Aberdeen’s city centre plan could benefit from government scheme

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Aberdeen City CentreAberdeen’s ambitious city centre regeneration is being looked at as the next huge project to get a kick-start from a pioneering government scheme.

The so-called “growth accelerator” has been used only twice so far, to push forward Dundee’s waterfront renaissance and the £1 billion St James Quarter project in Edinburgh.

It has now been revealed that talks have been held with Holyrood over deploying it to help the Granite City “masterplan”.

It could mean “enabling investment” being pumped in, justified by anticipated future economic and social benefits.

A city council spokesman said: “We are discussing its possible use in relation to the city centre masterplan as a whole and on a project basis.”

The method was developed in Edinburgh by the local authority and Scottish Government to deliver a replacement for the St James Centre.

It involved a commitment of £61 million of public cash, offset by future business rates and the anticipated boost to the local economy, to pave the way for an £850m commercial development.

In 2016, the Scottish Government pledged more than £60m towards local infrastructure and public spaces at Dundee’s Central Waterfront area, to help unlock major investment around the new V&A Museum.

It has now been confirmed that schemes in Aberdeen, the Highlands and the Western Isles could be the next to benefit from the cash, with “early” talks under way.

Approved in 2015, Aberdeen’s 25-year city centre masterplan comprises 50 projects and envisages 1,600 new homes, refurbishments of the city’s shopping centres, a new footbridge over the River Dee, a gateway linking the rail station to Union Street, an expansion of Union Terrace Gardens, and pedestrianisation of several of Aberdeen’s main thoroughfares.

To secure the Scottish Government cash authorities must produce a business case outlining the social and economic benefits of a project.

Source: Aberdeen Evening Express

Aberdeen high-rises given new lease of light with green purple lights

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Aberdeen hirisesThree high-rises have become beacons of colour in the south of Aberdeen, after a new lighting display was switched on.

The buildings, at Morven, Brimmond and Grampian Courts in Torry, were upgraded with purple lights on the roof and green above entrances.

The eye-catching colour scheme was chosen over the standard white lights as an expression of the pride that Torry residents have in their neighbourhood.

The tower blocks will also be a focal point for train travellers arriving in the city from the south.

Residents say they are pleased about the facelift for their lighting scheme.

Sylvia Murdoch, 85, of Morven Court, said: “The lights are quite impressive, and much brighter than before.

“We got a letter from the council more than a year ago to let us know the council would be putting in new lights. Now that I see them, it just brightens up the area and makes it look different.”

Norma Ferguson, 82, of Brimmond Court, said: “I made tea and coffee – since it was a cold night – and watched the lighting up.

“It’s a nice initiative and brightens up the city.”

The lights were officially switched on by Aberdeen City Council’s communities, housing and infrastructure convener Yvonne Allan, along with residents from each of the three buildings.

Cllr Allan said: “The new lighting at Morven, Brimmond and Grampian Courts looks wonderful, and I’m sure the residents will enjoy their buildings being awash with colour.

“The residents who were there for the switch-on all said what a difference the new lights make to their buildings.

“We have seen the benefits of what imaginative lighting on buildings can do with the award-winning Spectra festival for the last four years, so bringing a riot of colour to these three high-rises will bring a bit of sparkle on even the darkest winter day.”

The project is designed to recoup much of its initial installation cost through electricity savings.

Source: Evening Express

Go-ahead for 369 flats at site of old Aberdeen school

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Aberdeen HomesPlans to build almost 370 flats at a former Aberdeen school have been approved.City council officers have given the go-ahead to develop 369 flats at the former Summerhill Academy on the Lang Stracht. Work is expected to begin soon on the £35 million plan, which will involve the construction of eight four-storey blocks facing the main road.

A three-year construction period has been estimated for the development, meaning the flats should be occupied from 2020. The application forms part of a wider project between Aberdeen City Council and Places for People to build 1,000 new affordable homes on five sites across the Granite City, and is part of Aberdeen City Council’s wider plan to deliver up to 2,030 new homes in total.

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “The foundations, substructure and below-ground drainage for all eight blocks were approved on April 4.

“This week’s approval was for full planning permission for the entire site at Summerhill.

“In terms of a start on site, this is dependent on all statutory approvals having been received and the formalising of contracts.

“It is anticipated that works will start shortly but subject to final negotiation with our partners Places for People.”

Cars will enter the site from both Stronsay Drive and Gairsay Drive but transport assessment for the application said vehicles are likely to only use the Stronsay Drive access as this provides the most direct route on to the wider road network in Aberdeen.

Summerhill Academy opened in 1962 and operated as a school up to the late 1980s at which point the school building was used as an education office.

Councillor Steve Delaney, who represents the Summerhill area, said: “It will be good to see something on the site as it has been empty for some time.

“There have been several safety concerns at the site for a couple of years now so it is good that work will start soon.

“I have concerns that the flats will not all be affordable which is disappointing as that is what we need in the area.

“The mid-market flats is something we also need more of.”

Cllr Delaney was also worried about the situation on the Lang Stracht.

“The traffic could be a problem on the Lang Stracht, especially when around 370 flats are going to be built,” he said.

“I do welcome the news of work going ahead but I also recognise the concerns that people in the community have.

 

“I hope the build goes to plan and it remains on schedule.”

The Summerhill Academy plot was previously earmarked for a superstore but Morrisons dropped its plans in July 2014.

Superfast Broadband Reaches More Aberdeenshire Homes

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Digital Scotland BroadbandMore fibre broadband has gone live across Aberdeenshire thanks to the £428M Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband roll-out.

More than 800,000 premises across Scotland can now receive fibre broadband through the programme, with the technology now live in Tillyfourie, Catterline, Eden, Woodhead, Yonderton, Kennethmont, Mosshead, Bortie Lodge and Udny for the first time.

The new high-speed network has also been extended to more homes and businesses in many other Aberdeen city and shire communities. Further details are below.

Most of the latest local premises to be included in the roll-out were previously served by ‘exchange only’ lines, a historic legacy of the copper network once thought to be out of the reach of high-speed fibre services.

Each week the programme, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe, reaches more remote and rural areas, passing another 34,000 households and businesses in the last six months.

Across the country around 4,100 new fibre street cabinets are now live and more than 8,700km of cable has been laid by engineers from Openreach, Scotland’s digital network business.

Fibre broadband offers fast and reliable broadband connections at speeds of up to 80Mbps* and there are many suppliers in the marketplace to choose from. Local people need to sign up for the new, faster services with an internet service provider, as upgrades are not automatic.

Delivered through two projects – led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise in its area and the Scottish Government in the rest of Scotland – funding partners include the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), BT Group, local authorities and the EU via the European Regional Development Fund.

Whether you own a business, work from home or want to keep in touch with friends and family, fibre broadband enables multiple users to connect to the internet at high speeds and get better, faster access to online services.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, said: “To know that more of Scotland than ever now has fibre broadband available thanks to both the programme and commercial coverage is fantastic news. We are on target to reach 95% fibre coverage by the end of the year, with the programme progressing further and still extending coverage in places like St Cyrus and Aboyne.

“I am aware that there are areas where there is still no superfast broadband. Work has started to get us there with publication of a public consultation on how best to “reach 100%”. This consultation outlines the number of premises - over 280,000 - which currently cannot access superfast speeds. While many of them already have access to some level of connectivity, often it is at slower speeds, so these premises will be the focus of our ambitious target to reach 100% superfast coverage.”

Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Jim Gifford, said: "Connection to fibre and the higher speeds it offers is increasingly important for households and businesses and it's pleasing to see more of our rural communities getting access to it.

"The upgrade in infrastructure required to do this is a significant undertaking, but the leap in performance will I'm sure encourage users to sign up to the new service.

"We are pleased to have been able to contribute financially to this project and welcome the commitments being made to reach those customers who still don't have access to higher connectivity speeds.

UK Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said: "I'm delighted that more than 800,000 Scottish homes and businesses have had their internet speeds boosted as part of our UK wide rollout of superfast broadband. By the end of this year 95 per cent of UK properties will have access to superfast speeds, but more needs to be done to make sure no-one is left behind. 

"It's great that coverage has now been extended to  Udny and we'll continue to support Digital Scotland delivering on the ground so that by 2020 everyone in Scotland, and the rest of the UK,  will have access to a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection."

Robert Thorburn, Openreach digital partnership director for Scotland, concluded: “We’re working flat out to bring high-speed fibre broadband to as many Scottish communities and households as possible and we’re continuing to make good progress.

“It’s fantastic to be reaching smaller communities such as Catterline, Daviot and Inverugie and it means more people across Aberdeenshire can now order their fastest-ever broadband speeds from a wide range of providers.

“With around a third of homes and businesses having upgraded to fibre so far, there’s plenty of scope for more Scots to benefit from the advantages these much faster speeds bring.”

The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme underpins the Scottish Government’s aim for Scotland to become a world class digital nation by 2020. Local people can check the Digital Scotland website to find out if they can get a fibre-based service.

 

Annual property prices growth continues across the UK

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Property prices in the UK increased by 5% in the year to August 2017, taking the average price of a home to £225,956, the latest official index shows.

Aberdeen Property PricesA breakdown of the figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that in England prices increased year on year by 5.3% and month on month by 0.7% to £243,520.

In Wales prices increased by 3.4% on an annual basis and by 0.1% month on month to £150,258 while in Scotland they increased by 3.9% year on year to £146,354 but fell month on month by 0.87%.

But the property market in London is not performing as well as the regions. The data shows that prices are up just 2.6% year on year and they fell by 1% month on month to an average property value of £484,362.

The regional data for England and Wales reveals that the North West recorded the greatest increase in average property price with a year on year increase of 6.5% and also the biggest monthly rise of 2.3%

The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices increased by 2.6% over the year. This is the ninth consecutive month where the growth in London house prices has remained below the UK average.

Edinburgh continues to lead the growth in Scotland with prices up 10.4% year on year to an average of £ 223,283 while Aberdeen is bottom with an annual fall of 4.8%, taking the average price of a property to £176,389.

The ONS data also shows that sales of UK properties with a value of £40,000 or greater increased by 6.6% between August 2016 and August 2017 but month on month they fell by 0.5%.

For the first time the index includes information on cash purchases and shows that they accounted for between 30% and 40% of all sales with the highest number in the South West at 40% and the lowest in London at 25%.

The upward trend in prices is set to continue until more affordable homes are built, according to Jeremy Duncombe, director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club. ‘Annual prices are consistently rising as more buyers chase fewer properties. As speculation around the Autumn Budget begins to build up, we hope there will be a genuine answer to boost supply that gives everyone a realistic the chance to own a home,’ he said.

But Jeff Knight, director of marketing for Foundation Home Loans, warned that house prices are just one part of the housing market puzzle and another rise in prices is not reflective of a buoyant market.

‘There appears to be areas of the country where there is more activity than others, most likely driven by greater levels of affordability. A rise in interest rates will place great strain on this affordability, despite the fact they will still be at an unprecedented low. We need more housing, and affordable housing, but delivering that has clearly been a challenge for a long time and we are seeing the consequences today,’ he pointed out.

With much talk of the Bank of England increasing interest rates as early as next month, Ishaan Malhi, chief executive officer of online mortgage broker Trussle, warned that lenders are already increasing their mortgage rates.

‘This will make securing a first mortgage that bit harder. If the Bank of England does decide to raise the base rate next month, it will have an immediate impact on those on a variable rate mortgage, who will see their monthly mortgage payments creep up,’ he explained.

Source: Property Wire