Stewart Milne Group

New town signs up to biodiversity partnership to increase and protect wildlife

A new £800 million residential project in Aberdeen is to become the first town development to sign up to the North East Scotland Biodiversity Partnership (NESBP).

Stewart Milne Group, the developer behind the 3,000-home Countesswells development, has joined forces with NESBP on several wildlife projects to protect existing wildlife and promote biodiversity within the 400-acre site.

With the aim of being one of the greenest and most attractive environments in which to live and work in North-east Scotland, Countesswells will be a new community containing thousands of new homes as well as an academy and two primary schools, community facilities, offices, formal and informal parkland, play parks and civic spaces.

Countesswells Development Limited (CDL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Milne Group, will work with NESBP on several initiatives to increase and protect wildlife in the town. Initial ideas include regular ‘BioBlitz’ events, with the community participating in recording wildlife over a fixed period and camera trapping with young people to film wildlife and learn about their movements and habits.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the North-east Biodiversity Partnership’s Awareness & Involvement Group, said: “We were struck by the fact that open green space and woodland were an integral part of Countesswells from day one with a focus on actively encouraging wildlife.  NESBP is not involved in the development planning process but we were impressed that CDL wanted to do environmental work that went above and beyond that required by planning conditions and obligations.

“Our role will be to work with CDL and the growing community at Countesswells to help them understand the wildlife they share space with and how they can care for and nurture that wildlife. This is the first time we have entered into such a collaboration with a developer at this scale and we are grateful to CDL and Stewart Milne Group for their forward-thinking in this regard.”

Previously, environmental consultants Ironside Farrar were appointed by CDL to conduct a study into the biodiversity of Countesswells. The probe found that birds, bats, badgers and bugs of all shapes and sizes have burrowed and built nests throughout the many green spaces at the site.

In addition, red squirrels have been spotted in gardens in and around Countesswells, in line with a reversal in regional decline of these animals, recently announced by the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels partnership.

Allan McGregor, project director for Countesswells, said: “As the new £800m community to the west of Aberdeen is phased in, CDL will continue to channel resources into creating a haven for new and existing plants and wildlife.

“The new green spaces, waterways and parklands at Countesswells, which replaced the low grade agricultural land, have now joined Hazlehead Wood with Countesswells Woods to create a sprawling natural green landscape. Within this, we’ve been able to provide a natural forage route for amphibians, birds and insects. In addition, landscaping in the wider area includes vegetation species, which are attractive to badgers, such as crab apple, elder, gean, guelder rose, hawthorn, holly, dog rose and rowan.

“With people also making their home at Countesswells, we’re keen through this collaboration with the North-east Scotland Biodiversity Partnership, to demonstrate that living amongst and interacting with nature promotes a sense of well-being and is vital part of all modern communities.”

Shift in focus to continue as Stewart Milne Group returns to growth

Glenn Allison

Stewart Milne Group is to continue its focus on investing in new developments in central Scotland and the north-west of England after reporting a “strong” trading performance for the year ended June 2017.

Accounts lodged by the Aberdeen-based housebuilder and timber systems manufacturer revealed significant overall growth driven by a major improvement in trading performance and a return to profit.

The group increased turnover from £209.2 million to £240.5m and operating profits grew from £0.6m to almost £7m for the year ended June 2017.

Revenues from its homes divisions in Central Scotland and North-West England and its timber systems business significantly increased compared to the previous year, reinforcing the success of the group’s strategy to invest in areas with the greatest potential for growth.

The group continued to dispose of non-core assets, to generate the cash to fund the increased investment in developments in Central Scotland and North-west England. These actions amounted to exceptional charges which resulted in an overall loss before taxation for the year of £13.7m, compared to £26m in the previous financial year.

Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, said: “The strong trading performance reflects the success of our strategy to broaden our portfolio and footprint by investing in parts of the country where the demand for homes continues to rise. The exceptional performance of our homes business in North-West England has resulted in a doubling of both the number of units delivered and of our turnover in the region, culminating in winning the award as best North-west house builder of the year.  Our increased investment in land in Central Scotland has seen a higher number of new award-winning developments, which provide a strong platform for even further growth.”

Turnover at Stewart Milne Timber Systems was up £7.3m to £59.4m because of rising demand across the country’s housing market and the development of strategic relationships with UK housebuilder customers as well as continued investment in innovation and digital technology to deliver the most cost-effective off-site construction solutions.

Demand for housing in North-east Scotland continued to be impacted by the downturn in the oil and gas industry, however, there are now signs that the market is stabilising following a challenging couple of years.

Mr Allison added: “Our overall confidence in the recovery in the North-east housing market is exemplified by our flagship development at Countesswells. This £1 billion investment in a whole new community, in a sought-after location to the west of Aberdeen, is really taking shape. Thanks to the HM Treasury guarantee, we’ve invested in the up-front delivery of major infrastructure, including the country’s fastest broadband, and extensive landscaping to form new parkland. There are now over 140 families living in this award-winning new development with three other house builders soon to join Stewart Milne Homes on site.”

Stuart MacGregor

These improved results and confidence in the underlying performance have been endorsed by a new three-year £175m banking facility with Bank of Scotland.

Stuart MacGregor, group finance director of Stewart Milne Group, added: “The extension of our banking facility and our strong trading performance, underpins our strategy, and the decisions we have made to invest in areas with the greatest potential for growth.

“We will continue to focus on investing in new developments in Central Scotland and North-west England. The signals now point to a slight recovery in the North-east market, and our focus in the region will continue to be on providing quality family homes where demand has remained relatively stable.

“By taking a longer-term view and prudent approach, we are able to take advantage of the conditions in each of our markets. Equally, by committing to delivering quality homes in places our customers want to live and meeting the continually rising demand for offsite construction and our innovative timber systems products, we are well-placed to continue to grow in a sustainable way.”

Stewart Milne Homes welcomes ‘recovering’ Aberdeen property market

Stewart Milne Homes MD John Low

North east housebuilder Stewart Milne Homes has said there are positive signs that show the property market in Aberdeen is beginning to recover.

The Westhill-based compnay has seen a significant increase in demand at its developments across the north east of Scotland, with confidence growing amongst potential homeowners.

Sales across the housebuilders’ seven developments in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are up 20% on the same period last year and there is also an increase in the level of enquiries.

John Low, managing director at Stewart Milne Homes, said: “It is encouraging to see confidence returning to the Aberdeen economy. We have seen both an increase in footfall to our developments as well as an upturn in levels of sales. Homeowners who had previously decided not to move due to the economic uncertainty now feel that this is the right time to move while prices remain competitive.”

This sentiment is echoed by Darroch Robertson, partner at Graham + Sibbald.

He said: “As signs of positivity within the oil and gas industry improve slightly, this has also had an impact on the general level of optimism in the area.

“Feedback across the property sector is that the residential market appears to have reached a base level and there are signs of improvement with a number of local housebuilders reporting that visitor traffic is up on developments and sales numbers have been very positive so far in 2018.”

John Cameron, director of FWB Park Brown, added: “There are positive signs of recovery within the Aberdeen economy and we can see businesses starting to recruit again. This increase in employment opportunities is also leading to people relocating to the region which, in turn, will be positive for the housing market and economy as a whole.”

Stewart Milne Homes has also seen an increase in the number of people using part exchange in order to move up the property ladder while taking the stress out of selling.

John Low added: “Many people are nervous about the thought of moving home as they are unsure of whether they will be able to sell their own property and are also concerned if they do sell that they will be able to find a home that they like. Part exchange makes moving easy and rather than being a difficult and worrying time, the new owner can simply look forward to moving into their new home.”

Stewart Milne Timber Systems ‘on-track’ to achieve £100m five-year plan

Stewart Milne Group has said its timber systems arm is on course to achieve turnover of £100 million by 2021 after doubling its business in the last four years.

With a current turnover of £65m, Stewart Milne Timber Systems should achieve its five-year target, with “robust” growth predicted for the division in this year alone, the group added.

The growth has been attributable to extensive contracts with major private housebuilders and providing timber frame homes to local authorities and housing associations across the UK.

Alex Goodfellow, group managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems, said: “Increasingly the government and local authorities are looking to off-site construction to accelerate the building of high quality, affordable new homes.

“Engineered timber homes are not only manufactured from the world’s most environmentally friendly construction material but also significantly reduce build times on site, improve standards of build quality and reduce health and safety risks during construction.

“There’s growing acknowledgement of the many benefits of timber systems, and we have a proven track record across a number of sectors. New digital technologies like BIM (building information modelling) are the next frontier, which is why we’ve invested in developing the first-ever online BIM library in our sector, allowing architects and clients to specify projects within real-world parameters. We’re in an excellent position to grow our market share over the next year.”

The offsite manufacturing business now employs 300 people in its two factories in Westhill, Aberdeen and Witney, Oxfordshire and is producing timber systems for 7,000 homes in the UK annually.

Around 90% of all new homes in Scotland are built using offsite timber solutions. One in four of those (16,000) was built with timber systems manufactured by the Stewart Milne Timber Systems’ factory in Westhill.

Mr Goodfellow added: “We’ve invested heavily in precision manufacturing capabilities in our UK factories and created the capacity to increase the output of both sites.

“We’re at a unique time in the British construction sector where shortages of skills and new homes are converging with a requirement to build thousands of new homes to higher quality and environmental standards than ever. Our business is very well-positioned to provide solutions to these challenges and we’ll continue to drive innovation through our design expertise, manufacturing capability and product development in 2018 and beyond.”

Stewart Milne Homes unveils vision for modern city living at Glasgow’s Pacific Quay

The former Plantation Quay and Princes’ Dock Basin, on the southern bank of the Clyde, could be transformed into a new residential development of 203 homes if planning permission is granted.

Stewart Milne Homes has submitted a planning application for a residential development comprising apartments, duplexes and family homes to regenerate the site, which is within the Pacific Quay Creative Clyde Enterprise Area, one of several strategic economic investment locations designated in the Glasgow City Development Plan.

The housebuilder is leading on the masterplan which is a collaborative venture involving Scottish Enterprise, architects HAUS Collective, Glasgow City Council Planning Department, Turley Planning Consultants, Dougall Baillie Associates, Oobe Landscaping and Wireframe Immersive.

The local community and key stakeholders have contributed to the evolution of the design and approach within the masterplan.

Allan McQuade, director of business infrastructure, Scottish Enterprise, said: “We have been working with Stewart Milne Homes to deliver the next generation of residential and amenity space at Pacific Quay. This development represents a rare and exciting opportunity to create an exemplar development at a key strategic site for Glasgow and forms a significant part of the final stages in the wider Pacific Quay masterplan.”

The proposals aim to deliver a residential neighbourhood with unique characteristic within the Pacific Quay locale on the fringe of Finnieston, which has undergone a dramatic change in recent years through progressive developments for business, commercial and social uses.

Gerry More, managing director of Stewart Milne Homes, added: “Throughout the design process, we’ve taken account of the best aspects of the city’s architecture which have inspired the contemporary homes which are set within a carefully-planned and high amenity environment.

“From the public spaces, streets, lanes and abundance of landscaping, through to the design and detailing of the homes, the aim is to create a community of unique character which reflects the quality and heritage of its setting.

“By understanding the heritage, context and character of an area, we can ensure that all our developments are designed in such a way that they create unique places with a sense of community, pride and soul.”

Stewart Milne Group offers £8,000 access scholarship at RGU

(from left) Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, Professor David McClean, head of school at the Scott Sutherland School, and Sarah Dingwall, development manager for the RGU Foundation

Stewart Milne Group has pledged £8,000 to create an access scholarship that will support an undergraduate student as part of Robert Gordon University’s (RGU) Giving Tuesday campaign.

The inaugural scholarship will be available from the start of the next academic year to a talented student from a group traditionally under-represented at RGU.

Thanks to the independent 5-star housebuilder and timber systems manufacturer, a talented student, potentially from a deprived area, will be able to study at RGU’s Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, studying Construction Management, Surveying or Architectural Technology.

RGU’s Giving Tuesday appeal, part of a worldwide day of giving, supports a strategic aim of the university to extend access to learning and enable individuals from diverse and marginalised backgrounds to achieve their ambitions through higher education.

Professor David McClean, head of school at the Scott Sutherland School, said: “The Scott Sutherland School is indebted to Stewart Milne Group for this pledge, which demonstrates a commitment to educating building and design professionals of the future and allowing talented individuals the opportunity to realise their potential, whatever their material circumstance or background.”

RGU has enjoyed a close relationship with Stewart Milne Group over the years. Chairman Stewart Milne was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2000, then in 2005 the organisation made a significant donation to help establish the state-of-the-art RGU: Sport facilities on campus. The company has also offered placements to RGU students from various schools over the years.

Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, said: “Providing access to quality higher education to those that have talent and aspiration, but may not have the means to recognise their full potential, is crucial to ensuring that the future workforce is armed with the skills needed to succeed.

“It’s with great pride that we’re providing this transformative support as part of the RGU Giving Tuesday campaign. We’ll be looking forward to meeting and supporting the student selected to receive the scholarship throughout their degree.”

Sarah Dingwall, development manager for the RGU Foundation, added: “We were thrilled to receive the news that Stewart Milne Group would be establishing an access scholarship at RGU and are extremely grateful for their contribution.

“This type of philanthropic support creates opportunity, raises aspirations and has a life-long impact for a talented RGU student.”

Stewart Milne goes for further growth in North West England after doubling sales

Glenn Allison

Stewart Milne Homes is targeting further growth in the North West of England as its moves to reduce the impact of the downturn in its core market in the North East of Scotland.

The housebuilder, which established its English operation in Manchester in 2006, has doubled sales in the region in the last 12 months and increased its workforce south of the border from 65 to 85.

The business has seen the volume of new home completions in its North West-England developments increase from 134 to 268 with a combined sales value of more than £60 million. This exceptional growth was recognised recently when Stewart Milne North West picked up the award for Housebuilder of the Year at Insider’s Property Awards.

To cement this growth and meet demand, the company plans to grow the division to 500 units over the next three years. It is already eyeing an 11% growth to over 300 units next financial year and has reported more than £20m of forward sales reserved beyond the next quarter.

Stewart Milne Homes has invested heavily in the North West this year in order to meet its ambitious growth targets. This includes plans for five new developments over the next 12 months, resulting in the construction of 447 new homes.

Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group, said: “The North West of England is a key growth area for us and we will continue to invest heavily in the region to cement these impressive sales figures.

“The figures reflect an increased market demand for our quality homes and underline the strength of the housing market in North-west England. We have a strong product underpinned by quality, craftsmanship and very high design specifications – all of which have helped us to gain traction in the market and provide a strong platform for growth.

With the downturn in the North East, Stewart Milne Group has been accelerating its growth in Central Scotland and North West England through increased investment in new sites.

Mr Allison added: “Over the next 12 months we will work to further increase our volume output through the acquisition of larger sites in prime residential locations in the North-west of England.

“Our trading reflects strong underlying performance which allows us to react to different market conditions in each of our geographical areas. By increasing the number of active developments where the housing market is strongest, we are on track to deliver our long-term growth ambitions.

“In common with all house-builders in the North-east, we have faced a very difficult period in our local market where the downturn, fuelled by the sharp drop in oil price, has had a major impact on consumer confidence. This is however starting to improve with sales rates gradually picking up.”

Stewart Milne Group was awarded five-star status by the industry earlier this year, one of only five major housebuilders in the UK to achieve this accolade.

The company’s continued commitment to customers, the creation of award winning developments, the design, detail and individuality of their homes and aftercare service saw it awarded five star status by the Home Builders Federation (HBF).

New developer introduced at Haddington housing development

Gerry More

A residential development in Haddington that includes a new primary school is making considerable progress with the introduction of a second developer.

Included in recent milestones at the Letham Mains site, CALA Homes (East) is looking to split its previously approved original share of 376 homes, with Stewart Milne Homes now seeking to take on 155 homes.

Despite not altering the total number of homes, the like-for-like substitution of plots between the two developers requires fresh planning approval, due to variations in home styles and small on-site design changes, with proposals by Stewart Milne Homes recently submitted.

Derek Lawson, strategic land director with CALA Homes (East), said: “We’re pleased to be able to work with Stewart Milne Homes to enable them to take over half of our original site.

“This ensures our team can focus on delivering high-quality homes, while facilitating the new purpose-built primary school.”

CALA is on schedule to commence construction on its remaining share of the homes in January 2018, with Stewart Milne Homes anticipating starting in the summer, subject to planning outcomes.

Managing director of Stewart Milne Homes Central, Gerry More, added: “We are seeing strong demand for quality family homes across Central Scotland and, by increasing the number of active developments, through collaborative working with other homebuilders, we’re in a firm position to cater to this demand.

“Subject to planning approval, we are looking to create an attractive neighbourhood of 155 homes at Haddington. With attention to detail in both the craftsmanship of our homes and in the design of the settings, streets and green space, we will deliver a distinctive and desirable place to live which, with the plans for the new primary school, will be ideal for families.”

Meaningful progress has also been made at the development following a major earthwork project to prepare the site. These works include spine road infrastructure, regrading of levels, delivery of services and will include off-site works on West Road.

Likewise, the CALA Homes-led programme to deliver the serviced school site is on track for early summer 2018 when it will hand over to the local authority.

Derek Lawson added: “Letham Mains is a major project for us and a very important element of East Lothian Council’s release of housing across the region.

“We are delighted to now have the housebuild start date very much in sight and will begin to provide a welcome boost to house hunters offering high-quality premium product from our new Light and Space range.”

Stewart Milne Homes builds new senior team to gear up for new Central Belt developments

(from left) Gary Milne, Grant Kirkhope, Stuart Henderson and Gerry More

Stewart Milne Homes has strengthened its senior team as it gears up for major growth in the Central Belt with eight land acquisitions in the pipeline in the next six months.

The housebuilder, which aims to deliver 500 new homes in the Central Belt every year, said it will be investing significantly in purchasing land for new developments and securing planning consents. It will also be starting on sites which have been granted permission such as 77 new flats and townhouses at Cathcart on the south side of Glasgow, and 68 detached family homes at Pentcaitland in East Lothian.

Stuart Henderson will lead the housebuilder’s goal of being at the forefront of designing the very best homes and neighbourhoods across central Scotland in the newly created role of design director. A qualified architect, Stuart has worked at Stewart Milne Homes for 17 years, during which time the house-builder has won numerous awards for design and quality.

Formerly land director, Gary Milne has been appointed technical director to head up a team which provides engineering support to the land, design and construction parts of the business. A Chartered Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Gary joined Stewart Milne Group in 2001 and sits on the Board of Stewart Milne Homes.

Finally, Grant Kirkhope moves from a strategic group role to join Stewart Milne Homes as land director, responsible for identifying, appraising and delivering land opportunities across the region. Grant joined Stewart Milne Group from Persimmon Homes in 2014.

These internal succession appointments follow the recent appointment of Bryan Galloway as construction director.

Managing director Gerry More said: “These changes now ensure that we have a robust structure to fully capitalise on the new opportunities in the Central Belt, where we are adding attractive sites in the east of Scotland to our strong pipeline of developments in the West.

“With distinct teams in design and technical, working closely with the land team, we will have an increased focus on the front-end of our business to make sure site infrastructure works start in an effective and efficient manner. Ultimately, this will accelerate the delivery of much-needed homes across the country in line with government policy.”

Blog: Developers can play pivotal role in improving Scotland’s digital connectivity

Jim Fitzsimons, project director at Countesswells

Jim Fitzsimons, project director at Countesswells

Jim Fitzsimons calls on property developers and authorities to work together to improve Scotland’s “woefully inadequate” digital infrastructure.

Improving digital infrastructure is key to the future success of the Scottish economy.

There are still too many parts of Scotland that have woefully inadequate broadband connectivity and local and national government initiatives are not addressing the problems quickly enough.

In bringing forward Aberdeen’s largest new “town” at Countesswells, we’ve installed ultrafast broadband. We believe that what we’ve done here should and could be replicated by other developers across Scotland and indeed should be a key consideration when planning new housing or mixed-use developments.

Residents and businesses at our new £800 million community to the west of Aberdeen will have access to broadband that is 35 times faster than the UK average. In what is believed to be a first for a new town development, we decided to install the fibre optic network necessary to deliver such high speeds at the same time as it was bringing other services, such as gas and drainage, onto the site.

Countesswells is the first community in Scotland to have access to 1Gbps. This means that a 4k movie, which would typically take eight hours to download, will take just over ten minutes.

Ultrafast connectivity can be harnessed to grow existing businesses; attract further investment; create new businesses; and enhance Scotland’s attractiveness as a place to live and work. Broadband connectivity is now a part of everyday life and one of the first things new home buyers ask for. Typically, developers have been slow to reflect this as part of their offering. At Countesswells, ultrafast digital connectivity was at the heart of designing the new community.

But our vision to make Countesswells the most connected community in Scotland goes beyond bringing the highest broadband speeds into homes. Providing the fibre network is just the start. How you use it is the exciting bit. By installing the internal fibre network across the community, we are future-proofing to such an extent that households could have direct links with the services provided on site such as schools and health centres, enabling home consultations for example. We’re working closely with the local authority as part of the overall approach to place-making to see what is possible.

Businesses on-site will also benefit from the connectivity, whether it be to promote working from home or to attract businesses who rely on superfast connections to transfer huge amounts of data.

We identified the best partner, Grain, and then installed the best fibre network available, along with the work on existing and new roads, which made it relatively cost-effective.

The wider Aberdeenshire region can benefit from what we’ve already done, but rolling it out more widely will require support from the public sector

Local authorities and developers can work closely together to provide the connectivity needed to drive economic growth in Scotland and we believe the forward-thinking and innovative partnership that has been created at Countesswells should be considered across the country.

Countesswells signed an agreement for internet service provider Grain to provide hyperfast broadband to the site.  SSE Enterprise Telecoms were then appointed to support part of the roll-out with enough national fibre background. Grain’s fibre network is now ready and waiting the day residents and businesses move in, providing hyperfast broadband and a crystal-clear fibre telephone connection. Once fully set up at Countesswells, Grain could explore solutions for residents in other areas of Aberdeen to try to solve the broadband problems they are experiencing. Ultimately, our hyperfast broadband could be accessible right across the city.

  • Jim Fitzsimons is director of special projects at Stewart Milne Group, the developer behind Countesswells