Inverness

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Design approval for revised Inverness Justice Centre

IJC2Work to build Scotland’s first purpose-built justice centre in Inverness is set to start after Highland Council gave the updated design the green light.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) submitted plans for an improved design for Inverness Justice Centre in May, with the final decision on full planning permission granted at September’s meeting of the council’s south planning committee.

With ongoing support and funding from the Scottish Government, SCTS said Reiach & Hall Architects’ updated design is more efficient in the use of accommodation and provides an attractive public space, along with improved access.

IJC1Eric McQueen, SCTS chief executive, said: “Rather than simply a replacement sheriff court building, the justice centre will play a pivotal role in changing victims’, witnesses’ and offenders’ experience of the justice system, while providing high quality secure criminal courts, and flexible accommodation for our civil courts and tribunal users.

“By bringing together the right organisations, we can all focus on problem-solving approaches to reduce reoffending and increase the opportunity for community sentencing, while providing the facilities and technology to remove the need for children to appear in court and in the longer term, digital case management for summary crime.”

The creation of the justice centre has widespread support from across the Scottish Government, the councils in the Highlands and Islands region, justice and third sector organisations, the legal profession and the general public.

IJC3In addition to the direct justice benefits, the location of the justice centre will help transform the surrounding area, with the transfer of Inverness Castle to Highland Council ownership stimulating economic growth for the city as it develops a major tourism attraction.

Construction is planned to begin in Autumn 2017 with contractor Robertson Northern to complete the main building works complete in 2019.

Frank Reid, managing director of Robertson Construction Northern, said: “Today’s decision means we can start work on what will be a significant development for the Scottish justice system and we’re looking forward to bringing this improved design to life over the months ahead.”

Four local authorities to share multi-million pound travel infrastructure funding

Meadows to George Street – Streets for PeopleFive ambitious active travel proposals from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Inverness have been successful in the final judging of the Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links PLUS (CLPLUS) competition.

Run by Sustrans and funded by the Scottish Government, the competition delivers pioneering and game-changing projects which inspire public bodies in Scotland to design better places and spaces for people to live, walk and cycle in for everyday journeys.

After an intensive three-stage process all five shortlisted projects will be awarded a grant of up to 50% of the total project costs, with the grants totalling £22,540,360, from Transport Scotland funds, delivered through Sustrans Scotland.

Each project is expected to begin development within the next two months, with Inverness City Active Travel Network (Highland Council) forecast to be complete by Summer 2020; Walk, Cycle, Live (Stirling Council) and Woodside Mini-Holland (Glasgow City Council) by Summer 2021. Both Meadows to George Street and the West Edinburgh Active Travel Network (Edinburgh City Council) are forecast to be complete by Summer 2022.

The five projects set to be funded are:

Glasgow City Council:  Woodside Mini-Holland

Woodside Mini-Holland

Woodside Mini-Holland

This year’s entry from Glasgow City Council, Woodside Mini-Holland, takes inspiration from transport infrastructure in the Netherlands and proposes to deliver an exemplar cycle friendly neighbourhood in the Woodside community.

Part of the project will include a segregated cycle route along St George’s Road from Charing Cross to Possil Road and will connect to the Sauchiehall Street “Avenue” cycleway that is currently being delivered through the Sauchiehall and Garnethill Regeneration Framework.

The proposal also includes the expansion of the cycle network into the city centre, Great Western Road, Maryhill, Garscube Road and the Forth and Clyde Canal in a bid to encourage cycling as the favoured commuter option.

In addition to the health and wellbeing benefits that the extensive cycle network brings to the surrounding area, the creation of Woodside Mini-Holland will strengthen local economies and increase road safety.

Pedestrian and cycle crossing facilities at St George’s Cross Subway station will also undergo major redesign in order to improve accessibility to the station and surrounding streets.

The City of Edinburgh Council: The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network’ proposes to transform the west of Edinburgh into a high quality Dutch-inspired cycle and pedestrian friendly neighbourhood.

Included in plans is the creation of an attractive, direct and convenient cycling and walking route from the Roseburn area to the major business district of Edinburgh Park. The route will connect popular locations within a cycleable distance of 1-5km.

Destinations along the route include the Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot Watt campuses, the Gyle shopping centre and business park, new housing developments at East Craigs and Cammo, and existing communities Stenhouse, Broomhouse, Saughton, Sighthill and Wester Hailes.

This major overhaul will see one of the most car-dominated parts of Edinburgh transformed into an active travel hotspot.

The City of Edinburgh Council:  Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

The ‘Meadows to George Street – Streets for People’ project proposes to create a direct cycle  link between The Meadows and George Street, as well as the Old and New towns of the city centre along Hanover Street, The Mound, Bank Street, North Bank Street, George IV Bridge and Forrest Road.

The ‘Meadows to George Street’ project will provide a major redesign for walking and cycling in the city, creating safe, coherent and attractive routes through the city centre.

The Highland Council: Inverness City Active Travel Network

Inverness City Active Travel Network

Inverness City Active Travel Network

The ambitious proposal plans to strengthen the Inverness City Active Travel Network that connects all of the city’s communities with the centre, as well as developing seamless and segregated cycle-friendly routes along Millburn Road, Academy Street and the Raigmore Interchange.

The plans propose a major overhaul of Millburn Road with the removal of one lane of general traffic in place of a fully segregated cycle path. A westbound bus lane and footpath will also be introduced, transforming the area into a less congested and pedestrian friendly area. A signalised junction will also become a feature of Millburn Road with separate signals for pedestrians and cyclists.

Academy Street will also undergo a similar transformation with the implementation of a one-way cycle track with buffer zones off the main carriageway behind the parking and loading areas.

The city wide active travel network also plans to create a ramp from the Raigmore Interchange to the Golden Bridge that would see construction of a cycle and pedestrian friendly route to the Inverness Campus.

Stirling Council: Walk, Cycle, Live

Walk, Cycle, Live

Walk, Cycle, Live

The City Boulevard and Cowane Street project compromises of two key active travel routes that will allow Stirling to operate as a sustainable and vibrant city which is attractive to businesses, residents and visitors.

The focal point of the first route, City Boulevard, is to improve the environment and streetscape along the A811 from Dumbarton Road, along Albert Place and Upper Craigs.  Included in this will be the introduction of more generously sized pedestrian routes, creating a boulevard feel and connecting the city centre to the City Park.

Route two proposes to improve the environment and streetscape along Goosecroft Road, Cowane Street and onward to Stirling University. Currently the B8052 forms one of the key routes into Stirling City Centre and priorities vehicles. The project aims to make the road accessible to all users and redesign road crossings in order to improve accessibility. The integrated network would act as a direct link between Stirling City Centre and Stirling Bridge and continue onwards to the communities of Raploch, Cornton, Causewayhead and Bridge of Allan.

Minister for transport Humza Yousaf said: “I am delighted to announce this morning that all five Community Links PLUS shortlisted projects have been successful in securing funding from the Scottish Government.

“The expert panel who evaluated the bids were impressed by the local authorities’ high level of design and innovation. Each bid is entirely worthy of receiving support today and I want to thank the panel, Sustrans and each local authority who took the time to get involved in the award.

“Our ambitious Active Nation initiative is designed to encourage many more of us to make everyday and leisure journeys sustainably – on foot and by bike. To achieve this vision, we are doubling our investment in active travel, from £40 to £80m each year, demonstrating our commitment to make our towns and cities more walking and cycling friendly.

“Through the Community Links PLUS award, people will be able to enjoy new active travel routes and whether it is for commuting or leisure, more people across Scotland will be able to enjoy the benefits of greener and healthier modes of transport.”

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Climate Week is an opportunity to get more people talking about and taking action on climate change, and I am pleased to be supporting the Community Links Plus active travel project, enabling more people to walk and cycle more often.

“We all have a role to play in taking action on climate change, and this is a fantastic example of how people can reduce their own carbon footprint through using greener modes of travel.”

Sustrans Scotland deputy director for built environment, Daisy Narayanan, said: “Funding all five final projects is a bold step towards a healthier, more sustainable and vibrant Scotland which designs places around the needs of people over vehicular access.

“The Community Links PLUS proposals were so impressive this year that the panel felt strongly that all the five final proposals should become a reality. We thank the Minster for Transport and the Islands for taking the unprecedented step of committing to fund each of the five finalists.

“With the backing of Transport Scotland, Sustrans will now work in partnership with all four local authorities to turn their pioneering visions into reality. These five exemplar projects will demonstrate the wide ranging benefits that well designed places bring, such as boosting footfall for local business, improving the health of local people and creating safer environments that are more pleasant to live in and move through.” 

Archimedes Screw power solution planned for Inverness

Archimedes Screw hyrdo schemeThe Highland Council is planning to install a Hydro Electric Archimedes Screw at Whin Park Lade in Inverness.

The 100KW turbine will control the water flow from the River Ness through to Whin Park and will be able to generate 672,529 KWh, which is equivalent to the power for 150 homes.

The renewable energy project is estimated to generate an income for the council of around £90k to £120k at current prices. The annual operating cost will be in the region of £15k.

The electricity could supply council buildings, and local venues including the Aquadome and the archive centre, generating further savings.

The site of the planned Archimedes Screw hydro scheme at Torvean

The site of the planned Archimedes Screw hydro scheme at Torvean

The installation will be 4.2m in diameter and allow a controlled water flow, as well as providing sufficient screen to protect various species of fish. The turbine is designed to have a low environmental impact.

Chair of the council’s places committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, said: “This modern, innovative project provides an excellent opportunity for the Council to generate income and renewable energy and make savings.

“The Archimedes Screw is a fascinating piece of engineering and technology which in itself should be a feature of significant interest and may hopefully inspire young scientists of tomorrow.”

The Highland Council contracted AMECFW and senior specialist in Archimedean screw hydropower systems, Mannpower Consulting Ltd, to develop the project design.

It is anticipated the planning application for the installation of the Torvean Micro Hydro Scheme Archimedes Screw will be submitted in Winter 2017 and will include consultation with relevant statutory consultees.