Ballater old school regeneration project wins empty homes award

Grampian Housing Association’s visionary Old School regeneration project at Abergeldie Road, in the Ballater conservation area (Aberdeenshire) has won the Best Use of Empty Homes to Meet Social/Affordable Housing Need award at the 13th Scottish Empty Homes Conference.
The Old School development brought a building at risk back into use.The Old School development brought a building at risk back into use.
The Old School development brought a building at risk back into use.

Organised by Scottish Empty Homes Partnership and Shelter Scotland, the awards spotlight some of the inspirational people and work on empty homes taking place throughout Scotland today.

Significantly, the Old School development revitalised a building at risk bringing it back into use through redevelopment to provide 24 properties for social rent (a mix of one, two and three bedroom flats and two and four bedroom family houses). The site had been identified in the local plan for affordable housing given the huge shortage in rural Ballater. Working with Aberdeenshire Council a Local Lettings Plan ensured that local people benefitted from the new homes giving them the rare opportunity to stay in their local area.

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Lisa Borthwick, Scottish Empty Homes Partnership national manager, said: “We were delighted to present Grampian Housing Association with their well-deserved Best Use of Empty Homes to Meet Social/Affordable Housing Need award at the 13th Scottish Empty Homes Conference.

“Our judges told us just how impressed they were with the scale of results the Association has achieved with their Ballater project with a huge 24 socially rented homes delivered from the old school and site and how it stands as a wonderful example of what can be done with empty properties throughout Scotland and wider afield.

“The Scottish Empty Homes partnership also sends its thanks to the Association, and all of our other winners and finalists, for their hard work and for helping to make our recent conference, and the past year, a standout in the history of empty homes work in Scotland.”

Craig Stirrat, chief executive of Grampian Housing Association said: “From the outset of the project it was important for local residents that the building was saved from decay. In close partnership with Aberdeenshire Council, there was a keen desire to provide well designed, high amenity, attractive and affordable homes.

“We are delighted to have won this award which demonstrates Grampian’s commitment to working with local communities to deliver on housing need and create balanced communities.

“The site contributes to the wider community, including employment opportunities, supporting the local economy, protection of the local primary school and is a good example of creating a balanced community as well of a 20-minute neighbourhood, located close to local services, amenities, shops and recreation opportunities all on its doorstep.”

The development attracted Scottish Government funding of £1,791,984 while Grampian contributed £2,338,907 through capital borrowing. Aberdeenshire Council Top Up Grant amounted to £198,000. The contract value was £3,464,710. The project also qualified for RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) funding of £282k over 20 years.

The accomplished design team included Ian Rodger Architects, McCue & Porter as the quantity surveyor, Ramsay & Chalmers as the structural engineer and Gordon Mitchell Contractors as the builder.

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The preservation of old structures was seamlessly blended with new construction through the use of modern materials. The refurbishment’s quality is underscored by the use of real slates, traditional harling, and lime mortar, maintaining window openings and timber windows in harmony with the building’s original design. Modern extensions and annexes were removed to restore the school to its authentic layout.

The ground floor accommodation is aimed at the ageing population in Ballater while the one bedroom properties are targeted at young single people who could not otherwise afford to move out of their parents’ homes. There are also adapted properties with level access showers. In particular, the Association is supporting a local family who has a child with disabilities by providing accessible housing.

Ballater is Grampian’s first development to trial Switchee, a Smart asset management tool which ties into the wider sustainability strategy by monitoring the building’s health and optimising energy use.

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