal spaces. The extensive works planned for the wider Midmills site will help to reinvigorate this historic and desirable area of Inverness.”

Provost of Inverness and Area, Highland Councillor Helen Carmichael, said: “The new apartments at Midmills Campus will be a great addition to the range of housing we are able to offer to people in Inverness and the surrounding areas.

“This particular development of 31 properties for rent by the Highland Council will be available for people aged 55 or older. Housing is a huge priority in the region and is a key priority in the council’s programme. This excellent development is providing much needed homes in Inverness that are responsive to local needs.”

And finally… Council puts former World War Two bunker up for sale

AM_Emergency_BunkerA bunker built to survive a direct hit from World War Two’s most powerful bombs has been offered for sale.

Prospective buyers have until 2pm on Wednesday 6 December 2017 to make their offers for the subterranean property in the Raigmore area of Inverness.

The Highland Council expects a six-figure sum for the property.

The Inverness Emergency Bunker includes a tarmacadam surfaced car park and 2 subterranean levels which were built in 1941 to house the RAF during the Second World War. The bunker was built to survive a direct hit from the most powerful bombs of the time. The structure is built with thick concrete walls and ceilings.

During the 1980’s the facility was enhanced to enable it to withstand nuclear, biological or chemical attacks. As a result the premises now benefit from blast and sealed doors, decontamination facilities, two diesel generators to power the building and an air filtration system to provide safe air in the event of nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

The property site is set in a forested area of mature broadleaved trees.