Building Briefs – December 15th

Field Studies Centre redevelopment begins

from left to right: Councillor Marie Burns, Councillor Grace McLean, Councillor Alan Hill and Leader of the Council, Councillor Willie Gibson
from left to right: Councillor Marie Burns, Councillor Grace McLean, Councillor Alan Hill and Leader of the Council, Councillor Willie Gibson

A special chapter has been marked for the Field Studies Council (FSC) at its centre in Millport.

The first sod of turf was cut to mark the start of the multi-million pound redevelopment work at the popular outdoor learning educational centre.

Following investment from North Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise the centre will be transformed over the coming months to facilitate the expansion of the centre by the Field Studies Council.

The turf-cutting marked the start of Phase One with work expected to be finished by the middle of May.

A new accommodation building with 32 twin en-suite rooms, a 150 seat lecture theatre and teaching laboratory/teaching room will be built, while a car park and access roads will also be constructed.

Also included in the work will be an environmentally-friendly Biomass District Heating system, which will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the centre.

The total cost of Phase One will cost just over £3 million and North Ayrshire Council has invested almost £1.5m of it.


Glasgow Odeon cinema leisure centre plan

The former Odeon Cinema in Glasgow city centre could be transformed into a hotel, bar, restaurant and leisure complex.

Plans have been lodged with Glasgow City Council to convert the building which has been lying empty since 2006.

Over the past decade, proposals have been drawn up for a number schemes behind the well known art deco facade of the property but none have got off the ground. These included a retail and leisure development and office space.

The report says the main problems have been the configuration of the building and its location.

The reluctance of banks to lend has also had an impact on demand from developers.


Regulator appoints manager to address ‘serious weaknesses’ at Muirhouse

The Scottish Housing Regulator has used its statutory powers to appoint a manager to Muirhouse Housing Association after it identified a “serious and urgent risk” to its financial health.

The regulator, which has also made three statutory appointments to Muirhouse’s governing body, revealed on Friday that it had moved its engagement with Muirhouse to a high level in light of the serious governance and financial issues it is dealing with.

Muirhouse revealed that a significant proportion of its tenants’ homes will not be compliant with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) by 31 March 2015, something which the regulator said calls into question the completeness and accuracy of the returns which Muirhouse previously submitted. It also has financial implications for Muirhouse which have not yet been quantified.

The manager and appointees to the governing body are for a period of six months, though could be extended if necessary, and will be accountable to the regulator.


Turnover of social landlords grows by £40m

Turnover among Scottish social landlords has grown over 3 per cent to £1.3 billion in the last financial year, new financial statistics from the Scottish Housing Regulator has revealed.

Figures based on RSLs’ audited accounts for the year ended 31st March 2014 reveals that turnover had increased by 3.3 per cent to £1.32bn, up from £1.28bn last year.

Operating costs were £1.1bn, up from £1.05bn - giving an operating surplus of £200m.

Staff costs, at £403.7m remained the single largest expense, while total debt rose to £3.48bn from £3.31bn.

The individual balance sheet includes a more detailed breakdown of the creditors due within 1 year and the creditors due in more than 1 year.

The regulator said it will publish more detailed analysis and regulatory comment during 2015 as part of the annual review of the RSL sector’s 2013/14 financial position.


Scottish rent prices rise faster than rest of the UK

Rent prices in Scotland rose faster than anywhere else in the UK, even outstripping Greater London, a letting support agency has found.

Average monthly rents have risen by more than a tenth (11.7 per cent) in the last year, from £571 to £638, mainly due to a large 8.7 per cent jump between October and November, according to the HomeLet Rental Index.

Prices in Greater London increased by 11 per cent from £1,268 to £1,408.

HomeLet puts the rise down to Aberdeen’s thriving oil-driven rental sector and Scotland’s comparatively strong employment and economic figures.

Scotland is the sixth most expensive place to rent a home out of 12 UK regions surveyed, up from tenth in 2013. However, rents remain below the UK average of £874, or £702 once the booming Greater London market is excluded. Scottish growth contrasts with an annual drop in rents of 2.5 per cent and 3.6 per cent in neighbouring North East and North West England respectively.


South Ayrshire homes receive help to wrap up warm this winter

Residents in South Ayrshire will be able to wrap up extra warmly this winter, thanks to a partnership between South Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and energy company SSE Scottish Hydro.

A range of free energy efficiency measures have been made available to help homes which are hard to heat and rely on aging electric storage heaters, LPG or oil and have poor insulation.

The scheme will benefit homeowners and private tenants who are rural, off mains gas and in receipt of a qualifying benefit. Energy efficiency measures available under the scheme include new electric storage heaters, oil and LPG boilers as well as loft and cavity wall insulation.

The project is funded through the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS) and SSE Scottish Hydro’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and has already benefited many households across Scotland.


Multi-million-pound GP unit opens at Blairgowrie Community Hospital

The opening of a new multi-million-pound GP unit at Blairgowrie Community Hospital has been hailed as a “milestone” for local healthcare.

Patients have now moved in following the completion of an ambitious £2.36 million redevelopment project.

The hospital — established in 1901 — has undergone many changes over the years and NHS Tayside was determined to ensure that it continued to offer a “modern environment for patient care” into the future.

At the heart of the plan has been the creation of a new inpatient GP unit, which will support Blairgowrie, Alyth, Coupar Angus, Meigle and the surrounding communities.

The project has been heavily backed by the community, with the Friends of Blairgowrie Community Hospital donating £63,000 towards the building’s revamp.

Building work began on site in April to overhaul the hospital’s facilities, with the GP unit one of the top priorities.

It offers an upgraded GP ward facility, featuring both single and twin rooms, which are all en suite.


Revised closure plan for Dounreay

A revised closure plan for Dounreay has been revealed, with the site now proposed to close in 2029, rather than 2025.

The new timeframe is said to be as a result of changes in the way radioactive fuel is handled, as well as additional security.

The closure plan is said to include “significant” additional work, and this is to be factored into plans submitted to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The earlier programme for Dounreay’s closure was announced in 2012 when the NDA awarded a new contract to Cavendish Dounreay Partnership to complete the decommissioning of the site. This contract agreed that the inventory of fuel inherited by the Authority at Dounreay would remain in long-term storage at the site. However, changes have since been made and put in place by the UK government. After deciding to consolidate its fuel inventory at Sellafield, Dounreay was then required to draw up plans to repackage the fuel in readiness for its transportation to the Cumbria site.

The changes, as well as additional security requirements made since the initial contract was agreed, have now been factored into the timeframe for the site’s closure.

It will now close in 2029 – five years after the initial forecast.


East Ayrshire flood defence funding agreed

Funding has been agreed by East Ayrshire Council to develop flood defence plans for the Leggate area in New Cumnock.

The decision comes after residents were affected by flooding on a number of occasions throughout the year.

A total of £600,000 has been earmarked by the local authority to enable the full design and construction of protection measures at Leggate. It is understood design work will begin on the scheme immediately, with construction commencing once all the necessary permissions have been approved.

The scheme will help to protect properties in the immediate vicinity of Connel Burn. In addition, funding will also be set aside to allow for a design to be completed for homes affected by the River Nith during storm events. This work will allow for the necessary scheme to be delivered as soon as funding becomes available.


Queen Street Station consultation to end

A consultation period for a proposed redevelopment of Glasgow’s Queen Street Station area is to end later this month.

The deadline for feedback on the plans is 22 December.

The plans would see the station redeveloped as part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP). Providing a gateway to city from the north and east, the station is a key entry point for commuters, residents and visitors and serves the business, economic, retail and tourist sectors

Network Rail is applying for a Transport and Works Scotland (TAWS) order to acquire the necessary permissions to carry out the work at Queen Street. As part of this process, the organisation has been consulting with the relevant parties and the public to shape the development.

This is the second opportunity to comment on the proposal, following the first consultation period at the beginning of the year.

Once this period of consultation comes to an end, Network Rail will submit a TAWS order request in June 2015, with the hope of being awarded the powers in June 2016. From there, the station redevelopment would commence in January 2017 with a scheduled completion date of March 2019.


Key milestone reached on Aberdeen hotel development

A key construction milestone has been reached on a hotel development in Aberdeen.

The projects, by Dominvs Hospitality, is the Aberdeen Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza Hotel, are located on the site of Aberdeen airport.

A ‘topping out’ ceremony was recently held to mark the milestone, which signified the projects have reached their maximum height and structural frameworks are now complete.

The three-star Holiday Inn Express will feature 193 bedrooms, one meeting room and a 150-seat restaurant, while the four-star Crowne Plaza will feature 165 bedrooms, seven meeting rooms, two banqueting suites and a 220-seat restaurant.

Construction work started in March 2014, and the hotels are expected to open in June and September 2015, respectively.

Dominvs Hospitality’s professional team includes McAleer and Rushe as the design and build contractor, Dexter Moren Associates as interior designer and Urban Innovations as architect.


Go ahead for new £9m denominational school in Glasgow

Plans to construct a new £9 million denominational school in Bearsden have been given the go ahead by the Scottish Government.

The move means two primary schools in Bearsden and Milngavie will close.

The new £9m denominational school, located in Bearsden, will serve both of the above communities. The school which is expected to open in time for the school session of 2016/17, will see 445 primary pupils from St Andrew’s and St Joseph’s school benefit from the facility.

Earlier this year, in May, the local authority decided to move forward with plans to construct a new primary school and as required by legislation, notified the Scottish Government of its decision. The Government subsequently “called in” the decision in order to allow for more time to be given to discuss the proposed development.

The Scottish Government has now given its “unconditional consent” to the plans.


Barclays backs GAP’s move into vehicle hire

GAP Group has received £6 million of bank funding to launch its new vehicle hire business.

The Glasgow plant and equipment hire specialist said it secured backing from Barclays to start the new venture as well as complete the acquisition of Central Vehicle Rental.

That deal, identified by bankers at Barclays, allowed GAP to directly enter the market with a fleet of 1,000 vehicles.

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