Avant secures three new development opportunities worth £80m

David Knight, Avant Homes Scotland managing director

Stirling-based housebuilder Avant Homes Scotland has secured three new development opportunities in the past 15 months, which will create up to 180 sales, construction and sub-contractor jobs in the region.

With a combined value of £80 million, the three new sites in Cairneyhill, Gartcosh and Bishopton will provide for a further 299 homes to be built by the company throughout the region.

The new sites in Scotland will enable Avant Homes to continue accelerating toward its target of becoming a £500m turnover, 2,000-unit business across its operations in central Scotland, north east England, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Recent research by construction industry intelligence provider Glenigan showed that Avant Homes was one of only three UK housebuilders consistently applying for sites with volumes exceeding 150 units during 2017.

Avant Homes Scotland managing director, David Knight, said: “We are on a fast-moving trajectory and our momentum can only be maintained by securing new sites in the right locations and for the best price.

“Our land buying team in Scotland has been outstanding over the past 15 months in finding excellent development opportunities and this has provided the platform for continued sustainable, profitable growth.

“The fact that as a group we were one of only three UK housebuilders regularly applying for sites with more than 150 units during last year is important. It shows both our ambition and the continued growing demand for our product throughout Scotland and our operations.”

The news follows Avant Homes’ announcement in August last year that it secured an enhanced £200m facility from HSBC, RBS, Santander and Bank of Ireland to significantly increase the housebuilder’s land acquisitions over the next 12-month period.

For the financial year to 30 April 2017, Avant Homes posted both record revenue and operating profit numbers. Revenues increased 45% year-on-year to £369m, whilst operating profits rose 107% to £45m. These were delivered having achieved 1,636 total completions, up 35% compared with the prior year.

This performance led to Avant Homes being named as the 46th fastest growing private mid-market company in The Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 league tables.

Deal agreed to deliver Stirling’s first purpose built student accommodation development

Construction work on Stirling’s first purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) development is due to commence in early 2018 after a deal was struck between Maven Capital Partners (Maven) and IP Investment Management (IPIM).

Continuing its penetration into the UK student housing sector, Maven will act as the asset manager representing Hong Kong-based IPIM to deliver the £18.2 million project in conjunction with development manager Whiteburn Projects Limited and senior debt finance from Royal Bank of Scotland.

The 207-bed facility will be located on the banks of the River Fourth next to Stirling city centre and within easy commute of the out-of-town campus of the University of Stirling.

Forthside Way will become the first PBSA in Stirling, and will help address the acute shortage in accommodation for the substantial student population of circa 10,000.

The development will be set across two buildings and comprise 123 studios, 8 one-bed apartments, and 76 two and three-bed cluster flats. Residents at Forthside Way will also benefit from extensive communal facilities which include a cinema, gym, games room, laundry and several private/group study rooms.

Colin Anderson, investment director at Maven, said: “University of Stirling has strong a reputation for its sporting excellence and there is strong demand for a number of its courses, a number of which are considerably over-subscribed. Despite this, Stirling has one of the most acute shortages of student accommodation in the country.

“With no private PBSA market to speak of in the city, Maven is delighted to be working once again with IPIM to greatly enhance the quality of the accommodation provision and play its part to help the University attract and retain the best students from the UK and further afield.”

Selina Williams, investment director, IP Investment Management, said: “The acquisition of Forthside Way complements our growing portfolio of PBSA assets in strong UK university cities and we are delighted to be continuing our successful partnership with Maven in this sector. We continue to see opportunities in student accommodation in towns and cities with strong fundamentals such as Stirling.”

Iain Robertson, relationship director at Royal Bank of Scotland, added: “We are proud to support Maven and IPIM in their latest development project. The venture will provide much needed accommodation for Stirling’s large student population, offering a modern and safe environment in which to live.”

The complex is due to be open in time for the start of the 2019/20 academic year.

Council refuses two applications for almost 700 homes near Plean

Stirling Council has refused two applications from Persimmon Homes to develop land to the east of Plean around Cushenquarter Farm.

Persimmon Homes was seeking permission to build 500 residential units, an access off the A9 Main Street and the erection of a primary school. Its application sought planning permission in principle, with the details of the proposal, including layout, housing types and parking to be confirmed in subsequent applications.

The housebuilder’s second application sought full planning permission for 198 residential units with a new access off the A9 Main Street and open space.

Both applications were presented before Stirling Council’s planning and regulation panel yesterday.

Panel convenor, Councillor Alasdair Macpherson, said: “Stirling Council has sought to ensure that there would be sufficient school capacity and healthcare facilities to accommodate these developments. The matter of road safety was also not addressed by the applicant.

“It is, in part, due to the lack of commitment from the developer to secure such capacity that these applications have been refused.”

New jobs expected with £37m investment at Superglass manufacturing facility

Ken Munro, chief executive officer of TechnoNICOL UK, Ireland and USA with cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown

Ken Munro, chief executive officer of TechnoNICOL UK, Ireland and USA with cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown

Glass wool insulation firm Superglass is to benefit from one of the largest investments in Scottish engineering and manufacturing in recent years, doubling its capacity and creating new jobs on the site.

The owner of TechnoNICOL (the largest manufacturer of construction materials in Russia and Eastern Europe), Sergey Kolesnikov, is to invest £36.8 million (€42.3m) in the Stirling company’s facility at Thistle Industrial Estate.

Since Mr. Kolesnikov’s acquisition of Superglass in 2016 through his Inflection Management Corporation vehicle, the business has entered into a close partnership with TechnoNICOL and is now a key regional hub for the Russian construction materials giant.

Ken Munro, chief executive officer of TechnoNICOL UK, Ireland and USA, which incorporates the Superglass business, said: “TechnoNICOL’s backing is a real vote of confidence in Scottish manufacturing, both in terms of the quality of the work we do here and the expertise of the workforce. It is a validation of our strategy within Superglass over recent years and very personally satisfying for me to see further consolidation of the initial investment at our regional headquarters.

“It is also an important milestone in the total transformation that this business has experienced over the last three years – we have delivered a £10m improvement in profitability over this period and significant double digit sales growth in the current year.

“With this investment, we will have spent close to £50m on this site since the acquisition of Superglass and this is a further statement of intent regarding the long-term future of our Stirling operations. By our estimations, it’s also one of the biggest single inward investments made in Scotland’s manufacturing sector for a long time. It’s an exciting time for the business. We’ve got significant growth ambitions and this investment will certainly help propel us towards achieving those goals.”

TechnoNICOL has 52 manufacturing facilities across Russia and Europe, but it has opted to throw its weight behind Superglass.

The investment will deliver a significant growth in new full-time jobs over the next 18 months to accommodate and fulfil the increased capacity. These jobs will be created across the breadth of the organisation, but primarily in the operations team as well as in product marketing and innovation.

This project will take Superglass beyond environmental compliance, and builds on the company recently being awarded Scotland’s first ever Sustainable Growth Agreement by SEPA, while allowing the plant to double its output from 27,000 tonnes to 60,000 tonnes annually within two years.

Substantial building work will take place on the site to accommodate production equipment, including a 187-tonne furnace and curing ovens. Cooling, cutting and milling equipment will be replaced and an automatic packing system will be installed. Building work will start early in the New Year.

Since becoming CEO of Superglass in June 2015, Munro has guided the company through the delisting process and returned it to profitability. He subsequently was appointed to a new role running all TechnoNICOL businesses in the UK, Ireland and North America.

Cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown, said: “This investment, and the jobs it will create, is excellent news for Stirling and for the wider Scottish economy. It rightly shows real confidence in the highly-skilled Scottish workforce.

“It will help position the Stirling site to take advantage of greater opportunities in the future and will also help to deliver significant environmental benefits.

“I am delighted that Scottish Enterprise has been able to support this project with a grant of £477,000.

“I wish Superglass every success for the future and look forward hearing of the team’s achievements in the years to come.”

Superglass’ expansion is backed by Scottish Enterprise with the economic development agency committing £477,000 towards the project.

Jim Watson, director of innovation and enterprise services at Scottish Enterprise, added: “Superglass is an ambitious Scottish company with a strong leadership team clearly focussed on its long term success. Through our account management support we work intensively with Ken and his team offering advice and assistance to support this growth ambition.

“Recognising the importance and strength of its Stirling site, together with our contribution, Superglass has successfully secured the investment needed from its Cyprus-based parent company.  As well as bringing new jobs and investment to Scotland, this project will also help improve efficiencies in its manufacturing processes and open up new European markets and potentially future research and development activities. I look forward to continuing to work with the company and wish it every success for the future.”

Mark Bevan, CEO of SCDI, added: “It’s great to see companies like Superglass thriving in Scotland. It is an innovative employer and manufacturer, working with recycled materials to create insulation products that provide an obvious benefit to the environment and economy. We are pleased to hear of this significant vote of confidence from the company’s owners, which will also create much needed high-quality jobs in Stirling.”

New funding to explore pioneering heat solution for rural Stirling

leaflet_photos_018Stirling Council, alongside partner Scottish Water Horizons, has been awarded £100,000 to explore a pioneering heat solution for rural Stirling, with initial feasibility being carried out in Callander.

The first study of its kind in the UK, the project will investigate how waste heat extracted from the Callander Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) can be incorporated with thermal energy storage and distributed to remote and off-gas grid areas, combating rural energy and fuel poverty issues, such as a lack of fuel choice and higher energy costs.

Benefits will include energy demand reduction; energy savings; added resilience and security of heat supply, and possible income generation through opportunities for community ownership models.

There could also be opportunities for job creation and upskilling of local workers in low carbon and renewables. If successful, the project would be scalable and replicable across the Stirling Council area.

The joint application, known as the Callander Local Energy Opportunity (CLEO), is receiving funding from the Scottish Government’s Innovative Local Energy Systems (ILES) initiative. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, this initiative is designed to accelerate the development and delivery of low-carbon infrastructure projects in smaller towns and settlements as well as remote, rural and off-gas grid communities.

Councillor Evelyn Tweed said: “Stirling Council has a large rural area, the majority of which show higher levels of fuel poverty than urban areas, due to lack of fuel choice as many are off gas grid.

“The higher capacity of the Waste Water Treatment Works in Callander and size of the population made the region an ideal choice for the pilot scheme.

“With council assets, including secondary and primary schools, plus a leisure centre, Callander can provide a successful concept project that would then be scalable and replicable across the area, to help alleviate fuel poverty and also to attract businesses to the area.

“This funding can help produce regeneration and economic development through reduced energy bills, as higher energy bills can be prohibitive to businesses setting up in rural areas.”

Scottish Water Horizons, a wholly owned subsidiary of the public utility Scottish Water, which is driving forward the organisation’s green agenda, is already enabling heat to be extracted from sewer networks to provide an alternative and affordable energy source.

Mari Davies, Scottish Water Horizons project manager, said “We are delighted to receive funding to enable us to look at new ways of storing and delivering heat in the Callander area.

“Within our sewer network there is massive potential for heat to be harnessed as renewable energy source. The challenge for us now is how we store this heat and get it to local homes and businesses that need it most.

“Using thermal energy storage in combination with innovative waste water heat extraction technology, we can test the concept in an area that is typical of many rural and remote areas across Scotland.  If successful, there is opportunity for wider roll-out, helping to alleviating fuel poverty, providing local employment and contributing to Scotland’s circular economy.”

Stirling Council unveils plans to build more than 700 new affordable homes

Stirling SHIP picStirling Council will work with partners to build more than 700 new affordable homes over the next five years.

Communities in Cornton, Cultenhove, Raploch and in a number of rural settlements will all benefit from the creation of more social rented houses, while affordable housing will also be provided as part of the new communities at South Stirling Gateway and Durieshill.

The plans are part of the council’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) which was approved yesterday by the environment & housing committee. This will include £45 million of Scottish Government funding to deliver the housing programme up to 2023.

The SHIP has been prepared in consultation with local housing associations and other delivery partners, and sets out the council’s strategic investment priorities for affordable housing over the next five years.

Housing portfolio holder, Councillor Evelyn Tweed, said: “The delivery of these projects will generate a number of benefits to the local economy, create jobs and training opportunities in the construction sector and bring in additional Council Tax revenue to help fund the delivery of essential services for the residents of Stirling.

“It’s one of this administration’s key priorities to provide more social rented housing and the programme will result in an increased supply of good-quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing which helps address identified housing needs throughout the area.

“The Scottish Government has committed to delivering at least 50,000 affordable homes in the current parliament and, working with our Housing Association partners, I want to ensure that we do everything we can to help meet that ambitious target.”

Almost a quarter of the homes will come from a partnership proposal with Robertson Group as part of the Raploch Regeneration Initiative to deliver 166 new social rented homes by 2022.

The SHIP also includes the delivery of new properties at Howlands Road, Cultenhove, and at Johnston Avenue, Cornton, with both projects being taken forward by Forth Housing Association.

The SHIP reflects one the council’s main priorities of investing in the pressured rural areas, and includes plans by Rural Stirling Housing Association to take forward projects at Balmaha Plantation and Claish Farm in Callander.

CALA lodges housing plans for Kippen site

cala homesCALA Homes (West) has submitted a planning application to Stirling Council for a proposed housing development in Kippen.

The housebuilder is proposing a development of 31 homes on the Oakwood site, which is allocated for housing in the adopted Stirling Local Development Plan 2014.

The proposed private for sale housing mix will comprise of 3-bedroom semi-detached and 4 and 5-bedroom detached homes, whilst 10 affordable homes will also feature with a range of 1 and 2-bedroom cottage flats, and 3-bedroom semi-detached homes.

The affordable housing provision will equate to 33% of the total number of homes proposed on the site and is expected to be delivered by CALA for Rural Stirling Housing Association.

This level of affordable housing provision is in accordance with Stirling Council planning policy and will deliver a number of new affordable homes in an area where the council has identified a high level of affordable housing need.

CALA said the proposed development embodies its distinctive style.

Graham McNeil, land director for CALA Homes (West), said: “In submitting our planning application to Stirling Council, we are showing our commitment to delivering a range and choice of high quality private and affordable homes in this picturesque village.

“Kippen offers a wonderful setting for our award-winning housing range, and we’re sure that our spacious and contemporary homes will appeal to buyers looking to lay down roots in a semi-rural yet convenient location, just a short distance away from both Stirling and Glasgow.

“There’s a real demand for housing in this popular area and we’re confident that our proposed development will address that need.

“We’re looking forward to progressing our plans for the site as we believe that our proposals respond well to the setting and that they will positively enhance what is already an established and very well-regarded village.”

The planning application was validated by Stirling Council on 31 October 2017 and CALA is targeting a positive planning decision before the end of 2017.

If planning permission is granted, work could start on site in Summer 2018, with the first residents taking occupation in Summer 2019.

Stirling councillors reject greenbelt housing and cemetery plans

Strathblane Campsie RoadPlans to build 70 homes and a new cemetery on greenbelt land in Strathblane have been refused by Stirling Council.

The development, which was being taken forward by Gladman Developments, was proposed for land south of Broadgate House on Campsie Road.

Councillors on the planning and regulation panel unanimously rejected the plans yesterday, agreeing with planning officers’ concerns that the development would negatively impact the area’s protected greenbelt area. They also felt it would not protect the historic environment by encroaching on the focal point of the Broadgate Mound. The proposals were also not consistent with the council’s Local Development Plan and policy.

The council received over 80 objections to the plans which included concerns about the impact the development could have on local services and infrastructure.

Planning and regulation panel chair, Alasdair MacPherson, said: “Councillors unanimously agreed that the plans proposed were simply inappropriate for the Broadgate site. Not only would this development have significantly impacted our green belt area, it would have also been detrimental to the historical site of the Broadgate Mound which must be protected. Building new properties, particularly affordable homes, is one of our top priorities but we must make sure that these developments are also right for local communities and the Stirling area.”

A public consultation, including a public event at the Strathblane Village Club took place in 2016. The proposals were presented to the panel as the application was classed as a ‘Major’ development as defined in the Town and Country Planning (Hierarchy of Development) (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

McLaren packaging invests £3m in construction of luxury packaging facility in Stirling

Blue box production factory

Blue box production factory, Stirlng

Port Glasgow-based drinks industry supplier McLaren Packaging has invested £3 million in the construction of a new facility in Stirling for subsidiary Blue Box Design, the specialist designer and manufacturer of bespoke presentation boxes for the UK food, drink and luxury sectors.

Works started earlier this month at the new 20,000 sq ft manufacturing, design and testing centre on a greenfield site at Broadleys Business Park and is scheduled for completion in April 2018.

The investment, which has received Regional Selective Assistance through Scottish Enterprise, will create an additional 18 jobs over a four-year period, comprising a combination of shop floor operators and office-based staff. The site and building have been ‘future-proofed’ to enable the subsequent extension into two additional modules; doubling, then tripling the initial floorspace.

Blue Box Design, which currently operates from 8,000 sq ft premises in Stirling, was acquired by McLaren Packaging in 2013 and has grown to employ 30 staff with annual revenues of £1.4m.

Donald McLaren, Michael McLaren and Duncan Robertson

Donald McLaren, Michael McLaren and Duncan Robertson

Blue Box Design managing director Duncan Robertson, said: “This new facility will greatly improve ‘speed to market’ for our customers by reducing the packaging development cycle time from concept to delivery, thereby delivering production efficiencies and cost savings.

“It will expand our production capacity significantly, enable us to retain highly skilled staff and create new skilled jobs in Central Scotland for young people through the creation of a design and new product development centre of excellence for the luxury packaging sector.

“We see tremendous long-term value in a facility centrally-located within Scotland, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, close to the major operations of the whisky and food industries.”

Donald McLaren, managing director, McLaren Packaging, said: “The investment in Blue Box Design’s new-build unit demonstrates the importance of our Stirling operation and our long-term commitment to the future of luxury rigid boxes within our product portfolio. Our overall aim is to increase McLaren Packaging’s turnover to £20 million by 2020 and this facility will make a strong contribution to achieving that goal.

“We foresee significant growth in demand for luxury hand-finished boxes and this expansion will allow us to offer a comprehensive portfolio of high-end presentation boxes to the market. There is significant client interest for increasingly elaborate and bespoke packaging and this venture will enable us to deliver on this opportunity. We are proud to be a wholly independent Scottish manufacturer providing high quality products to both global and local clients.”

Rhona Allison, director of company growth at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Demand for Scottish food, drink and other premium produce is on the increase as international consumers develop an appreciation of the quality and provenance of products backed by the Scottish brand. It is great to see the impact this is having on the Scottish supply chain.

“McLaren Packaging is a good example of a company benefitting from the trend towards luxury and premium Scottish produce and it is fantastic to be able to support this ambitious company as it enters its next growth phase.

“This funding will help the company expand its footprint in Stirling and provide a welcome increase in jobs. We look forward to continuing to work with the team at McLaren Packaging as it pursues its ambitious growth plans.”

The investment in the new facility follows an investment last year by McLaren Packaging of £350,000 in Blue Box Design’s current site to increase production with the installation of a semi-automatic box-wrapping machine, digital cutting machines, construction of a mezzanine floor to increase storage and an LED lighting system to ensure items can be fully inspected to preserve the highest quality standards.

The new facility will meet the most stringent of design and build requirements and incorporate a number of environmentally friendly features, including PV solar, electric car charging points and high insulation levels.

Empiric to sell Stirling student accommodation development site

Empiric Student PropertyStudent accommodation operator Empiric Student Property has exchanged contracts to sell the freehold of the Forthside Way site in Stirling for £2 million excluding costs.

The site has detailed planning permission for a 208 bed student accommodation development, which was granted on appeal in October 2016.

Empiric, which bought the 0.75-acre site in August 2015, said the disposal is expected to complete on November 27.

Paul Hadaway, chief executive of Empiric Student Property, said: “The sale of Forthside Way site follows an operational review.  Whilst we will continue to identify opportunities for the development of premium Purpose Built Student Accommodation, our current focus is on building critical mass in our target cities.

“The Forthside Way site was our only asset in Stirling. The Property has been sold with the benefit of the planning approval obtained by the Group, which has resulted in a substantial uplift in value above the original acquisition price.”