Ten-year transformation of Scottish fishing village wins top UK planning award

Stromness (image credit: Orkney Islands Council)

A 10-year plan to regenerate a declining fishing village in Scotland has won the top prize at a prestigious national awards ceremony.

The plan for Stromness – which included extensive community input – was awarded the Silver Jubilee Cup, at the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2018 held in London last night. It also won in the Excellence in Planning for a Successful Economy category.

The Awards for Planning Excellence are the most established and respected awards in the UK planning industry.

Planners at Orkney Islands Council led a whole-of-council task force to implement the 10-year plan that has transformed the declining town following the community warning Stromness was being ‘left behind’.

Over the past 10 years, the plan has resulted in 12 major projects implemented across the town, including new and upgraded public spaces, new shops and businesses and a new primary school.

The library was not only rebuilt and moved to a new site – in the centre of the town, at the community’s request – to ensure it was accessible to everyone.

A new fishing pier was built with European funding, and new business and industrial spaces were allocated near the pier.

The council has also begun work for a new international research facility and infrastructure for tidal and wave energy generation.

All this were the result of council planners working closely with the community and involving them from the very start, using a ‘blank page approach’ to establish the community’s key priorities.

Using this, a draft plan was drawn up, which was then shaped by community events, meetings and surveys, plus well attended community workshops.

Craig McLaren FRTPI, RTPI Awards advisor, said: “Stromness has been regenerated over the past 10 years through a comprehensive, plan-led strategy.  It was spearheaded by the council’s planners who were key to its success through establishing a vision for the town and ensuring commitment from other players to help deliver it. The dramatic before and after photographs show just how profound the transformation has been. This remarkable ‘place-based’ approach could be used as a blueprint to revive declining towns across the country.”

John Acres MRTPI, RTPI president, added: “Congratulations to all the winners and commended entries. This year’s awards have been a true celebration of planners’ passion for creating prosperous places and vibrant communities. Planners and planning make an important contribution to society and these awards highlight outstanding examples of what can be achieved with vision, leadership and expertise.”

Running for over 40 years, the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society. This year saw a nearly record number of entrants and the judges shortlisted 78 finalists across 13 categories.

Category winners:

Excellence in Plan Making Practice 


  • Towards a Stamford Hill Plan – submitted by: London Borough of Hackney


  • West of England Partnership – submitted by: West of England Joint Spatial Plan

Excellence in Planning for a Successful Economy


  • Stromness Regeneration – submitted by: Orkney Islands Council

Excellence in Planning for Health and Wellbeing


  • Seaham Harbour Marina – Water Sports Activity Centre – submitted by: Durham County Council

Excellence in Planning for Heritage and Culture 


  • Stanton Moor Principles – submitted by: Peak District National Park Authority


  • Depot, Lewes Community Screen
  • South Downs National Park Authority & Burrell Foley Fischer Architects and Urban Designers

Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment


  • Caeau Mynydd Mawr SPG and March Fritillary Project – submitted by: Camarthenshire County Council

Excellence in Planning to Deliver Homes – large schemes


  • Nelson Project – submitted by: Plymouth City Council


  • Bourne Estate Regeneration
  • Tibbalds and London Borough of Camden

Excellence in Planning to Deliver Homes – small schemes


  • Enfield Small Sites – submitted by: HTA Design LLP

International Award for Planning Excellence


  • Economic and Urban Multi-site Development Project – submitted by: INTA

In-house Planning Team of the Year


  • National Grid


  • HTA Design LLP

Local Authority Planning Team of the Year


  • Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council


  • Teignbridge District Council

Small Planning Consultancy of the Year


  • Situ8 Planning Consultancy


  • NTR Planning
  • Urban Imprint Ltd

Planning Consultancy of the Year


  • Deloitte Real Estate


  • Indigo Planning

Young Planner of the Year


  • Heather Claridge, Glasgow City Council


  • Charlotte Morphet, London Borough of Waltham Forest

Main contractor appointed for Orkney research campus

A £5.39 million construction contract has been awarded for the development of a new Research and Innovation Campus in Orkney.

The campus is a joint venture by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Orkney Islands Council who have appointed Kirkwall-based R Clouston Limited as the main contractor.

Work will include refurbishing, updating and extending the Old Academy and former Stromness primary school buildings as well as improving roads, paths and landscaping.

The 3.75-acre campus will support the growth of existing research and innovation activity and the expansion of companies in Orkney’s world-leading marine renewables, energy and low carbon sector. It will also attract additional research activities to Orkney, both from the commercial and academic worlds.

HIE is investing £4.65m in the campus project, including £1.48m of European Regional Development Fund money. Orkney Islands Council is investing £2m, including £0.5m of Scottish Government Regeneration Funding, in addition to transferring ownership of the Old Academy and former Stromness primary school to the partnership.

The Old Academy is already home to the European Marine Energy Centre, Heriot Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology, environmental consultants Aquatera and number of other businesses.

The aim is to attract more academic institutions and businesses with an interest in carrying out research projects in an island setting. This could include research linked to Orkney’s energy resources, transport needs, culture and economy.

Graeme Harrison, HIE area manager in Orkney, said: “We are delighted to be awarding this substantial contract to create the research and innovation campus, and welcome the fact that a local firm has been successful in tendering for the work. This is a significant step in the project and for our future business and academic infrastructure, the impacts of which will be felt across Orkney.

“This significant investment will support the growth of existing businesses and the creation of new ones. Crucially, it will provide more opportunities to attract and retain young people looking to live, work and study in Orkney. We look forward to working with the contractor and with Orkney Islands Council in bringing this important development to fruition.”

Council leader James Stockan said: “The award of the construction contract is a key milestone in the development of the research and innovation campus and I am very pleased that an Orkney-based firm will be carrying out the work.

“This is a project of great significance for Stromness and our islands as a whole. It will result in a 21st century centre of excellence, creating new jobs and stimulating a broad range of research and business activity in Orkney.”

Work on the project is set to get underway during the week beginning March 26.

NHS Orkney hospital tops out

NHS Orkney tops out

A ceremony has taken place to mark a major milestone for NHS Orkney’s new flagship hospital and healthcare facility.

The £64 million project will see the development of a purpose built facility to replace the existing Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, two GP practices and the Public Dental Service.

NHS Orkney chief executive, Cathie Cowan, and members of the NHS Orkney Board, formally held the topping out ceremony alongside representatives from Robertson Group.

Cathie Cowan said: “This is a proud moment for NHS Orkney and marks a vital step towards ensuring we can continue to provide high quality care in Orkney for generations to come.

“We are absolutely delighted that this stage of the project has been reached, with our fantastic new facility a step closer to reality. NHS Orkney staff have worked tirelessly to make this happen, and local residents have been incredibly patient and supportive. Once again, my thanks go to the Scottish Government and Scottish Futures Trust for their support in this project.

“This will be a truly first class facility and the benefits it brings shouldn’t be underestimated. On a personal level it is great to see our hospital and healthcare facility take shape. I am in no doubt that this facility will enable us to provide even better care and services, as well as help us attract clinical professionals from across the country and further afield. When I joined NHS Orkney we had a vision to bring where appropriate and safe, more services back to Orkney. I am delighted this vision is now a reality as a result of this significant investment in healthcare here in Orkney.”

Bill Robertson, founder and executive chairman, Robertson Group, added: “Tremendous progress has been made on the new hospital and healthcare facility since work started earlier this year. The topping out ceremony represents a major milestone and brings us one step closer to completing the facility in 2019.

“Many of our businesses have been involved in the project, from Capital Projects to Construction and Facilities Management – and that expertise has been crucial in building a strong partnership with NHS Orkney.

“We have also forged great relationships with the local community, putting them at the heart of the project and providing apprentice and graduate opportunities, not to mention creating opportunities for local SMEs.”

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Keppie Design has been appointed as architects, while AECOM and TUV SUD make up the rest of the successful team.

Global professional services consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff secured the role of Independent Tester on the project last year.

The scheme is due to be completed in spring 2019.

Funding announced for Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum revamp

Scapa-Flow-Oil-Tank_950Work on a major renovation of the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum in Lyness looks set to start in spring next year after the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) approved a grant of up to £1.155 million.

Designed by Studio MB, the project will involve the restoration of the historic buildings, the enhancement of interpretation and displays, and the creation of a new building which will house an exhibition space, café, toilet facilities and information areas.

The HLF support completes a major funding package made up of grants from Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council’s LEADER fund and Capital Projects programme.

Tender documents will be issued towards the end of the year, with work due to start in spring 2018.

The museum is set to re-open in time for the commemoration marking 100 years since the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919.

Councillor Rob Crichton, chair of the council’s education, leisure and housing committee, said: “Attracting such a high level of external funding to this project is a real success story for one of our most fragile island communities. The restoration will not only ensure the future of our collections, but also support the local community in Hoy, which relies on the centre to attract visitors to the island, with more than 14,000 visits in 2016.”

Wilfred Weir, the council’s executive director of education, leisure and housing, said: “This is great news and results from a huge amount of work by colleagues to get to this stage. The renovated museum and visitor centre will be a fantastic asset to Lyness, Hoy and Orkney as a whole and celebrate the importance of Scapa Flow in the history of our country. As well as being a valuable resource for visitors to our islands, it will help preserve artefacts for current and future generations at home here and abroad.”

Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, added: “Scapa Flow has an internationally important story to tell and thanks to players of the National Lottery, we’re delighted to support a project which will do just that. Rare military equipment from both World Wars, along with stories from some of the 12,000 people once stationed there, will help bring the sheltered harbour’s incredible history back to life, exploring how it shaped the history of travel, trade and maritime warfare.”

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum is based in wartime naval buildings at Lyness in Hoy. The museum tells the story of the anchorage in World War 1 and World War 2. This is made all the more resonant and powerful by being situated in the unique buildings which were themselves part of the story.

Scapa Flow had strategic importance and was the Royal Navy’s principle fleet anchorage during the two world wars. Lyness became the Naval Headquarters in Orkney during 1919, having been used since 1917 as an oil depot. Work began in the late 1930s to enlarge the base, which housed 12,000 military and civilian personnel by 1940.

The museum is centred around the former fuel oil pumping station. It illustrates the importance of Scapa Flow as a base for the British Fleet through photographs, text, artefacts, films and an audio exhibition plus a collection of large military vehicles, cranes and artillery.

The large exhibits and the audio visual display are housed in one of the oil tanks that once held 12,000 tons of fuel oil for the fleet.

Threesixty Architecture appointed to deliver Orkney Research and Innovation Campus

Plans for the primary school

Plans for the primary school

Threesixty Architecture has been appointed for the redevelopment of the Old Academy and former primary school of Stromness.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Orkney Islands Council have joined together to create a research, academia and business campus in Stromness. The campus will house both existing and future occupants such as institutes, consultancies and new start companies, thereby generating long term economic development across Orkney.

Seating AreaThe design by Threesixty Architecture will renovate and unify the two existing buildings as one campus. Each building will feature new entrances, improved circulation, open plan offices, and shared meeting spaces which frame views to the Stromness harbour to create an inspiring setting for users and visitors alike.

The historic Old Academy building façades will be largely preserved while the primary school envelope will be entirely upgraded, harmonising it within the urban context of Stromness.

16098IA_170427_Academy 4Torrance Partnership (Project Manager), TGP (Landscape Architects), CDMM (Building Services) and Fairhurst (Structural Engineers) complete the project team.

The project will start on site 2017 and has a planned completion date for both buildings in 2019.

Financial close reached on £64m NHS Orkney scheme

NHS Orkney health facility Courtyard ViewWork to deliver a new hospital and healthcare facilities in Orkney will get underway soon after Robertson Capital Projects achieved financial close with NHS Orkney on the £64 million project.

The project will see the development of a purpose built facility to replace the existing Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall, two GP practices and the Public Dental Service.

Working with a Scottish Government long-term project finance solution, Robertson will be responsible for providing investment funding, entering into a 25-year partnership with NHS Orkney and delivering the design & build and facilities management contracts.

Keppie Design has been appointed as architects, while AECOM and TUV SUD make up the rest of the successful team.

Global professional services consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff secured the role of Independent Tester on the project last year.

Features include developing some 14,500m2 of accommodation wrapped around a single fluid space. The project will provide a total of 49 en-suite bedrooms for inpatient, assessment, maternity and mental health needs. Clinical accommodation includes emergency, theatres, endoscopy, day surgery, cancer and palliative care, radiology, dental, ambulance, renal, mortuary, pharmacy and outpatients.

Two local GP practices will also co-locate in the new building together with support accommodation including catering, staff changing, ICT, decontamination, energy, multi-faith, clinical support and general FM.

Cathie Cowan, chief executive at NHS Orkney, said: “I am delighted that we have reached financial close. The new facility is part of NHS Orkney’s wider ambitious healthcare investment programme. She added ‘I am looking forward to working in partnership with Robertson to deliver the biggest single site capital project in Orkney.

“During the course of the contract Robertson has committed to delivering a range of local community benefits and we look forward to monitoring the long-term impact of this substantial investment for Orcadians.”

Neil McCormick, managing director of Robertson Capital Projects, said: “Robertson will use the skills of its capital projects, construction and facilities management subsidiaries to deliver this major new healthcare investment in Orkney.

“This underlines our significant role as a major partner with the NHS in the delivery of the very best clinical and user focused NHS accommodation. We would like to thank NHS Orkney for the significant effort and leadership they have demonstrated in driving forward this unique project and look forward to progressing site based operations in the immediate future.”

The scheme is due to be completed in spring 2019.

Funding agreed for £6.5m Orkney research and innovation campus

Highlands and Islands EnterprisePlans for a £6.5 million research and innovation campus in Stromness in Orkney are set to go ahead after the two organisations behind the venture agreed funding for the project.

The 3.75-acre campus will support the growth of existing research and innovation activity and the expansion of companies in Orkney’s world-leading marine renewables, energy and low carbon sector. It will also attract additional research activities to Orkney, both from the commercial and academic worlds.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved up to £5.15m for the project, including £1.48m of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money administered by HIE, while Orkney Islands Council is to provide £1.5m.

The local authority will also transfer the ownership of the Old Academy and former Stromness primary school to the partnership.

Under the plans, the two adjoining buildings will be refurbished, updated and extended to create the campus.

Graeme Harrison, HIE area manager in Orkney, said: “This is a huge investment in Orkney’s future business and academic infrastructure, the impacts of which will be felt across Orkney.

“It will support the growth of existing businesses and the creation of new enterprises.

“Crucially, it will provide more opportunities to attract and retain young people looking to live, work and study in the islands.”

Economy secretary Keith Brown added: “I’m sure that this investment will increase the competitiveness of Orkney in the marine renewables sector, encourage business diversification, growth, inward investment and foster international partnerships.”

A planning application for the project is expected in due course with work to create the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus due to begin on site before the end of 2017.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff secures Orkney hospital contract

NHS Orkney health facility 1Global professional services consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has won a new contract with NHS Orkney and Robertson Capital Projects on the £64 million new hospital and health care facility.

The company’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Capital Investment services team has secured the role of Independent Tester on the project which will involve checking the design and specification of the construction of the building and related infrastructure.

Derek Sharkey, technical director at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s PPP and Capital Investment team, said of the win: “We are delighted to have secured this commission, which is personally pleasing having worked with NHS Orkney during my time at hub North Scotland.

“This win for us is another important milestone as we continue to invest in our Public Private Partnership advisory in Scotland.

“We look forward to working with both NHS Orkney and Robertson Capital Projects on this life changing project for people across Orkney.”

Neil McCormick, managing director at Robertson Capital Projects, said “We are pleased to have made the joint appointment with NHS Orkney of WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff to this important role which will support the quality focused delivery of this significant project.”

The contract adds to WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff current portfolio of PPP projects across Scotland, where it is in the process of working as funder’s technical adviser on hub South East, providing technical support to close its fifth revenue funded project this year.

The consultancy is also providing technical asset management support including fire and latent defect surveys to investors across numerous portfolios in Scotland.

£60m Orkney hospital clears final planning hurdle

NHS Orkney health facility entrance viewRobertson Capital Projects is set to start work on Orkney’s new £60 million hospital in “the very near future” after councillors granted the facility planning permission this week.

Orkney Islands Council’s planning committee approved the project with the additional recommendation that the integrity of the 20m buffer zone be protected by moving the pedestrian path to follow the line of the emergency road and that appropriate lighting by installed there.

Cathie Cowan, NHS Orkney chief executive, said: “The Board is delighted that Robertson has achieved this important milestone, which, with the approval of the Board’s Full Business Case by Scottish Government last month, allows us to finalise the contract in the coming weeks.  We look forward to seeing a start on site in the very near future.”

The hospital has previously won the backing of the Scottish Government which approved the health board’s business case last month.

Robertson Capital Projects was awarded a contract for the delivery of the new build in June this year and will manage the design, construction and maintenance of the facility.

Keppie Design has been appointed as architects, while AECOM and TUV SUD make up the rest of the successful team.

Neil McCormick, managing director, Robertson Capital Projects, added: “We are delighted that the planning application was presented with recommendation for approval at today’s meeting. Our team has worked extensively with OIC planning officials since our appointment as Preferred Bidder, and I believe today’s formal approval reflects those positive engagement efforts.

“Working in close collaboration with NHS Orkney we have continued to foster positive relationships with local stakeholders as part of our commitment to community benefits, and we look forward to continuing this close working relationship with all parties as we deliver a building of the highest design and quality standards for the NHS and Orcadian community.”

NHS Orkney is now working to finalise the legal and commercial agreements as soon as possible to reach financial close.

Demolition firm to explore Orkney decommissioning facility plan

An artist's impression of how the facilty could look

An artist’s impression of how the facilty could look

A demolition company is to investigate Orkney as a potential location for a new facility to decommission redundant oil and gas rigs.

Birmingham-based DSM Demolition has held early discussions with Orkney Islands Council and visited Lyness on Hoy to carry out an initial assessment.

The company believes that Lyness has the capacity to provide a base for its activities in northern Scotland, and will now carry out further exploratory work.

It will also engage with the oil and gas sector to determine potential business for a new facility and undertake the environmental assessment and feasibility testing processes which are essential to ensuring the sustainability of development of this type.

The project could create scores of jobs, as spin-off work for local contractors and income for the council which owns the site.

Council convener Steven Heddle said: “This project has the potential to create significant employment, a range of business opportunities for local companies, and considerable economic benefits for Orkney as a whole.

“There will be a growing demand for oil and gas decommissioning facilities in the years ahead. Lyness and the natural deep-water harbour of Scapa Flow, with their location close to the North Sea, are ideally located to serve as a potential base for work of this kind.

“We now look forward to working with the company. Our priorities will be to ensure that Orkney benefits economically and that a development of this type is approached in an environmentally responsible manner, in order that we maintain our excellent track record for stewardship of our local environment and the seas around us.”