Building Briefs – November 13th

Kirkintilloch Masterplan presses on

20140826_152549Far-reaching proposals to breathe new life into Kirkintilloch town centre are continuing, but the support of the local community is required to ensure the long-term success of the Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan, the council has said.

The Masterplan is a vital framework helping to guide and shape the future of the area, which East Dunbartonshire Council has been working on since 2011 - with the support of the public and a range of partners - and has helped to realise a number of goals, including:

* The creation of a public square at Barleybank - including new seating, decking overlooking the canal, a stepped area and work on the tow-path. The £300,000 project was funded in association with Sustrans. Barleybank car park has also been improved and access created from New Lairdsland Road.

* A £190,000 project to create new steps, paths and handrails, and improve landscaping and lighting between Eastside and Cowgate in Kirkintilloch

* Improvements to pavements, junctions and parking in Townhead

* The refurbishment of canopies along one side of Cowgate

* Work in David Donnelly Place and Broadcroft to widen pavements, carry out resurfacing and improve landscaping

* Improved parking behind William Patrick Library and Tantra.

Meanwhile, work remains underway to rejuvenate Kirkintilloch Town Hall - transforming it into a multi-purpose centre for arts, culture and community.

Funding has been secured for Masterplan projects via a variety of national and local sources, involving partners such as Sustrans, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Support has also come from the council’s capital programme - which is funded differently and completely separate from the revenue budget, which pays for day-to-day services and is experiencing huge pressures.

For more information about the visions and aims of the Masterplan - click here.


Two thirds of Scottish SMEs looking overseas for growth

More than two thirds of Scottish SMEs are looking to capitalise on export opportunities, according to research released today by KPMG and YouGov.

The survey of 121 SMEs in Scotland revealed 69 per cent of businesses are actively working to expand their overseas operations but expect to face a number of challenges in the process.

One in five (19 per cent) cite poor understanding of the legal requirements for export as a major barrier and a further 17 per cent see a lack of funding as the main challenge to trading abroad.


Aldi to spend £109m on new build construction over next year

Retailer Aldi is investing over £109 million across the next 12 months, constructing new build stores and the development of a state-of-the-art distribution centre.

Data from Barbour ABI highlights that 33 new stores should start construction within the next 12 months, 16 of which already have planning permission. This will take Aldi’s investment to over £84m, alongside a £25m distribution centre in Cardiff, which begins construction in the second quarter of 2015 and will create an estimated 400 jobs alone.

This coincides with a £62m investment for 31 new stores that have already begun construction so far in 2014.


Green MSP secures energy efficient homes agreement

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, has secured agreement from finance secretary John Swinney that energy efficient homes should be a national infrastructure priority.

Yesterday Ms Johnstone questioned the minister in committee, pointing out that retrofitting existing housing stock could create up to 9,000 jobs.

WWF Scotland and Energy Action Scotland have said that the Scottish Government’s proposed budget for 2015-16 does little to reduce fuel poverty.


Arnhall development takes step closer towards fruition

The next phase of development at an expanding Aberdeenshire industrial estate is one step closer to fruition.

Planning permission in principle was granted for work to begin on phase three of Westhill’s Arnhall Industrial estate by Aberdeenshire Council’s Garioch Area Committee earlier this week.

The next stage in the site’s development will involve a triangular space of land between the A944 Aberdeen to Alford road, Prospect Road and the B9119 Westhill to Tarland road.

The development has only been approved on the grounds that the local community work with the developers to redesign the proposed A944-facing grey facades on three of the planned industrial units.

Ten industrial buildings, each comprising of workshops, offices, yards and car parks, are set to be built by Knight Property Group.


UK projects make KPMG’s Infrastructure 100 World Markets report

Hinkley Point C, the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy, HS2 and the rebuilding of 261 schools across the UK feature in KPMG International’s latest Infrastructure 100: World Markets Report.

It identifies 100 of the world’s most innovative and impactful infrastructure projects – as judged by a panel of global independent experts - and highlights key trends driving infrastructure investment.

The 100 global projects demonstrate that with the right investment and project planning, infrastructure can be transformational, changing the face of nations and driving economic growth.


Council helps owners with home repairs and maintenance

North Lanarkshire Council has changed its Scheme of Assistance to encourage more home owners to take advantage of help and assistance available for repairs and maintenance to their homes.

One of the key areas of the scheme’s focus is encouraging owner and landlord participation in communal repair and improvement programmes, often led by the council or housing associations.

Changes being introduced include providing 75 per cent grants for owner occupiers receiving income based benefit, changes to the grant threshold and offering grants for door entry works in flatted blocks.


Former Aberdeen department store could become new hotel

A historic Aberdeen building is poised to be converted into a hotel under fresh plans which have been submitted to the city council.

The proposals would mean part of the former Esslemont and Macintosh (E&M) department store building on Union Street would reopen as a 98-bedroom hotel. Developers have also applied for listed building consent to allow them to carry out work on the granite structure.

The proposals have been revived after a previous application from C&L Properties was granted planning permission in 2008.

This latest application is for a five-storey hotel with a restaurant on the ground floor. In addition, the existing concrete extension to Broad Street would be removed and replaced with a four-storey, glass extension. A new three-storey link would also be built in place of the current link bridge between the east and west building.


Mixed trends in private rent levels across Scotland

There have been mixed trends in private sector rent levels across the country, with most average rents changing below the rate of inflation from 2010 to 2014.

The notable exceptions are for Aberdeen & Shire, where average rents for all property sizes have increased well above inflation, and for Lothian where increases for 1, 2 and 3 bedroom properties have been above inflation.

For 2 bedroom properties, the Aberdeen and Shire area of the country has seen the highest increase in private rents from 2010 to 2014, with a 39.8 per cent cumulative increase in average monthly rents over the four years.

Average rents for two-bedroom properties in the Lothian area have risen by 17.2 per cent over the four years from 2010 to 2014, whilst rents in Greater Glasgow have increased by 11.1 per cent and rents in Fife have risen by 9.8 per cent.

For the remaining areas of Scotland, increases over the last 4 years have ranged from 5.7 per cent in Highlands and Islands to 0.6 per cent in the Scottish Borders. In addition, three areas of the country have seen decreases in average rents from 2010 to 2014 - Ayrshire (0.8 per cent fall), Argyll and Bute (1.5 per cent fall), and West Dunbartonshire (2.7 per cent fall).

For the year to end-September 2014, Aberdeen and Shire had the highest average monthly rents for 2 bedroom properties across Scotland (£898).

Other areas with higher rents included Lothian (£779), Greater Glasgow (£626), and East Dunbartonshire (£604). Areas with the lowest average rents for 2 bedroom properties included North Lanarkshire (£464), Ayrshires (£461), Scottish Borders (£444), and Dumfries and Galloway (£442).

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