Ballater 2

The Old School - Aberdeenshire Council

Our ambitious Old School regeneration project at Abergeldie Road, Ballater has won the Building communities for the future category and was also commended in the Conservation and building adaptation category in the Aberdeenshire Architectural and Landscape Design Awards 2023.

Designed by Ian Rodger Architects and owned by Grampian Housing Association (GHA), the housing development provides 24 properties for social rent (a mix of one, two and three bedroom flats and two and four bedroom family houses).

The design team also comprised McCue & Porter, quantity surveyor, Ramsay & Chalmers, structural engineer and Gordon Mitchell Contractors, builder.

Significantly, the development brought a building at risk back into use. It sympathetically combines retention of old buildings with new build through the use of modern materials. The quality of the refurbishment is extremely high. Real slates, traditional harling and lime mortar have all been used while window openings and the style of timber windows in keeping with the age of the building have all been retained. In addition, modern extensions and annexe buildings were removed to return the school to its original design.

Ian Rodger said: “We are overjoyed to have been recognised in those two categories.

“Well done to Grampian Housing Association, to have been proud enough of the finished scheme to put it forward for the award.”

The judges commented:- “The development is well thought out and provides a variety of properties within the former school buildings as well as the creation of new properties on the site. Through the positioning of the dwellings and the use of communal greenspaces, a welcoming and successful community has been created.

“Large buildings such as this are becoming obsolete, new uses need to be found for them to stop their deterioration and eventual loss. The Old School is a good example of how they can be reused and shows that it can be successfully achieved.”

Craig Stirrat, chief executive of Grampian Housing Association said:- “From the outset of the project there was a keen desire to provide well designed, high amenity and attractive housing so my thanks to Ian Rodger Architects for helping us to deliver on this.

“The development demonstrates how a considered layout, incorporating landscaping and green open spaces, can create balanced communities as well as deliver on housing need.

“In terms of wider regeneration benefits, the building was saved from decay which was important for local residents.”

The site of Grampian’s regeneration project in Ballater was identified in the Local Plan for affordable housing given the huge shortage in this rural area. It means more people have the rare opportunity to stay in the village which is their local area.

The building was disused, listed and situated within the Ballater Conservation Area. Through the introduction of flats and family homes, 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 a 20-minute neighbourhood.

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.

Grampian worked with Aberdeenshire Council to establish a Local Lettings Plan to ensure local people benefitted from the new homes. The ground floor accommodation is aimed at the ageing population in Ballater and 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 our wider sustainability strategy by monitoring the building’s health and optimising energy use. Lowering bills and reducing energy consumption makes it good for both tenants and the environment. In an effort to ensure building regulations were met and the carbon footprint of the new development was mitigated, ground source heat pumps have been installed to provide heating and hot water to the new properties. This also future-proofs the properties from a reliance on fossil fuels.

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