RICS Scotland

MSPs and experts set up new Working Group to tackle quality of tenements

A new group formed in the wake of a Parliamentary debate on tenement maintenance has called for action to ensure the protection of Scotland’s historic and most common type of residence.

The first meeting of the Working Group on maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property highlighted the growing concerns over the current condition of tenement properties and called for the introduction of new initiatives and mechanisms for facilitating communal repairs by owners.

Convener of the new group, Ben Macpherson MSP, said: “This Working Group brings together a range of experts, academics, industry professionals and MSPs from different political parties. Together we will bring forward focused and robust proposals to better enhance and enable the maintenance of tenement communal property.

“Repairing and maintaining roofs, stairways and other communal property is essential in order to improve and sustain a huge amount of Scotland’s housing stock. We need new emphasis and ideas to help keep our tenements in good condition, and I’m confident that this Working Group will bring forward considered solutions to make a meaningful difference.”

According to the most recent Scottish House Condition Survey 2016 there are 566,000 tenement properties, equating to 23% of the total housing stock in Scotland. Pre-1919 built tenement properties are the second most commonly occupied property type in Scotland (behind post-1982 built detached property); and 5% of all pre-1919 built dwellings have “critical, urgent & extensive disrepair”.

To support the cross party Working Group, Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) invited stakeholders to submit a synopsis of the issues and solutions they think require parliamentary attention. Six organisations submitted suggestions and Historic Environment Scotland have shared information on the Traditional Building Health Check, a project arising from a previous BEFS campaign on building maintenance, piloted in Stirling.

Hew Edgar, RICS policy manager, said: “The establishment of this working group is an excellent start to tackling the issue of tenement maintenance. Building maintenance is key to sustaining and future proofing the fabric of our current housing stock – ensuring it provides adequate standards of quality now and for future generations.

“The deteriorating standard of Scotland’s current tenement housing stock is high on the agenda of stakeholders who operate within the built environment – particularly the historic arena – and it is a great step that all parliamentary parties, are recognising this.”

Scotland’s top projects go head to head as RICS unveils awards shortlist

The Falls of Shin visitor centre in Lairg has been shortlisted in three categories

Twenty seven of the most innovative and community beneficial property projects from across Scotland are set to go against some of the region’s best in this year’s RICS Awards 2018, Scotland.

The awards which are known as the property Oscars highlight the great talent involved for shaping Scotland’s built environment. This year sees some of the most innovative and collaborative projects from across the region including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Perth.

The eight categories for 2018 are; Building Conservation, Commercial, Community Benefit, Design through Innovation, Infrastructure, Regeneration, Residential and Tourism & Leisure.

The category winners will then go forth for the acclaimed Project of the Year title, awarded to the scheme that demonstrates outstanding best practice and an exemplary commitment to adding value to its local area.

Last year saw Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall win the esteemed title after its three year renovation transformed the 90-year-old venue into a multi-purpose sports, culture and education building.

RICS Awards 2018, Scotland shortlist

Building Conservation

  • Downie’s Cottage, Braemar, Aberdeenshire
  • Kirkmichael, Black Isle, Balblair
  • McEwan Hall, Edinburgh
  • Patrick Geddes Centre, Edinburgh
  • Portsoy Sail Loft, Portsoy
  • Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh
  • The Engine Shed, Stirling


  • 6 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
  • Salisbury Court, Edinburgh
  • Scottish Power House, Glasgow

Community Benefit

  • Arthurlie Family Centre, Barrhead
  • Bearsden Community Hub, Glasgow
  • Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, Glasgow
  • Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, Dunfermline
  • Dunoon Burgh Hall, Dunoon
  • Falls of Shin, Lairg
  • Kirkmichael, Black Isle, Balblair
  • Portsoy Sail Loft, Portsoy
  • The Hawkhead Centre, Paisley

Design through Innovation

  • Appleton Tower, Edinburgh
  • Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, Glasgow
  • Falls of Shin, Lairg
  • The Hawkhead Centre, Paisley


  • Caithness-Moray
  • Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, Glasgow
  • Faith School’s Joint Campus, Glasgow


  • Clydebank Leisure Centre, Glasgow
  • Kirkintilloch Town Hall, Glasgow
  • Marischal Square, Aberdeen


  • 235 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh
  • Countesswells, Aberdeen
  • Leith fort, Edinburgh
  • Maryhill Locks Phase 3, Glasgow

Tourism & Leisure

  • Clydebank Leisure Centre, Glasgow
  • Falls of Shin, Lairg
  • Kirkmichael, Black Isle, Balblair
  • Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh

Chair of the RICS Awards 2018, Scotland judging panel, Colin Smith of Turely, said: “This year we have received some extremely diverse and outstanding projects from all over Scotland. Each and every project showcases the exceptional talent behind these buildings of our future. The variety of projects highlights the development that is happening right across our nation and I am confident 2018 will be a hotly contested year. I look forward to celebrating the successes of Scotland’s exceptional talent and projects at this year’s ceremony in April.”

All category winners will go on to compete against other regional winners at the national RICS Awards Grand Final in November 2018, for the chance to be crowned the overall UK winner in their respective category.

The RICS Awards 2018, Scotland which will be held on April 19 at The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh, will be hosted by popular TV Presenter Catriona Shearer. Tickets for the ceremony and black tie dinner can be booked online at www.rics.org/scotawards or you can contact Danielle Blair on dblair@rics.org.

Global competition launched to find best solutions to tackle high levels of homelessness across Glasgow

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has launched a global competition calling on young people to come up with new ideas to find the best solutions to help Glasgow tackle its high levels of homelessness.

Glasgow, Manchester and London are among 24 global cities chosen for the competition, which asks entrants to provide practical, innovative solutions to address specific challenges in each of these cities – around urbanisation, climate change and resource scarcity – to be in with a chance of winning the generous prize of £50,000.

The challenge Glasgow entrants have been set is to submit new ideas that can be developed to help cities like Glasgow tackle the city’s high levels of homelessness. Meanwhile, Manchester entrants have been tasked to finding solutions we can use data and technology to better improve residents’ quality of life, whilst London entrants are to come up with ideas on how to improve the city’s air quality.

Known as the Cities for our Future Challenge, the competition is organised in partnership with the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

The Challenge is part of the RICS’s 150th anniversary celebrations this year, and is open to all, but the organisation is particularly looking to attract entries from students and early career surveyors, as well as entrepreneurs and innovators such as prop-tech start-ups.

The best 12 entries from around the world will be shortlisted for the global prize and receive support and advice from RICS qualified professionals (mentors) to develop and refine their idea(s), before an overall winner is announced in November 2018.

Gail Hunter, RICS regional director for Scotland, said: “In 2016, there were almost 6,000 homeless applications made to Glasgow City Council and latest statistics show that there has been a 46% rise in people at risk of homelessness in Glasgow. This is an ever-growing problem and one that shouldn’t exist. With rising rents, hostels and temporary accommodation reaching capacity and freezing winters, homelessness is and will continue to be on the rise, unless we do something about it.

“Therefore, if you are passionate about the health and wellbeing of others and believe there is a solution to this growing issue, this competition is an ideal opportunity to do something about it. A solution to homelessness could not only benefit the residents of Glasgow but those of cities around the world.”

Sean Tompkins, RICS CEO, added: “The world’s cities are growing all the time, creating a range of challenges that will need to be addressed if they are to become safe, clean and attractive places to live. Throughout our 150 years, chartered surveyors have been crucial to urban development and improving communities all over the world.

“Therefore, we are proud to be running this competition in our anniversary year, and to be actively searching for practical ideas to advance not just UK cities, but also many other cities across the globe including Beijing, Mumbai and Lagos, With the help of our RICS mentors, we hope the overall winning solution can be developed and delivered to significantly benefit its respective city’s people, communities and local businesses.”

The closing date to enter the Cities for our Future Challenge is 31 May 2018. Enter via: www.citiesforourfuture.com.

Calls for more action to improve maintenance of tenement properties

Greater action to encourage owners to repair and maintain the condition of tenement properties across Scotland, including stairwells, roofs, masonry and external walls, will be debated by MSPs at Holyrood today.

SNP MSP Ben Macpherson is calling for the Scottish Government to review current legislation and mechanisms for facilitating communal repairs, and to consider any potential legislative changes and new initiatives that could help owners to better maintain their tenements, which are the most common type of dwelling in Scotland.

There are over half a million tenement properties in Scotland and Mr Macpherson will argue that maintenance of these buildings is vital in order to future proof current housing stock, improve the well-being of residents, ensure public safety and preserve the integrity of Scotland’s urban infrastructure.

The Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP said current Scottish Government efforts to improve the situation are having a positive impact – such as through the 2014 Housing Act and the Under One Roof initiative – but he added that many believe that more can and needs to be done to ensure tenement properties are not only maintained but made safer, greener and more enjoyable to live in.

Commenting ahead of leading the debate, Ben Macpherson MSP said: “Too many tenement properties in my constituency and around the country are in a state of disrepair – this is primarily because of the fact that the responsibility for communal repairs is split among multiple owners, often including absent landlords or occupants with only short-term interests in the buildings.

“Across different demographics and areas, in many instances the measures that we currently have in place for maintaining tenement buildings are simply not working as effectively as they need to.

“The SNP government has taken positive steps to improve the system by building on existing legislation – and the 2014 Housing Act and the Under One Roof initiative have helped make progress.

“However, we need to go further to motivate, enable and, if necessary in certain circumstances, compel owners to take more responsibility for their tenement buildings – because too often at the moment this just isn’t happening.

“We need to more easily allow and persuade owners to come together to instruct works, in order to undertake necessary repairs and improve communal aspects of tenement buildings, and to prevent the fabric of our built environments from decaying.

“We need better maintained properties to enhance our tenement housing stock and to help make sure that everyone in Scotland lives in a safe, well looked after and warm place to call home.”

RICS policy manager for Scotland, Hew Edgar, said: “RICS has long held the view that all property should be used effectively and efficiently – the fact that this motion has now been raised at parliament, and gained cross party support, is very reassuring. RICS welcomes that this salient issue is now at the forefront of the parliamentary agenda in Scotland.

“The poor quality of tenements in Scotland has been a long running issue which RICS has frequently called for reform on. Our proposal for a five yearly building condition survey could be a sure-fire way to improve the health and social wellbeing of tenement occupiers, the government’s sustainability agenda and the wider economy.”

Euan Leitch, director of Built Environment Forum Scotland, added: “Built Environment Forum Scotland’s Members are delighted to see the Scottish Parliament address the challenges of maintaining buildings under shared ownership. The matter not only deals with the important longevity of building fabric, and the subsequent high-quality housing stock being kept in circulation, but the warmth and security of those homes – providing additional benefits in improved quality of life, health and wellbeing of citizens. Any review that results in improved maintenance and repair of existing homes will also be good for Scotland’s economy.”

Architect Dr James Simpson OBE FRIAS of the Tenement Action Group said: “Promoting good practice in the management and maintenance of tenements is an essential part of preserving and enhancing Scotland’s housing stock. New action and legislation is required to help owners to protect their and the nation’s assets. Ownership implies responsibility, but owners and local authorities need the government’s support and encouragement.”

The motion for today’s debate reads:

That the Parliament recognises that a significant proportion of people in Edinburgh and across Scotland live in tenement buildings; believes that the maintenance of communal property, otherwise known as the common parts or “Scheme Property” as defined in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004, in tenements is essential to the upkeep of the buildings and the standard of living for owner occupiers and tenants; understands with concern that, in many cases, such Scheme Property is in a state of disrepair, degradation or deterioration; believes that current legislation is not consistently fulfilling its intention to encourage owners to establish effective arrangements for managing communal repairs and undertaking maintenance; acknowledges the various potential solutions put forward by groups and individuals in the housing sector to help address this issue, and notes the view that, for the wellbeing of owner occupiers and tenants and to sustain and enhance the country’s urban infrastructure and environments, the government should review the situation and consider any legislative changes, new initiatives, enhanced use of existing rules and/or further action by local authorities that could facilitate improved upkeep of Scheme Property.”

Budget: £4 billion allocated for Scottish infrastructure

Derek Mackay

An allocation of over £4 billion of funding for infrastructure which includes a £756 million contribution to the Scottish Government’s target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 were amongst a range of investment plans set out in the 2018-19 Draft Budget by finance secretary Derek Mackay.

The infrastructure investment, which is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to invest £20bn over the life of this parliament, also includes beginning the procurement of Scotland’s £600m universal superfast broadband programme to be delivered over the next four years; investing £60m in Low Carbon Innovation Fund to deliver innovative low carbon energy infrastructure solutions including for electric vehicles and investing £1.2bn in transport infrastructure, including key road projects and further electrification of the rail network.

Publishing the Draft Budget to parliament yesterday, Mr Mackay set out a programme that will also:

  • Deliver the first £70m of a new £150m Building Scotland Fund to unlock new house building, develop new low carbon commercial property and support research and development
  • Set aside £340m for initial capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank
  • Drive regional economic growth by more than doubling investment in city region deals.
  • Deliver £18m as part of a £65m package of investment for the National Manufacturing Institute to make Scotland a global leader in advanced manufacturing

Responding to the announcement, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “We welcome the creation of the Building Scotland Fund to support innovation in both housing and commercial property development as well as the capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank.  Access to finance remains challenging in a severely risk-averse environment for developers looking to innovate with real estate projects and with the economy set for subdued growth in the next few years, the real estate sector can act as a positive driver of growth that will support jobs and investment in places to work, live and relax.

“The decision to use CPI as the measure of inflation rather than RPI is welcome but we believe that Scottish Ministers should not become tied to increasing business rates by this measure annually as was once the case with the RPI measure.  The economy is growing but only just and we feel that the freedom to increase rates by less than CPI should be considered in future budgets if the economy continues to struggle.

“New commercial development, or redevelopment has the potential to increase and to boost the economy and enhance the tax base.  The confirmation of the support for new build is welcome though we remain concerned that the potential restriction of listed building rate relief will deter the regeneration of listed buildings for business purposes.  This could have significant implications for struggling town centres and clear guidance to local authorities on restricting rate relief will be important.”

The country’s home builders said the Budget recognises economic importance of housing investment.

Chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay, said: “With home building in Scotland supporting over 60,000 jobs and contributing billions each year to the economy, we are pleased to see the Scottish Government confirming its ambition for the housing of all types our country needs.

“As well as a significant funding increase for affordable housing, the additional funding for skills bodies, colleges and universities that will help to plug the skills gap, is also welcome.

“The Land and Buildings Transaction Tax relief for First Time Buyers up to the first £175,000 of the purchase price could be a valuable boost for those aspiring to get on the property ladder, representing additional money towards their deposit or moving costs. However, given that this is not due to become effective until 2018/19, we are concerned that any delay may have a potential impact on purchasing decisions in the short term.

“Of particular note, however, is the establishment of the new £150m Building Scotland Fund which will have a prominent housing and infrastructure focus to support interventions that will further accelerate and scale up housing delivery. With the funding and delivery of infrastructure a major housing blocker, we keenly await further details in the new year.”

The Scottish Budget also followed Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s lead with a tax break for first-time buyers.

Under the plans, first-time buyers will be given a helping hand with a new land and business transaction tax (LBTT) relief for properties worth up to £175,000. As many as 80% of first-time buyers will now be exempt from paying any of the tax when buying a new home.

The move comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond exempted first time buyers from stamp duty – the equivalent tax in England – for homes up to the value of £300,000. Scottish ministers say lower house prices in Scotland means £175,000 is a roughly comparable figure north of the Border. Mr Mackay said the move will “make home ownership a reality for more of our young people.”

But the move does not go far enough according industry body the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland (RICS Scotland).

Hew Edgar, RICS policy manager for Scotland, said: “Whilst this change has the potential to stimulate activity in the short term, it comes at a time when the market is subdued, and does not tackle the overarching problem of housing shortage supply across all tenures. This government must realise that prioritising demand side measures is not conducive to market fluidity and will do little to solve the chronic shortage of suitable accommodation across Scotland’s housing options.”

He added: “Once again, we call on Scottish Government to review the current LBTT as a priority going forward as this current framework is not only limiting market activity, but could ultimately bring the market to a standstill. That said, we hope that the ‘Building Scotland’ fund will provide the required support for alternative models of housing delivery.

“On a more positive note, the £600m investment in providing superfast broadband – ensuring the last 5% of Scotland’s ‘non-spot’ dwellings – will be connected to the fourth utility by 2021, will be greatly received.

“As part of £4bn investment in this budget – £1.2bn of which will be directed towards transport – tackling the infrastructure deficit is always welcome. But Mackay held back and gave little away as to where the funding will be directed. He also missed an opportunity to attract and retain top talent to Scotland by not building on Scotland’s infrastructure success of the Queensferry Crossing, with no addition of noteworthy projects to the infrastructure pipeline.”

Innes Smith, chief executive at Springfield Properties, said the announcement was “a positive step forward” for the housebuilding industry in Scotland and for people who need homes.

He added: “With its progressive outlook, the Scottish Government remains determined to improve the housing situation across Scotland. A greater proportion of first-time buyers will be exempt from paying LBTT, making buying a first home more attainable. We are pleased to see the ongoing commitment to funding affordable housing and the large investments in infrastructure and superfast broadband which support the development of new housing.

“We are confident today’s news on LBTT, the Scottish Government’s £756m commitment to affordable housing and funding for further action on homelessness represents real action for those in need.”

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The Scottish Government’s continued commitment to renewable energy is of course to be welcomed, particularly as its final Energy Strategy will be published within days.

“It is encouraging that the Government recognises renewable energy as a key driver of Scotland’s economy.

“Of note are the funds allocated to support both low-carbon innovation and the decarbonisation of the heat sector – a task which is of critical importance if we are to tackle climate change.

“We also welcome the reaffirmation of the Government’s intention to follow the suggestions contained in the Barclay Review of business rates and to link increases to the Consumer Prices Index, both of which will benefit new and existing green energy generators. We are pleased that Scottish Renewables’ recommendations on these points have been heeded.

“We will continue to work to understand the full implications of the detail contained in the Budget document for our members and look forward to working with the Scottish Government as the measures outlined in the Budget and upcoming Energy Strategy are implemented.”

Planning Bill published by Scottish Government

planning stockA Bill for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision about how land is developed and used has been introduced by cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, Angela Constance MSP.

The eagerly awaited Planning (Scotland) Bill follows a wide-ranging consultation earlier this year on proposals which aimed to transform the planning system and builds on recommendations of an independent review carried out by a panel of experts last year.

Ministers have insisted the Bill will “improve the system of development planning, give people a greater say in the future of their places and support delivery of planned development”.

Provisions within the Bill include Simplified Planning Zones and proposals to develop an Infrastructure Levy to help support the development of infrastructure to unlock land for development. It also includes a new right for residents to produce their own development plans.

The Bill will strengthen the status of the National Planning Framework, bringing Scottish planning policy within the statutory development plan. It will also remove the requirement to produce strategic development plans and changes the process of producing a local development plan so there is “greater emphasis” on delivering developments.

It will give planning authorities more powers to take enforcement action against unauthorised development. It will also require planning authority staff to undertake training.

An infrastructure levy will be introduced in the bill that will be payable to local authorities and linked to development. This can be used to help pay for infrastructure projects that could incentivise new development.

The Bill’s aims include:

  • Focusing planning, and planners, on delivering the development that communities need “rather than focus on continuous writing of plans that lack a clear route to delivery”
  • Empowering people and communities to get more involved and to have a “real influence” over future development
  • Strengthening the strategic role of planning in co-ordinating and supporting the delivery of infrastructure needed to support development, including “much-needed” housing
  • Reducing complexity, while “improving accountability and trust” in planning processes and decision-making.

In a ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, local government minister Kevin Stewart described how the Bill will create a new structure for a more proactive and enabling system with clearer development plans, earlier engagement with communities, streamlined procedures and smarter resourcing.

Mr Stewart said: “Scotland’s economy needs a world-class planning system. Our planning system must take a strong and confident lead in securing the development of great places that will stand the test of time and this Bill will encourage more people to play an active role in shaping these.

“In addition to restructuring and simplifying the system to provide greater certainty for investors and communities alike it will reflect the importance of development and infrastructure to achieve our ambitions for housing, schools and regeneration – creating jobs and generating economic growth.

“Performance improvement will be formalised so applicants can rely on receiving a consistent service and local authorities will have greater powers to charge for their services. In short, this Bill will reduce bureaucracy so that planners are better equipped to lead high-quality developments that support the economy and enhance our communities.”


Scottish Alliance for People and Places

Rt Hon. Henry McLeish

Rt Hon. Henry McLeish

The Scottish Alliance for People and Places welcomed progress in the Bill and commended the minister’s approach to engagement, but has said the Bill could be more ambitious if it is to achieve the type of transformational culture change that the Scottish Government and the wider sector wants to see.

The Alliance is a collection of organisations working across the place-making and planning sector. Unique in Scotland, the group formed in recognition of the opportunity to build a more inclusive, respected, efficient and ambitious system of planning that puts people at the heart of their places.

The Alliance’s goal is to ensure forthcoming changes to the planning system in Scotland meet the ambitions of communities, the built environment profession and the Scottish economy by working with government, parliament and local communities to articulate a compelling argument for change and develop constructive ideas for how to realise that change.

Speaking following the publication of the Bill, chair of the Scottish Alliance of People and Places, and former First Minister of Scotland, Henry McLeish, said: “We welcome the progress that has been made in the publication of the Planning (Scotland) Bill, and we recognise the significant consultation process that has been undertaken to get us to this point. ​Furthermore, the serious and detailed engagement of the Minister is an exemplar of good governance and we welcome it wholly.

“However, it is our view that there space to build on the Bill’s ambition and this is will be important if we are to achieve our collective goal of a transformational culture change in the planning system.

“In some communities in Scotland, planning is viewed as an imposition – something done to us by big developers in partnership with local government. It’s about our neighbour’s extension. It’s about stopping the development we don’t like, rather than working together to plan the positive developments we want to see – local parks, schools, hospitals, and, crucially, housing. In many other communities, especially in deprived areas, some people may not even know the planning system exists, let alone how to get involved.”

​“We want to see a move to a much more inclusive, holistic and innovative system of planning, where there is systematic and robust engagement with local communities and all stakeholders from the outset and throughout the entire process. This requires a transformational culture change which involves articulating a compelling and positive vision for planning, rather than simply making technical changes.

​“We look forward to working the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament over the coming months to present constructive and innovative ideas for how we think this can be achieved through the Bill.”

Stefano Smith

Stefano Smith

RTPI Scotland

The professional body for town planners has called for a bold approach when considering the new planning bill for Scotland.

Stefano Smith, convenor of Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland (RTPI Scotland), said: “We said at the outset of the planning review that it was a fantastic opportunity to realise the potential of the planning system and to highlight the important role planning had in creating the types of places we want across Scotland.  Any new planning act must aim to fulfil those initial aspirations of a planning system that delivers infrastructure to enable development and achieve sustainable economic growth.

“The Bill, as introduced, has the right direction of travel and will fix some of the issues faced in planning our cities, towns and villages. However, we question if it is bold enough to make the step change required for a world leading planning system.”

RTPI Scotland believes that there is still an opportunity to do this through ensuring the bill promotes:

  • a new ambitious approach to engaging communities where discussion and debate takes place at the start of the process and is based on what people want their area to be rather than on what they don’t want
  • a more coordinated approach to planning, development and infrastructure through making the National Planning Framework more influential, establishing new statutory Regional Planning Partnerships and taking new approaches to funding infrastructure
  • a planning system that delivers development through capital funding from local authorities and other community planning partners
  • a properly resourced and influential planning service that promotes good place making through establishing a statutory Chief Planning Officer in every local authority
Petra Biberbach

Petra Biberbach

Planning Aid for Scotland

PAS has called on the Scottish Government to be bolder and more ambitious in its Planning Bill in order to realise a more positive, collaborative planning system which carries the trust of local communities and empowers them to actively engage in the decisions about their local places.

PAS is Scotland’s leading place and built environment charity. Its work includes everything from a free planning advice and mentoring service, to tailored training and public engagement events catering for members of the public, planning professionals, local authorities, public bodies, elected members, community groups, young people, volunteers, and for those simply interested in how planning is shaping their environment.

PAS chief executive, Petra Biberbach, sat on the Independent Panel which was set up in September 2015 by Scottish Ministers to review the planning system. The Panel reported its findings in 2016.

Ms Biberbach said: “PAS wants to see a planning system that is much more positive and inclusive. This involves working with local communities, planners and other stakeholders at the very beginning of the planning process in order to encourage a more collaborative approach based on meaningful dialogue and trust.

“This Bill is a real opportunity to bring about a real and meaningful change in the way we engage people in the decisions about their places, and we think the Scottish Government needs to be bolder and more ambitious in its approach. Whilst there is a lot in the Bill around engaging communities earlier in the process that we welcome, there needs to be more detail on how this will achieved and what processes will be in place to ensure that it happens in meaningful way.

“Once we have had the time to fully consider the legislation, we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to outline our ideas on how we think this can be achieved through the legislative process, but we do not think the Bill goes far enough in its present form. We want to see an ambitious planning system fit for a thriving Scotland.”

Hew Edgar

Hew Edgar

RICS Scotland

Hew Edgar, RICS Scotland policy manager, said the Planning Bill “needs to be more ambitious”.

He said: “While the Scottish Government’s approach should be applauded, via the establishment an independent Review of planning and sector-wide engagement, this process has lasted for more than two years. As such, RICS, like most of the sector, had hoped for a more innovative and ground-breaking set of provisions that would provide the necessary changes to cement Scotland’s planning system in the ‘world class’ category.

“There are undoubtedly positive and welcome changes within the Bill that can fix some of the more technical barriers; but overall the Bill needs to be more ambitious. Only then will it make the required changes that will enable the system to be less reactionary, and create a framework that can maximise output in the form of infrastructure, housing, and place-making.

“RICS is a member of the Scottish Alliance for People and Places, and will work the Alliance, Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to explore constructive ideas that make the whole-sale changes that are required.”

Scottish Property Federation

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland

Andrew Sutherland, chairman of the Scottish Property Federation and Joint MD of Miller Developments, said: “The proposals in the Bill deserve a cautious welcome from the Scottish real estate sector. Altogether they hold some promising suggestions to move from a regulatory system to a positive and active enabler of good quality development, with appropriate early engagement and focus on growing the economy to secure new investment and development.  If we are to drive local economic growth, jobs and investment we must have strong public leadership and an efficient, aspirational and delivery-focused planning service.

“However, we continue to hold major reservations over the prospect of a Scottish Infrastructure Levy and further discretionary fees when we are yet to see a step change in performance.

“We look forward to seeing these concerns addressed further if the Bill is fully to realise its potential to unlock development and deliver the much-needed infrastructure for our growing population and business needs.”

Addleshaw Goddard

Sarah Baillie

Sarah Baillie

Sarah Baillie, planning partner at international law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, said: “We are pleased to see the continued commitment to improving the planning system and the introduction of Planning Bill into the Scottish Parliament today. Scotland’s economy needs a flexible, positive and effective planning system, and whilst much work has been undertaken since 2015, we expect that significant questions will be raised during the progress of the Bill. Much information is also still required on the specifics of implementation of new legal and policy mechanisms, even if the Bill does go through.

“The challenge of delivering both more, and good quality housing, and the approach to infrastructure provision is far from resolved – it can’t be left to just the planning system to resolve. Also, if there really is to be a step change from that of a regulator, to a positive and active enabler of good quality development and a shift from reacting to proactively supporting investment and development proposals, then there needs to be a significant cultural change and the Bill alone won’t provide that.

“Local planning authorities need to be adequately resourced in both financial and human terms, and, having graduated with a planning degree, it stems from the grassroots up starting with Scottish universities creating courses that attracts students to continued and adequate professional development and support for the planning profession, to ring-fencing planning application fees for the planning department.

“A Bill committee will now be formed to take evidence and make recommendations and this will provide a real opportunity to participate in the Bill’s legislative scrutiny. We would actively encourage the property industry, planners and other key stakeholders to fully engage, share their innovative ideas, views and opinions with any calls for evidence by the Scottish Parliament.”

Builders vow to ensure Scots not left behind following Budget for housing

Building Professional Employee Builder Worker stockWith the Chancellor yesterday announcing a raft of measures aimed at significantly increasing levels of home building and “reviving the British dream of home ownership”, Scotland’s home building industry vowed to continue to hold the Scottish Government to account to ensure those living north of the border were not left behind.

Key amongst the Chancellor’s statements were the abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax on homes under £300k for First Time Buyers, £15.3 billion of new financial support for house building over the next five years (which includes money for the government to buy land as well as delivering supporting infrastructure) and more money to help SME builders.

This is in addition to the £10bn extra funding already announced for the English version of the Help to Buy shared equity scheme.

Chief executive of trade body Homes for Scotland, Nicola Barclay, said: “The Chancellor correctly identifies that not only have successive governments, over decades, simply failed to build enough homes to enable people’s home ownership aspirations to be achieved, solving the housing challenge also requires money, planning reform and intervention.

“The case is similar in Scotland, where we also face the same barriers that have resulted in the number of new homes being built each year flatlining at levels still 36% below the pre-recession levels of 2007. If we are going to effectively tackle Scotland’s chronic undersupply of housing and address affordability, it is imperative that we have an all-tenure target that identifies the large number of homes that are required. This would focus all our minds on ensuring that the system is geared up to enable all parties to deliver the homes needed.

“With Homes for Scotland and its member companies standing ready to work with Ministers and officials to make this happen, we will be watching the Scottish budget closely to ensure that any consequentials received from the housing announcements are similarly allocated, particularly in relation to unblocking the infrastructure constraints that impact those developers who are trying to build new communities.”

Barclay also considered the Chancellor’s review into the gap between planning permissions and housing starts, saying: “The main constraints on the use of land for housing are related to obtaining all of the necessary approvals and agreements, a process which is lengthy, complex and unpredictable.  So any action taken to address such blockers, or that identifies others, is positive.”

RICS Scotland said it is “vital” that the additional £2 billion that Scotland will receive from the Budget is steered towards tackling Scotland’s chronic housing shortage and infrastructure deficit.

RICS Scotland director, Gail Hunter, said: “RICS market surveys have consistently reported a lack of housing supply across Scotland over the last two years, resulting in increased house prices and rents within the residential sector. We urge the Scottish Government to utilise the additional capital funding to not only further their commitment to building 50,000 new, affordable homes by 2021, but also improve building rates across all tenures.

“From an infrastructure perspective, the additional monies must be put into infrastructure projects that return the highest economic and social impact, whilst stimulating the Scottish construction industry.

“RICS has long called for the expansion of City Deals across Scotland, and we welcome the announcement that progress is being made on city deals for Tay Cities and Stirling, and on a growth deal for the Borderlands. This ensures that all Scottish cities have either received, or are in line to receive, funding for city investment.”

“Finally, the Chancellor recognised the additional financial burden that stamp duty can cause home buyers, and introduced a cut for first time buyers (up to £300,000).  Scrapping Stamp Duty for first-time buyers may stimulate activity at a time when the market is subdued However, this does not tackle the underlying problem, and is something of a distraction from the need to increase supply. Whilst the LBTT framework in Scotland already supports first-time buyers, it will be interesting to see if the Scottish Government recognises the inhibitive nature of the current LBTT framework and make suitable amendments to the LBTT banding structure which will encourage market fluidity in all price brackets.”

However Finance secretary Derek Mackay said the Budget represents a real terms cut to Scotland’s revenue block grant of over £200m next year.

Despite a commitment of over £300m resource funding for the NHS in England this year, Scotland will receive only £8m in consequentials in 2018-19 due to UK cuts elsewhere.

And of the additional £2bn the UK government announced as being added to Scotland’s budget, over half of it – £1.1bn – are financial transactions which the Scottish Government cannot spend on frontline public services, and which have to be repaid to the Treasury.

“The reality is that over £1.1bn of the money being promised to Scotland over the next four years are loans that the Scottish Government cannot spend directly on frontline public services and that have to be paid back to the Treasury,” Mr Mackay said.

Wemyss Bay and New Waverley fly the flag for Scotland at RICS Awards

A CGI of the new office development at New Waverley

A CGI of the new office development at New Waverley

A project to maintain and improving key transport links for communities in the Inner Hebrides and the regeneration of a previously neglected corner of Edinburgh’s Old Town Conservation Area have scooped the Project of the Year titles in the Infrastructure and Regeneration categories in the 2017 Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Awards Grand Final.

The Wemyss Bay Pier Walkway and the New Waverley project were among the eight category winners from this year’s RICS Awards, Scotland – which recognised the most inspiring and community beneficial built initiatives from around the country.

They were automatically entered in to the RICS Awards Grand Final, where they competed against more than 95 regional winners for the chance to be crowned the overall UK winner in their respective category.


Wemyss Bay Pier Walkway

Taking the Infrastructure Award, the Wemyss Bay Pier Walkway project saw Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited carry out a comprehensive upgrade and refurbishment of the existing Grade-A Listed timber walkway, which dates back to 1903. Judges were impressed by the resultant rise in vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the Isle of Bute, and the project’s wider benefits to communities living in the Inner Hebrides.

Lorna Spencer, director of Harbours at CMAL, said: “This is fantastic recognition for our team and our partners and is further evidence of the hard work and commitment we invested to ensure we retained the original character of the historic building.  The Grade A nature of the walkway made this a particularly challenging project.

“In addition, during the project period, we battled a lot of inclement weather, with no less than 10 storms hitting the pier during the winter months.

“Passengers are now enjoying the benefits of a beautifully refurbished terminal and pier that provides a safe, efficient and reliable ferry service.”

In the Regeneration category, the New Waverley in Edinburgh saw Artisan Real Estate Investors take over the seven-acre gap-site linking Waverley Station to the Royal Mile, creating a vibrant new district which is helping reintegrate a much-neglected part of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town back into the heart of the city centre. The judges were particularly impressed with the innovative use found for the now New Waverley Arches.  The project as also focused heavily on engagement with the local community and surrounding businesses, enhancing local relationships and unlocking the enormous potential of one of Edinburgh’s prime regeneration areas.

RICS Scotland director Gail Hunter, said: “These projects are worthy winners of national recognition, and show the finest innovation and professionalism that those working in Scotland’s built environment sector have to offer.

“The Wemyss Bay and New Waverley projects have delivered tangible and long-lasting benefits to their local communities. From the improvement in access to the Hebrides to the regeneration of an important area in Edinburgh, which is a World Heritage site, these projects have enhanced not only the built environment but the lives of those affected by them.

“The teams at behind both these exemplary projects should be incredibly proud of their success at these awards, which are a worthy testament to their hard work, dedication and professionalism.”

The 2017 RICS Awards Grand Final was held at the InterContinental London, Park Lane Hotel and was hosted by BBC Breakfast News and Sport Anchor, Dan Walker.

Henry McLeish heads new campaign to help influence new Planning Bill

Scottish Alliance for People and PlacesAn alliance of ten organisations from the planning and placemaking sector in Scotland has launched a new campaign to help influence new planning guidelines ahead of the upcoming Planning Bill.

The Scottish Alliance for People and Places, which includes RTPI Scotland and RICS Scotland, has come together to help deliver a “more inclusive, collaborative and innovative” planning system when the Bill is introduced to Holyrood later this year.

It will promote the need for a planning system that “inspires and empowers civic participation, recognises the positive force that quality economic development can play in creating a more equal society, and is built on fostering strong relationships through consensus and collaboration”. It aims to put forward a compelling argument for change and develop constructive ideas for how to realise that change by influencing MSPs, Minister and officials.

The Alliance is chaired by former First Minister and town planner Rt Hon Henry McLeish. Its members are:

  • PAS (Planning Aid for Scotland)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Scotland
  • Paths for All
  • COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)
  • Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
  • Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland
  • Scotland’s Towns Partnership
  • Scottish Mediation Network
  • Institution of Civil Engineers Scotland

Speaking at the launch of the Alliance, RTPI Scotland director, Craig McLaren, said: “The planning bill is an opportunity to create a planning system that allows everyone to help shape the places they live in. RTPI Scotland looks forward to working with partners in the Alliance to help make this a reality.”

Former First Minister Henry McLeish added: “We want to work with the Scottish Government and Parliament to present an ambitious vision for a refreshed and revitalised planning system in Scotland that plans and delivers the quality economic and social development our country needs, but through collaboration and dialogue.

“Over the coming months, we will harness the experience and expertise of our members to offer constructive policy solutions that we believe can make this type transformational cultural change a reality.”

Property industry welcomes business rates boost

David Melhuish

David Melhuish

The Scottish Government is to give a much-needed lift to the Scottish commercial property development sector by not applying business rates until a development has secured business tenants for new developments.

Revealing plans to go further than the recommendations of the Barclay Review in a statement to Parliament yesterday, finance secretary Derek Mackay said the government will introduce a Business Growth Accelerator – which will also free all improved business premises from increases in their rates bill for one year.

The move comes after the Barclay Review found that the current system whereby improvements in a property lead immediately to increases in the rates bill, deterred investment.

The announcement forms part of a package designed to stimulate the economy, reduce red tape, improve transparency and reduce tax avoidance, including further transitional relief for hospitality properties and offices in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire and confirmation that the new day nursery relief will be set at 100%.

Mr Mackay said: “The Barclay Review presented us with the opportunity to evaluate how we handle business rates and improve methods to make Scotland the most competitive place in the UK for businesses to invest and grow. I committed to respond quickly and three weeks after receiving the report, I am delighted today to put our response into action.

“These new measures will help stimulate the economy and create jobs, which is key to readdressing the inequality that still exists in our society, as well as strengthening Scotland’s business appeal and generating new growth avenues.”

Welcoming the announcement, David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation (SPF), said: “The decision to not apply business rates for speculative development until the point of first occupation by a new business, is a major shot in the arm for Scottish developers vying for wider UK and international investment for Scottish commercial property. This measure gives developers a real advantage in vying for wider UK or international capital to support investment in Scottish jobs and the wider economy.

“Removing the risk of vacant rates for new development, added to the incentives under the Barclay business growth accelerator proposals, provides certainty for investors of nil rates liabilities until they have an income stream from the development, therefore providing a much-need boost for the competitiveness of the Scottish development sector.”

SPF also welcomed the extension by a year of the cap on business rates rises for the hospitality sector and offices hit by the downturn in the north-east economy but did express concerns with proposals from the Barclay review on listed buildings and further tax penalties on long term empty properties.

Mr Melhuish added: “The loss of rates relief after two years for complex listed building projects may make investors think twice about re-developing such buildings and this is something that we will continue to raise with Ministers as the Barclay review is implemented.”

Gail Hunter, director of RICS in Scotland, said the Barclay Review report’s recognition of the professionalism of the sector and the chartered surveyors working in it has been rightly echoed by Mr Mackay.

Ms Hunter added: “I am pleased that the review group acknowledged that ‘the current structure of the Assessors provides a good model of efficiency and has a key strength in its local knowledge’, and suggested SAA can be trusted to undertake changes to their operations on a voluntary basis.

“Elsewhere, Mr Mackay announced the introduction of General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) measures. RICS feels this is an ethical issue – one that can be negated by the use of RICS Professionals who abide by a strict Code of Practice and ethical standards.

“On the exemption for day nurseries, expanding opportunities to enhance and grow Scotland’s workforce is a key strategy for RICS, and the reduced rating bills could provide greater flexibility for working parents and guardians, providing the government can guarantee child care savings are passed on to users.”

Meanwhile RICS policy manager in Scotland, Hew Edgar, said steps to introduce three-yearly revaluations will “improve fairness and ensure rateable values are more reflective of market conditions”

He said: “RICS has made this call for a number of years now, and it is reassuring that the Barclay Review Group, and the Scottish Government, has finally listened to the sector.”

On the extension of Fresh Start Relief, Mr Edgar added: “Reliefs and supplements provide economic levers for government to target specific sectors – and we believe these sectors should be identified on the basis of delivering the highest economic impact.

“RICS believes in market transparency and fluidity, which is ultimately created by a stable and consistent regime which extends beyond parliamentary terms. This underscores the importance of lead-in times for the introduction and cessation of reliefs, as these allow businesses to plan for the future and enhance market certainty and confidence.

“RICS had been concerned that the changes to Fresh Start, as outlined in Barclay Review Report, provided market advantage to a particular sector, and this may not be conducive to market fluidity. It is, therefore, reassuring that Mr Mackay extended the scheme to include all properties.”