Welcome to Bidwells' Winter Newsletter
As a business we celebrated our 30th Anniversary in Scotland earlier this year. As many of you will know we are very proud of our Scottish business but we also take great pride in being part of the wider Bidwells family with its long and illustrious history stretching back almost 180 years. We are now almost 60 strong in Scotland, servicing clients the length and breadth of the country from our four locations.
It has been a stormy summer on almost every front and the world feels a very uncertain place. It certainly looks like the long period of low interest and freely available credit may be drawing to a close following the recent rate rise and the Brexit negotiations look as though they will enter a long period of claim and counter-claim. None of this is good for business and the rural economy will suffer from the added burden of lack of clarity surrounding support mechanisms.
Ambiguous legislation such as the resurrected Sporting Rates has been introduced as part of the ongoing tide of land reform. Together with changes to property purchase taxes and tenancy agreements, we stand on shifting sands.
Never has there been a more appropriate time to ensure your business is in good shape and prepared for the challenges ahead.
I hope you enjoy reading the latest news from Scotland and that you find the articles both interesting and stimulating. Should you wish to discuss further any matter surrounding your business or interests then please do not hesitate to contact us.
I wish all our clients, fellow professionals and friends a very peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Finlay Clark, Head of Scotland
buoyant rural market - but at the right price
The appeal of rural properties in need of TLC has been very apparent in 2017 with buyers keen on houses which require a degree of renovation or present an opportunity to extend and develop.
Since the start of the year we have marketed a number of properties within rural locations, many of which have exceeded their asking price.
Potential purchasers have been looking for a project - somewhere they can develop, renovate, modernise or even extend and especially popular are detached properties with outbuildings, particularly if there is additional ground or the potential to purchase land for an equestrian purpose.
Countryside family homes with easy access and within commuting distance of schools are in demand but buyers are looking for sensibly priced offerings to whet their appetite.
Perceived savings on the purchase price are encouraging potential buyers to utilise funds to improve or extend a cheaper property, rather than buying something more expensive and being hit by a large Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) bill. LBTT is a progressive tax which is applied to property transactions. Under the value of £333,000, LBTT attracts less tax than under the old Stamp Duty Land Tax system, whereas properties sold in excess of this price incur a higher tax payment than under the old regime..
In rural property hotspots buyers will still take their time searching for the right property. This means that when something does become available they tend to be snapped up quickly. Purchasers have a clear idea in their minds of what they are looking forand appear willing to wait for the right property.
In essence, there is a strong market for that rural idyll but only at the right price and preferably something which buyers can put their stamp on.
Contact: Rebecca Boswell, Senior Rural Surveyor
kathryn plans success
Kathryn Donnelly, a member of the planning team in Scotland, has become a Chartered Town Planner, the ultimate qualification for the profession awarded exclusively by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). The Institute sets high standards for planning education and is the only body in the UK that accredits Chartered Town Planners.
Contact: Kathryn Donnelley, Planner
ADVISING HOLYROOD ON NEW FORESTRY LEGISLATION
Andrew Robertson, head of our Aberdeen office, was recently invited to meet MSPs at Holyrood to discuss the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill and to provide insight into the implications of aspects of the Bill relating to the extension of compulsory purchase powers.
Existing legislation provides Scottish Ministers with powers to acquire land for afforestation and related purposes. The Bill would extend these rights to cover sustainable development and would also allow Ministers to delegate management of such land to third parties. It is not yet clear in what circumstances such powers might be used but there are potentially wide-ranging consequences for both communities and landowners and we will keep clients informed of developments.
Contact: Andrew Robertson, Partner
breakfast with the first minister
We were delighted to host First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at our Royal Highland Show breakfast seminar held in conjunction with law firm Shepherd and Wedderburn.
The event explored the constitutional and economic rural landscape against a backdrop of Brexit and the increasingly unstable political landscape in which the sector is operating.
One year on from the Brexit vote, Ms Sturgeon took the opportunity to address the audience of landowners, farmers, rural professionals and organisations at what was one of the most highly anticipated events at this year’s Show. Accompanied by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing, Ms Sturgeon said:
“EU workers are vital indeed to almost every part of the farming industry. And Scotland, more generally, has benefited from freedom of movement.”
This is because, as Ms Sturgeon also commented, Scotland’s economy is dependent on the rural sector. She stressed that it is vital to provide a longer-term commitment to farming in Scotland and that the Scottish Government would focus on giving farmers its full support.
Addressing how Scotland plans to move forward, the First Minister reminded the audience that once the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill comes into force in December, then forestry will be fully devolved to Scotland, something she hopes can be said of the entire rural sector post-Brexit.
In his presentation, Bidwells forestry lead, Raymond Henderson, praised the Scottish Government for its commitment to increase tree planting and the confidence which had been injected into the sector by Fergus Ewing. However, he observed work was still ongoing to meet targets and outlined the opportunities currently available to those interested in planting or buying established forestry.
Contact: Raymond Henderson, Partner
protecting landowners' interests along moray cable route
Bidwells’ Aberdeen office has successfully represented a large proportion of landowners affected by the proposals for the Moray Offshore Windfarm East - part of a 1.1 GW windfarm development in the Moray Firth.
The onshore cable route extends over 30km from Inverboyndie to a new substation at New Deer and most of the agreements are for servitude rights for electricity export cables. Individual terms for additional structures required for the cable landfall have also been negotiated along with a more extensive option for a substation.
Working with our clients’ solicitors we have concluded agreements which safeguard their long-term interests and provide clients with an attractive financial return. A detailed Code of Practice has been established to ensure that disturbance from construction is minimised and that the land is left in good condition.
We look forward to working with our clients as the project moves into the construction phase when we shall be available to advise on any problems which may arise and assess compensation.
Contact: Andrew Robertson, Partner
As part of the ongoing land reform agenda, the Scottish Government is reintroducing sporting rates and the results of the detailed data supplied by farmers, estates and professional advisers to their local Assessor are now with us in the form of Valuation Notices.
Although these notices have only just been issued (at the time of writing), rates levied on sporting properties are payable with effect from 1 April 2017 and some local authorities have already issued their invoices.
Landowners who exercise their sporting rights will (reasonably) be disappointed to receive an invoice for an enterprise which is, at best, economically marginal and quite possibly loss-making. Those who do not exercise sporting rights across their land will also be aggrieved to pay rates for rights to which they attach no value. Accordingly, farmers and landowners are now considering whether they should appeal their rating assessments. The situation is somewhat confused by the opportunity for relief through the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS) which provides 100% relief where the combined rateable value of all properties operated by each business is below £15,000. This may provide an immediate solution for some businesses, but not all. There is also the danger that the reliefs will be reduced over time. Therefore, anyone with a sporting rates notice should consider whether the figure can be challenged.
The Scottish Assessors Association (SAA) provides the regional Assessors with guidance on valuation. In the case of sporting rights, the SAA has concluded that where there is an absence of local market evidence, the use of a rate per hectare for different land types is likely to be most appropriate (see table above, which is subject to allowances for quantum). This broad brush methodology does not fully reflect the requirements of the law which states that the Rateable Value is equivalent to the amount of rent that the property might reasonably be expected to achieve on the open market under a set of assumptions (similar to a “Full Repairing and Insuring” lease). In other words, were the whole of the sporting rights offered for let on the open market at the ‘Tone Date’ (1 April 2015), what rent would be offered?
In terms of appeals, businesses should consider whether market transactions for sporting rights suggest a lower value, if the area calculations are correct and whether the land is “severely restricted”.
Appeals can be made any time within six months of the date of the notice. However, rates will require to be paid as soon as the invoice arrives from the local authority. We would urge all clients to have their notice reviewed by a specialist adviser and take advice on whether an appeal should be submitted. Businesses should also complete an application for rates relief, if appropriate, as soon as possible.
screening success for longannet demolition
Two years ago, the then Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd unveiled plans to close all British coal-fired power stations by 2025 as part of a plan to reduce the country’s carbon emissions.
Longannet power station, near Kincardine on the Firth of Forth closed in March last year after 46 years in operation. It was once the largest in Europe and its closure marked the end of coal powered electricity production in Scotland.
On behalf of Brown and Mason Limited (BAM), a demolition contractor with experience of demolishing more than 50 power stations, Bidwells’ Senior Planning Associate Corinne MacDougall has successfully screened-out the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for demolition of the site.
The Screening Report was prepared by Bidwells, environmental consultants Ramboll and legal advisers Shepherd & Wedderburn to satisfy the requirements of regulation 8 of the Town and Country Planning (EIA) (Scotland) Regulations 2017.
Based on the nature, scale and location of the site, Fife Council considered the proposed demolition is unlikely to cause significant environmental harm or complex impacts which would require assessment through an EIA. The impacts identified in the Screening Report were considered to be adequately mitigated by the measures proposed.
This is the second power station demolition project for which Corinne has successfully screened-out the need for an EIA, the first being for Inverkip power station in South Ayrshire.
For Longannet, the decommissioning and demolition process is expected to take a number of years but plans are already underway for revitalising and redeveloping the area.
Contact: Corinne MacDougall, Senior Associate, Planning
caithness cabling - a lengthy lesson
£1bn infrastructure project to export power produced in Caithness throughout the rest of Scotland. While the majority of this spans the sea floor, approximately 30km of underground cable transects Caithness.
Bidwells has been acting for over 15 affected landowners along the length of the line, representing nearly half of the total landward development in Caithness. One of our clients, Sandy Douglas, a livestock
farmer, discusses some of his experiences during the construction of this project
“Initially this work seemed straightforward, a trench was to be dug and cables laid in a seven-month period but, in practice, the works dragged on for over two years and has had a major impact on the daily operation of my business.”The scope of the work also changed dramatically to include a semi-permanent haul road; this led to issues with field access and soil contamination.
“Throughout the works we were often dealing with contractors and sub-contractors, rather than SSE directly,” continues Mr Douglas. “Often, the contractors would carry out works without authorisation or direction from the principal contractor; this caused problems with placement of temporary fences and connection of field drains.”
Two years on, the works are finally concluding, however, there are still several reinstatement issues to be addressed. Bidwells engaged with both contractors and the developer to mitigate the significant impacts of the construction and has compiled compensation claims on behalf of our clients, allowing them to continue with business as usual as far as possible.
“Bidwells were a great help. Having an agent to deal with the contractors and developer freed up my time to get on with farming.” says Mr Douglas.
“I would advise landowners not to go in blind with these works, there are many impacts and pitfalls to look out for and having an experienced agent on hand can be a great advantage.”
Contact: Peter Baker, Rural Surveyor
grad to meet you
Rory Hill joined our Energy & Renewables team as a graduate in May of this year and here tells us about his Bidwells journey so far . . .
Why did you choose Bidwells as an employer?
Bidwells takes renewables seriously, by having a team dedicated to energy and renewables. This is the sector I particularly want to work in so I was fortunate to be able to find a position which allowed me to train directly as part of their specialist team.
What is your specific role?
My role as a Graduate Energy & Renewables Consultant is to explore new and emerging markets in Scotland, such as energy storage and solar farm development. Before joining Bidwells I worked for a solar farm developer, which gave me great experience for this job.
What are the biggest challenges facing the energy and renewables sector in the UK at present?
It must be the reduction and withdrawal of government subsidy and the subsequent impact this has had on the economic viability of projects, compounded by low energy prices. This affected the number of solar projects in development but now we are beginning to see renewed interest in solar schemes - the UK’s first subsidy-free site was commissioned at the end of September and several developers are pursuing new sites in Scotland. Falling construction costs have played a major part in improving the economics, although recovery has been slow, not helped by the weak pound, as many components are traded in foreign currencies.
What are the most exciting developments in energy and renewables over the past few years?
For me, it was when Ofgem recently confirmed that an existing solar farm with battery storage added at a later date could retain the level of subsidy it received before the batteries were added. Hopefully, this will set a precedent for retro-fitting storage on existing projects and help to deliver a steadier supply of renewable power to the energy market.
What is the most interesting project you are working on at the moment?
I am currently working on several battery storage and gas-peaking plant sites across Scotland. The potential sites include both rural and urban locations but the key requirement is proximity to a substation to allow connection to the grid. The technology is improving quickly and so storage has the potential to open up new and exciting opportunities for a wide range of landowners, including those who already have a scheme on their land, such as a wind farm.
What have you enjoyed most about your journey with Bidwells so far?
I am directly involved in solar projects, with support from the wider Energy & Renewables team. I am also enjoying the opportunity to work in a developing market for storage projects, and learning more about the
property requirements of these projects. It’s been an interesting first few months!
What are you looking forward to most from the Graduate Development Programme?
I have heard so many good things about the Programme from my colleagues who have been through the GDP already, and it has been great to meet others at the same stage as me. The programme has been developed to provide professional training for Grads from all sectors, including surveyors and planners, so hopefully I can also learn more about what they do as well as more about how Bidwells operates as a
How do you see your role developing within the firm?
I would like to build on my current role around solar and battery storage to include new and emerging technologies as they evolve. Technology within the sector is moving quickly and I hope to be able to introduce clients to relevant opportunities as they develop. Bidwells has been working in the wind sector since the first commercial wind farms were constructed and so I would like to be able to say the same about the projects I am working on in a few years’ time.
Contact: Rory Hill, Graduate Rural Surveyor
our commitment to putting, paddling and peddling for charity
At Bidwells we are committed to contributing to our wider community charitable initiatives, whether this is through donating our resources, individuals’ skills and talents or fundraising. In 2017, our Scotland-based colleagues have undertaken a wide variety of fundraising activities which have been both mentally and physically challenging.
Paddling through the Great Glen
Peter Baker, Surveyor in our Inverness office and Calum Hogg, Graduate Surveyor from Fort William, undertook the mammoth task of paddling the Great Glen between the Fort William and Inverness offices from coast-to-coast, west-to-east in aid of the Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) – in just 24 hours.
The Highland duo kayaked for an impressive 19 hours covering 82km including Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, as well as stretches of river and canal. Almost £1000 was raised for the charity which helps to provide vital hospice services for children and young people with life-shortening conditions.
The annual Bidwells’ Scotland Golf Day took place on Friday 18 August with over 40 clients and contacts enjoying a round at Pitlochry Golf Club. The winning Stableford team comprised Alan Chalmers, David Walker (Thomson Cooper CA), Graeme Buchanan (Weatherby’s Bank) and Alistair Hay (Faskally Caravan Park).
A charity raffle held on the day raised £545 for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS).
Bidwells Goldren Triangle Cycle Challenge
Andrew Wood, Partner and Susanna Thomson, Senior Rural Surveyor, based in Perth along with Clive Meikle, Partner in our Inverness office joined more than 330 Bidwells staff and clients south of the border for the Bidwells Golden Triangle Cycle Challenge in September.
The 100-mile bike ride through rolling English countryside was staged to raise funds for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) - an award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. The route took them through Oxford and Milton Keynes to Cambridge, where Bidwells’ head office is based, and raised £20,000 for the charity.
refreshed timber research available
Bidwells Timber Price Database is an informative report on standing values of conifer timber grown by the private sector in Scotland and Northern England between October 2016 and March 2017.
The database tracks private sector sales to plot trends within the industry providing a hugely useful insight.
Data provided by a wide range of contributors relates to some 97 transactions, totalling the equivalent of 658,000m2 of timber sites, with a standing value to the grower of almost £15.7 million.
The market for good quality timber is very strong at the moment. Uncertainties created by Brexit and the Trump effect have not been positive, but the significant weakening of Sterling has led to homegrown
timber becoming even better value when compared to its imported equivalent.
The value of this database is directly linked to the amount of data received from the forest industry and we hope that its publication will be found useful by a wide range of people and organisations.
The report can be found on our website or call 01738 480 530 if you would like to receive a copy. Planning is already underway for the next edition of the database with more clients participating in the research.
Contact: Raymond Henderson, Head of Forestry