Icelandic delegation to hear about Inverness sustainable drainage systems

Former graduate research trainee Marcia Rae at one of the SUD sites around Inverness

A delegation from Iceland is set to visit Inverness this week to view work being carried out on Sustainable Urban Drainage systems (SUDS) in the city.

Highland Council staff from the development and infrastructure service will meet the group of Icelandic engineers, planners and scientists on Wednesday, 25 April to showcase the ‘soft engineering’ drainage infrastructure.

A successful collaboration between Scottish Natural Heritage and the council in 2015 resulted in the identification of 40 SUDS ponds and Detention Basins in the Inverness and Culloden area.

In 2017, a Graduate Research student worked alongside the council to map all the sites, assessing them in detail for their contribution to biodiversity within the city.

The systems now part of all new housing development plans and are designed to reduce the risk of flooding and water quality in built up areas. In addition, they are designed to look like natural ponds or wetland areas and are planted with native vegetation. Overall, the technique allows rainwater to be collected from roofs, roads and pavements in man-made ponds or detention basins, where it can be slowly released in to rivers and streams to prevent flooding.

During the delegation’s visit, Katy Martin from the council’s environment, advice & consultancy team will talk about the work and then Alan Fraser, an engineer in the council’s flood team, will discuss the plans for sustainable water management as part of the Smithton and Culloden Flood Scheme, which is due to break ground later this year.

Chair of environment, development and infrastructure, Councillor Allan Henderson, hopes the visitors find their fact finding trip to Inverness rewarding.

He said: “Our natural environment is a national asset worth millions to the Scottish economy; protection measures which further enhance our landscapes and settlements are important for that economic priority.

“The delegates from Iceland will have a chance see for themselves and hear first-hand from our staff on the important role SUDS ponds play in our urban green networks and the work we are doing to make future SUDS ponds even better for wildlife and as accessible as possible so local communities can enjoy these miniature nature reserves on their doorsteps.”

Tour leader Halldora Hreggviosdottir said the group aims to “see the technology in practice and learn about the planning, engineering and public services which guide it into routine use”.

As well as visiting Inverness, the delegation will also tour sites in Glasgow, Fife, Kinross and Edinburgh.

Highland housebuilder collapsed with £1m debt

Collapsed Inverness housebuilder Roy Homes owed more than £1 million to creditors when it ceased trading in January 2017, it has emerged.

The self-build home business and its sister company Roy Homes Timber Frame Ltd ceased trading last year with the loss of 17 jobs.

A progress report by administrator FRP Advisory, released by Companies House, shows that of the firm’s total debt, a sum of £215,797 owed to the Bank of Scotland has been settled following the sale of the company’s former headquarters, in Inverness’ Lotland Street.

The report also states that former employees, the firms’ “preferential creditors”, are expected to get a portion of the more than £18,000 they are owed relating to wage arrears, unpaid pension contributions and holiday pay.

FRP said it was, “currently estimated there will be sufficient funds available to make a distribution to preferential creditors in due course”, however, the exact amount would depend on total realisations.

This being the case, the 84 unsecured creditors listed in the report remain in the dark about whether there will be enough money left at all for the restitution of debts totalling £806,863.

The progress report states: “The level of dividend, if any, to unsecured creditors is dependent on the total amount of asset realisations.”

FRP added that six claims totalling £40,114 had also been made by unsecured creditors of sister firm Roy Homes Timber Frame.

On these debts, the administrators said it was unlikely there would be sufficient funds available to pay them.

Initially due to be completed last year, the period of administration for the two companies was extended by creditors and will now continue until next January.

FRP Advisory said the administrators had no comment further to that contained in the progress report.

Construction begins on Scotland’s first justice centre

Eric McQueen from SCTS, Robertson Group’s Bill Robertson, justice secretary Michael Mathieson Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle

Work has begun on Scotland’s first purpose-built justice centre in Inverness due to be completed late 2019.

As well as providing modern court and tribunals facilities, a range of justice and support organisations will be based in the centre providing integrated facilities for victims, witnesses, litigants and other users. Specialist facilities for children and young people will be incorporated within the design.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service chief executive Eric McQueen and Grampian, Highland and Islands Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle officially broke the ground at the start of construction, joined by the justice centre partners.

Mr Matheson said: “Today brings us a step closer to providing new facilities to deliver a truly 21st century service. Scottish Government funding of £30 million has made the project possible, reflecting our commitment to deliver a justice system that is accessible, modern and fit-for-purpose.

“The new Inverness Justice Centre will give the people of the Highlands access to modern facilities and support all in the same place, which will have a positive impact on local communities.”

Mr McQueen said: “Inverness Justice Centre is in a unique opportunity to bring organisations together, focussing where practical on problem-solving approaches to reduce reoffending and increase the opportunity for community sentencing.

“The centre will represent the changing face of justice by including facilities and technology to remove the need for children to appear in person court and to support the development of digital case management for summary crime in the future.”

Robertson Northern Ltd is scheduled to complete the main building works in 2019.

Robertson selected for £4.5m Inverness life sciences building

Robertson Northern has been appointed to construct a new £4.5 million building on Inverness Campus to support growth in life sciences and technology sectors.

Inverness Campus developer Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has commissioned the firm to build the new 2460 m2 facility. It will be called ‘Solasta House’ and will offer flexible laboratory and office space for new and expanding companies.

The new building is expected to take around a year to complete, and will provided much needed accommodation to meet growing demand.

Five companies – Aqua Pharma, 4C Engineering, Interactive Health, CorporateHealth International and Aseptium – already have space in the existing life sciences building, Aurora House. This is also the home for the business accelerator programme, Pathfinder. The level of interest in the remaining space suggests Aurora House could be full by the summer.

At least 40% of the cost of the Solasta House will be met by the European Regional Development Fund, with the remainder coming from HIE. The building will sit within the life sciences Enterprise Area, which offers incentives such as rates relief to attract companies into the region.

Ruaraidh MacNeil, HIE’s Inverness Campus project director, said: “Inverness Campus is proving to be an attractive and dynamic location for many life sciences and technology businesses. The availability of modern flexible premises, proximity to the university, the NHS and other partners, and increasing opportunities for collaboration appeals to both existing and prospective tenants.

“Having welcomed several new firms onto the Campus over the past year or two, we are now in discussion with prospective tenants for both the remaining space in Aurora House and space in Solasta House. This reflects the attraction of Inverness Campus to investors and businesses, as well as the continued growth in the life sciences sector in our region.”

Solasta House was designed by Threesixty Architecture and received planning consent in April 2017.

The 215-acre Inverness Campus site is designed to provide a range of academic, research and commercial opportunities, with an emphasis on the life sciences sector.

Frank Reid, managing director, Robertson Northern, said: “It’s with great pleasure that we are, once again, involved in the development of HIE’s Inverness Campus.

“Having previously built two phases of student accommodation on the campus site, we will be starting construction of Solasta House, a new purpose built Life Sciences and Technology building.

“Construction will begin later this month and during our time on site, we will continue to engage with students, outlining the opportunities that are available within the construction industry as part of our ongoing commitment to young people.”

Robertson Homes to build more than 180 new homes in Inverness

Robertson Homes has extended its presence in Inverness with the launch of three new developments in the city.

In a major expansion of its profile in the Highlands, the company is to build more than 180 new homes at Ness Castle, Great Glen Heights and Great Glen Hall.

Ness Castle is a development of 96 three and four-bedroom terraced semi and detached homes, located at Mey Avenue on the outskirts of Inverness.

Great Glen Heights will consist of 32 four-bedroom homes, located at the city’s Forrester’s Way.

And Robertson has also announced plans to undertake a major conversion of the city’s former Craig Dunain Hospital. The development will feature a range of 60 one, two and three-bedroomed apartments and townhouses.

These new projects follow the launch last year of the Robertson Homes development at Great Glen View in Forester’s Way, Inverness, which will consist of 22 three bedroom semi-detached and terrace homes.

Robertson Homes, part of Robertson Group, has been building family homes across Scotland for more than fifty years.

Sharon Spinelli, sales and marketing director at Robertson Homes, said: “When we launched Great Glen View towards the end of last year, we highlighted the fact that we see Inverness very much as a priority location for us in the coming years.

“The response from homebuyers to that development has been fantastic so we’re very excited to be launching this next tranche of high quality properties which reinforce our presence in such a beautiful part of the country.

“These new developments will feature stylish, spacious homes with innovative layouts which offer the perfect base for families and professionals. All of them offer the classic combination of access to some of the Highlands’ most stunning scenery and most popular outdoor activities as well as close proximity to a host of excellent amenities, schools and tourist attractions.”

Contractor cleared of causing dust contamination at Inverness hospital

An Inverness hospital which had to postpone a number of operations due to dust contamination in its theatres has ruled out recent construction work as the cause.

Floors of the theatres in the main theatre complex at Raigmore Hospital were found to be contaminated by dust resulting in a number of postponements of surgery while the area was deep cleaned.

The theatres had been undergoing an upgrade by Graham Construction as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment of the hospital.

It was initially thought that construction work as part of the theatre upgrade had resulted in the increased level of dust being tracked into the theatre block.

However tests carried out by hospital authorities have revealed that the dust migration was not directly attributable to the adjacent refurbishment works.

Katherine Sutton, deputy director of operations at Raigmore Hospital, said: “We have been working very closely with Graham Construction.

“We’re satisfied that precautions taken by our contractor are proving effective and are confident that additional steps taken by both our clinical teams and our estate staff will ensure that theatres can begin to function as normal.”

Pat O’Hare, contracts director at Graham Construction, added: “We have wide experience in the refurbishment of operating theatres within live hospitals, and the isolated work areas we develop are essential to ensure operations can continue while this work is under way.

“It’s clear, following these tests, that the very strict protocols we have in place to prevent dust migration from areas under contamination are operating effectively.”

Elective surgeries have now resumed at the hospital following the cleaning process.

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.”

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.