News from Scotland, Summer 2017
Welcome to the Summer 2017 issue of Bidwells' Newsletter for Scotland
Welcome to Bidwells' Summer Newsletter
Back in 2001, just before joining Bidwells, I spent a couple of months in New Zealand. Whenever the chance arose I asked farmers about their businesses and life post-subsidy. New Zealand cut subsidies overnight in the mid 1980’s albeit capital grants still exist for infrastructure projects, mainly irrigation.
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to meet a number of young farmers who had visited New Zealand. They had been part-funded by The Cameron Travel Scholarship Trust and were making a presentation to Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing and The Cameron Travel Scholarship Trustees.
I was struck by how the group had been inspired by the agricultural opportunities available in New Zealand. There is no doubt our cousins from the land of the long white cloud enjoy climatic benefits which reduce reliance on fixed equipment and feeding. As important is the availability of land and the ease with which people can move in and out of farming and change farming systems quickly. New Zealand farming and land has not become strangled by the influences that make farming and the availability of land in Scotland so much more difficult.
I cannot help but think of the analogy thrown up by the other great event taking place in early June, the first Lions test versus the All Blacks. A classic battle between structure and set piece versus agility, speed of thought, action and endeavour. If farming in Scotland is to be well-placed post Brexit and possibly without subsidy, then Scottish farming0 needs to become like the All Blacks.
I do hope you enjoy our Newsletter and we look forward to seeing you at various events throughout the summer.
Finlay Clark, Head of Scotland
NEGOTIATING THE POWER SURGE
Growth of the onshore wind industry has changed the Caithness landscape significantly in recent years; most obviously by the turbines themselves but also by the associated electricity infrastructure required to export the energy to the rest of the country.
Transmission of ever-increasing volumes of power has required major investment by the electricity authorities and this has come in the form of new power lines, substations and enhancements to existing lines to improve network capacity.
This increase in activity has resulted in our Inverness office becoming involved in a number of different projects in Caithness including the installation of some 30km of high voltage underground cable.
Many landowners who were affected by this project engaged directly with the developer, signing wayleaves on the understanding that it was a straightforward matter which would last approximately six weeks. However, some two to three years later at the start of the works, the project may have transformed into a protracted and complex affair with the scope of the works changing significantly. Issues on the ground included trenches being left open for months longer than planned and water being pumped from the trenches onto surrounding land (outwith the wayleave corridor) without permission, as well as concerns with the installation of fences, access and water troughs.
Given the difficulties experienced, we were engaged by many landowners to act on their behalf in negotiations with the developer and their contractors. We used ur knowledge and experience to mitigate further impacts on our clients’ businesses and negotiate the appropriate levels of compensation for disturbance (often in excess of what was originally offered).
Large scale infrastructure projects typically evolve as site and ground conditions necessitate, often changing significantly from initial plans. There is always pressure on contractors to deliver projects on time and to even tighter budgets and we believe it is therefore key that landowners seek professional advice from an early stage in their negotiations.
By Peter Baker, Rural Surveyor, and Rod Andean, Senior Rural Surveyor
STANLEY DEVELOPMENT GETS UNDERWAY
After many years of working on the strategic development of the village of Stanley in Perthshire on behalf of one of our major landholding clients, we are delighted to see the first phase of house construction begin.
The protracted process involved Bidwells making representations and applications through the Local Plan process and ongoing negotiation with the community and Perth & Kinross Council. Stanley village has an active Community Council and a forward-looking Development Trust - both of which were involved in the early stages of the consultation process in advance of any planning application.
Having tendered the sites to house builders for a development option, our clients subsequently entered into an arrangement with Muir Homes Limited. In working collaboratively with Muir Homes, successful detailed planning applications were made to Perth & Kinross Council. The first phase of house construction for this significant project is underway and the site is proving popular, with a large proportion of the first phase already sold or reserved.
INAUGURAL CONFERENCE HITS THE MART
Bidwells partnered Clydesdale Bank and Campbell Dallas accountants to deliver the inaugural Aberdeenshire Rural Conference on Wednesday, April 26 at Thainstone Mart, Inverurie.
The encouraging turnout of local farmers, landowners and professionals listened to informative and useful presentations on the economic climate and lending, forestry, land values and planning, company ownership and renewables.
We were encouraged by the positive feedback from delegates and hope to establish the event as a regular date on the Aberdeenshire rural business calendar.
TALKING GREEN AT SHREC
Clive Meikle, head of our Inverness office, was one of the key industry stakeholders to speak at the Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference (SHREC) on Tuesday, April 25. His presentation focused on planning for taller turbines in the Highlands and Islands and maximising existing infrastructure.
The strengths of the Highlands and Islands renewable energy industry are central to the Scottish Government’s strategy to meet future energy needs and Bidwells’ renewables and energy experts continue to advise on opportunities available to landowners, occupiers and developers.
RHS BREAKFAST BRIEFING
We are delighted to once again be partnering Shepherd and Wedderburn to present a breakfast briefing on Friday, June 23 at the Royal Highland Show.
With the current political maelstrom casting uncertainty over the Scottish rural sector, this is a well-timed event to shed some light on the potential constitutional and economic revolution coming our way.
Fergus Ewing MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity will deliver the keynote speech, followed by political commentator and strategist Peter Duncan, Bidwells’ Raymond Henderson and Shepherd and Wedderburn’s Peter Misselbrook. The welcome will be given by the President of the RHASS, Lord Aberdeen.
A NEW APPOINTMENT
Alan Chalmers joined the firm as Head of Client Accounting Services, Scotland in February this year. Alan comes to Bidwells having previously held senior positions within the banking and agri-business sectors and will be managing the team responsible for providing accounting support to clients across all sectors of our business.
FOR PEAT'S SAKE
According to SNH figures, more than 20% of Scotland is covered in peat with Scotland holding around 60% of the UK’s peatland soils. With over three-quarters of Scottish peatlands being deemed in degraded condition, recent years have seen a growing interest in peatland restoration to achieve three key aims:
- manage vegetation more effectively to restore sites and their conservation features to favourable condition
- restore peat forming vegetation
- manage water (influencing peat wetness and water quality, runoff volume and timing)
All three objectives are high on the public and policy agendas. There are significant gains for the Scottish Government from improving peatland as it remains under pressure from the EU to demonstrate that designated sites are in favourable, or at least recovering, condition.
The Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands, extending to over 400,000 ha, are of such a scale that work in this area is seen as being key to the success of the restoration strategy.
As peatland restoration has only come to the fore in the last few years, there is little long-term data on the effectiveness of the work currently ongoing although all signs are that clear positive results are being attained. Notwithstanding this, Scottish Government has allocated £8m to peatland restoration projects, administered through SNH’s Peatland Action project (contact: PeatlandAction@snh.gov.uk). We are currently scoping out restoration projects with clients who have potential areas to reinstate.
It is said that 10,000ha of peatland has already been treated and is on the road to recovery. Works undertaken include blocking of drains, removal of trees (for example in the Flow Country), re-profiling of hags, dealing with
erosion gullies and revegetating bare peat.
Peatland restoration is considered likely to reduce flash flooding incidents and minimise sedimentation of water courses. Active peat bogs lock up vast quantities of carbon – reckoned to be the equivalent of some 140 years of current Scottish greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing the burning and grazing of surface vegetation can also improve peatland condition but where this applies to heather clad moors, possible conflicts may arise. Scotland’s heather habitat is of international importance and although shooting sometimes appears to be out of favour with government, management for grouse (by grazing and burning) helps maintain heather in good condition. Care will be needed in some areas to ensure a balance between the current enthusiasm for peatland works and the well-established techniques of moorland management.
By Clive Meikle, Partner
GOING UNDERGROUND WITH LODGE ALTERATIONS
Braemore Estate, Ullapool was once owned by Sir John Fowler, a consulting engineer from Sheffield who co-designed the Forth Railway Bridge and was a pioneer of the London Underground system as well as working on St Enoch Station in Glasgow and Victoria Station in London.
Braemore still has an example of his exploratory work on subway design for the London Underground with a tunnel excavated into the hillside behind the Lodge House. The original house, dating from the 1860’s, was demolished in the late 20th Century and replaced with the current building.
Mr Christopher Kiaer Thomsen purchased the estate in 2015 and Bidwells was invited to assist in 2016. We provided architectural expertise for extensive upgrading and a major 200 sqm. extension to the Lodge as well as other works to buildings within the estate. Permissions were granted and work started on site in July 2016 and is scheduled to finish in June 2017.
Building work has not been without its challenges, having quickly discovered that the demolition materials from the original lodge had been buried under the site of the new extension. Also found in the area were a number of small tunnels which had been built under the original lodge. It is thought they were for a domestic hydroelectric scheme probably installed by Fowler at the time of his occupation and would have been one of the first domestic hydro schemes in the country.
The new design work has replicated the existing building in both scale and material selection and, as requested by the client, has successfully recreated the character of the original lodge to minimise the impact a new building might create.
Bidwells provided further assistance to Mr Thomsen, who we had worked with previously, by establishing a business for the estate and offering a range of estate management and forestry services. Braemore now has a gamekeeper employed to manage the 4,300+ ha of land that comprises the estate.
Mr Thomsen is looking forward to Braemore’s completion:
As has been the case with our previous dealings over the past 15 years, Bidwells has kindly assisted me in transforming Braemore Lodge into a property more appropriate for the Estate. The lodge will act as a family home in Scotland and we very much look forward to its completion in the coming months. In addition to the services Bidwells has provided during the building projects, they have been on hand to provide assistance in the dayto- day management of the estate. They are an important aid in pursuing the goal of creating a more sustainable sporting estate and enhancing the potential, we believe, the estate possesses in enriching the biodiversity in this part of Scotland. We are also currently looking into several smaller reforestation projects.
By Angus Kelly, Associate, and Mike MacGruer, Architect
FEE HIKE CONCERNS
The Scottish Government consulted at the start of 2017 on the findings of a recent independent review of the current planning application fee structure. The review advised on significant fee increases for major applications to assist better resource recovery.
Bidwells raised concerns regarding the potential impact of a significant increase in maximum fees for the rural development sector. This view was reached by drawing upon recent experience that increased fees would create an additional obstacle for developments which are critical in supporting the rural economy.
In April 2017, Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government & Housing, announced that following the consultation the maximum fee cap for the majority of major ‘full’ applications will increase from £20,055 to £125,000, with the new cap for planning permission in principle rising to £62,000. These changes will come into effect on 1 June 2017.
Mr Stewart also stated that this will be the first of two stages of proposed changes which he hopes will improve planning authority performance. Bidwells remains concerned about the lack of measures proposed to ensure the ring fencing of the additional funding for the enhancement of the planning service.
£62,000 is the new cap for planning permission in principle
£125,000 max. fee cap for the majority of 'full' applications.
RAISING A GLASS
Bidwells Planning team is expanding its services within the Scottish hospitality sector with new contract wins. The team has been instructed by the Stonegate Pub Company to obtain Listed Building and Advertisement Consent to permit alterations to one of their Category A listed properties situated in Edinburgh’s historic west end.
Stonegate currently operates from over 90 pubs and bars nationwide, and has an impressive future acquisition strategy for new sites. Our planning team is delighted to be retained for its planning consultancy services throughout the UK.
The planning team is also providing ongoing consultancy services to the Splendid Hospitality Group for several of its properties. The contract includes devising planning strategies to meet the client’s wider business aspirations and providing the appropriate consultancy support. This particular client has a diverse national portfolio of hotel properties which it is currently looking to expand.
ENGAGING WITH THE SCOTTISH PLANNING SYSTEM
Bidwells participated in the Scottish Planning System consultation launched by Scottish Ministers in January 2017. The 12-week consultation period on the Scottish Government’s proposals for change to the system was aimed at informing the forthcoming White Paper, expected later in the year.
Our response to the consultation focussed on the proposals for changes to the Local Development Plan (LDP) process and delivery of housing. These areas could have significant impacts for our clients with development aspirations. Of particular interest were the proposals to streamline the LDP process by removal of the Main Issues Report review stage as well as the Supplementary Guidance. Bidwells raised concerns about the lack of detail on the proposals to introduce additional ‘gatechecks’ to scrutinise emerging LDP’s and the extension of the LDP review timeline from 5 to 10 years.
We will continue to keep clients informed as this review process advances.
By Corinne MacDougall, Associate, and Kathryn Donnelly, Graduate.