Stuart Macfarlane: Coming up with a deal to save Scotland’s heritage

Royal Yacht Britannia has inspired significant regeneration around the Leith and Granton area. Picture: Contributed
Royal Yacht Britannia has inspired significant regeneration around the Leith and Granton area. Picture: Contributed
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LAWYERS are the unsung heroes of developments with legacy at their heart, writes Stuart Macfarlane

The role of property and construction lawyers in creating developments may be crucial, but doesn’t ­capture the imagination. Passing a building and pointing out that we prepared the legal framework is more likely to prompt a snore. However, lawyers at times get to be at the heart of something truly exciting.

In Scotland, our glorious heritage is often the catalyst for ­modern development and there are many recent examples where this has worked well.

Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum in Glasgow houses the city’s transport collection and ,alongside 19th century tall ship The Glenlee, sits at the heart of a 120-acre development of modern commercial, leisure, housing, infrastructure, retail and amenity space.

In Edinburgh, the Royal Yacht Britannia has inspired significant regeneration around the Leith and Granton area, while in Aberdeen, the planned £320 million project, to extend the harbour into Nigg Bay with associated infrastructure development, will undoubtedly drive other improvements within the area.

All these projects involve heritage, stimulating and driving ­modern development. Nowhere is this truer than in Dundee: City of Discovery, where giving the waterfront a facelift has revolved around the ship that gave the city its new name – the RRS ­Discovery.

Having done a fantastic job of bringing the ship to Dundee in 1986 and creating one of Scotland’s most-loved visitor attractions by 1993, the Dundee Heritage Trust couldn’t have imagined what would be sparked by the return of Scott’s ship to her home port.

The £1 billion regeneration of Dundee’s waterfront, anchored by the V&A Museum of Design, is now well underway, and the ­surroundings into which ­Discovery has settled are unrecognisable. There is always a danger that the original inspiration could get lost. Not in Dundee.

What you don’t see is the work behind the scenes to make sure Discovery stays safe. The V&A is being developed right beside the old ship, but Dundee City Council has gone to great lengths to ensure its preservation.

Piling work could easily have shaken the timber ship to bits. Experts from many fields were contacted on their views – to dry dock or to keep Discovery afloat to minimise vibration? How to make this happen with a complex ongoing development that is running to a timescale and budget?

As a Visit Scotland 5-star attraction, Discovery also needed to stay afloat commercially and it was vital agreements were made on access and potential disruption.

A complex method statement was agreed for work around any sensitive locations, to which all parties ­contributed and agreed. Access, sequencing and protection of the ship were agreed, with Discovery now dry docked and regularly monitored.

All of these discussions had to be captured in unique legal agreements, and the vast range of parties should be commended for working together to secure the future of the ship within the modern development. Property and construction lawyers finally got to play their (small) part in preserving history. Next time I pass through Dundee I’ll be pointing it out with pride.

• Stuart Macfarlane is a partner with Weightmans (Scotland) LLP