Building Briefs – March 13th

Crest NicholsonCrest Nicholson’s tax avoidance scheme exposed

A tax tribunal has ruled against a Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) avoidance scheme used by UK housebuilder Crest Nicholson meaning it will have to pay the £1.3 million it owes.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) challenged the artificial and complex arrangements made by the FTSE 250-listed company to avoid paying SDLT on three purchases of development land near Rochester in Kent for a total of more than £32m.

The avoidance scheme tried to use the transfer of property between two sub-companies to avoid SDLT.

The First-tier Tribunal decision is likely to have an impact on more than 700 other cases, potentially protecting £65m of taxpayers’ money.

Crest Nicholson argued that HMRC didn’t have a legal right to make assessments of the tax due because it was out of time to do so, and that it had not carried out its assessments properly.

The judge disagreed with these arguments and found HMRC had acted correctly throughout.

The judgment reflects HMRC’s tribunal victory in the Vardy case (2012), when it challenged a similar SDLT avoidance scheme based on complex sub-sale arrangements.


Engineering contractors agree £5bn merger

Two of Britain’s biggest energy contractors, Amec Foster Wheeler and John Wood Group, are joining forces.

The board of Amec Foster Wheeler has approved an all-share takeover approach from John Wood.

The transaction will result in Amec Foster Wheeler shareholders owning approximately 44% of the share capital of the combined group and John Wood shareholders having 56%.

Wood directors reckon they can make sustainable cost synergies of at least £110m a year through the merger after it beds in.


New works for A737 Dalry Bypass

The site of the A737 Dalry Bypass is set to change significantly from Monday 20 March when workers will start to place fencing around the site to separate it from neighbouring land.

The 380,000 square metre site requires over 12km of timber and wire stockproof fencing around 1.5 metres in height to prevent livestock from entering the construction site.

These works, which will take around 14 weeks to complete, also involve workers clearing the site of vegetation, including shrubs and hedging.

Archaeologists have already been working on the site since early February to investigate whether any Scottish historical artefacts are located on the site.


Scottish Renewables chief executive to step down

Scottish Renewables chief executive, Niall Stuart, is to step down from his position.

Mr Stuart, who has been in the position since September 2009, will leave the post this August to set up his own consultancy focused on strategic communications, policy development and regulatory affairs.


Lowood Bridge weight limit ahead of repair and strengthening works

Lowood Bridge
Lowood Bridge

A temporary weight limit will be placed on the Lowood Bridge in the Scottish Borders ahead of repair works planned for later this year.

The 26 tonne weight limit – which will only affect the heaviest vehicles – will be imposed during the week commencing Monday 20 March on the 250-year-old Grade B listed structure.

The weight limit is a precautionary measure designed to reduce the stresses on the bridge while preparations for the repair works are undertaken.

An inspection of the bridge last year revealed some deterioration which requires the repair and strengthening works.

Temporary signs will be in place to advise affected drivers of the limit and of the alternative route via the A6091, A7 through Galashiels and B6374.

It is currently expected that the repair and strengthening works will take place during late summer/autumn 2017.

The works are part of a number of major repairs to bridges taking place in 2017/18. The £2 million programme of works include Clackmae Bridge near Earlston, Bowanhill Bridge near Teviothead and Bowden Church Bridge.

An additional £385,000 will also be spent in 2018/19 to complete the Lowood Bridge repairs.


Argyll and Bute secures trio of regeneration grant awards

Three projects across Argyll and Bute will benefit from almost £3 million of Scottish Government funding – aimed at regenerating economically fragile rural areas and involving local communities.

The projects in Oban, Ardrishaig and Mull have been awarded funding from the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF) which supports projects in disadvantaged areas.

The council has been awarded £700,000 towards construction work on its ambitious Oban Maritime Quarter transit berthing facility. The North Pier project forms part of the £3m CHORD town centre investment and will make it easier for marine visitors to come to Oban who arrive by cruise ship, kayak, commercial vessel or yacht. It will create an access point for people with all abilities, 36 finger-berth pontoons and a concrete floating breakwater as well as an associated maritime visitor facility to include harbour offices, showers, toilets, changing areas and secure lockers.

£580,000 has been awarded to the project aimed at regenerating the Ardrishaig Waterfront and Maritime Hub. This will support the development of the former Gleaner Oil depot, an important waterfront site in the heart of Ardrishaig identified as a key location for regeneration through Rethink the Link, the community charrette held in 2016. The first phase of work will deliver new and refurbished buildings suitable for arts and craft and food and drink businesses.

£1.6m funding has been awarded which will allow Mull and Iona Community Trust to progress its proposal to build the Tobermory Light Industrial Park on Mull – a 0.8 hectare purpose built flexible industrial park incorporating storage space and business development sites for up to 15 new or expanding businesses.


Lovell promotes investment in training during Scottish Apprenticeship Week

Lovell apprentices - generic imageDuring Scottish Apprenticeship Week (6 to 10 March), partnership housing developer Lovell has underlined its commitment to investment in apprenticeship training.

The company’s ongoing support for apprentice training will help meet the Scottish Government’s recently announced target of 27,000 apprenticeship starts this year.

Lovell has helped create a significant number of training opportunities through its work in West Lothian where it is delivering a major housebuilding programme for West Lothian Council.

The scheme has created a total of 17 new apprenticeships – with apprentices working for Lovell or its subcontractor partners - as well as providing training for 28 existing apprentices.

Lovell plans to announce further apprentice vacancies in Scotland this summer.


Argyll and Bute schools projects shortlisted for prestigious Partnership Awards

Argyll and Bute Council’s Schools Redevelopment Project has been shortlisted for two awards in the 2017 Partnership Awards – which recognise international excellence in Public, Private Partnership.

The Oban High and Campbeltown Grammar Schools Project has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Procurer of the Year and Best Education Project categories.

The new £36 million Oban High School Oban and the £26m Campbeltown Grammar School projects represent a hugely significant investment in the young people of the area, providing the most modern facilities – which the whole community can make use of – and supporting the council’s ambition to make Argyll and Bute a place people choose to live, learn, work and do business.

In addition, the council’s Special Projects Team - which oversees the Non Profit Distributing Organisation schools project - has been shortlisted as a Best Operational Project finalist. This category recognises the effective management of the project and the close working with the project partners to deliver first class facilities.

Now in its 19th year, the Partnerships Awards is the largest event recognising and rewarding the best in Public, Private Partnership and are open to projects and companies around the globe.

The awards will be presented at a prestigious ceremony on 11 May 2017.


Developer seeks funding support for Campbeltown spaceport

Discover Space UK (DSUK) has applied for funding support to help develop a new spaceport in Campbeltown.

DSUK is seeking £40,000 from Argyll and Bute Council to develop a business plan to support the development.

If approved, the funding would be awarded from the council’s Inward Investment Fund.

DSUK is planning to develop the facility on the former airbase site in Machrihanish. Advantages of the site include a 3km runway, it is situated well away from major centres of population and congested airspace, and has open sea to the west and space for expansion.


BAM graduates pool together to help charity

SwimathonFive graduates from BAM Construction recently made waves by taking part in a Swim-a-thon to raise money for CLIC Sargent.

Each year BAM challenges its graduates to consider a project which would “Enhance Lives” in some way and this year’s team decided to take on a swim-a-thon despite being novice swimmers.

The event was held in the Michael Woods Sports & Leisure Centre in Glenrothes and each team member had to swim 2k, 80 lengths of the pool, to make up a total distance of 10k.

To-date the team has raised £1,830 for CLIC Sargent which is BAM’s supported charity.

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