The first neighbourhood within an £800 million new town in Aberdeen, backed by an innovative UK Government funding scheme, has welcomed its first residents.
The new community of Countesswells, on the outskirts of the city, has been deemed exemplary in relation to its high quality design and delivery, which has been accelerated through an £86 million guarantee from HM Treasury.
The first and, so far, only homes project to be supported by a HM Treasury Guarantee Scheme, Countesswells will comprise 3,000 homes, of which 750 will be affordable, along with the infrastructure required to support the community that will include schools, informal and formal parks, leisure and healthcare facilities, as well as shops and commercial business space.
The development is being phased over 15 years, boosting the local economy and supporting 1,000 construction jobs in the region.
A Stewart Milne Group development, Countesswells is being taken forward by Countesswells Development Limited (CDL), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the group.
Allan McGregor, project director for CDL, said: “Essentially, the HMT guarantee has enabled us to secure long-term funding which underwrites the development, and allows us, as a company, to plan ahead and invest up-front in roads, landscaping and other strategic elements of the project, secure in the knowledge we have that long-term funding.”
The HM Treasury scheme works by providing a state-backed guarantee to help projects access finance. Under the Scheme, the Treasury guarantees that lenders to infrastructure projects will be repaid in full, enabling funds to be raised from the Capital Markets, issued as revolving Loan Notes, to support the development of Countesswells. The Funder for the Countesswells development is Bank of Scotland, who has worked alongside Stewart Milne Group and HMT to create long term lending for the life of the project.
The Government backing has been heralded as a vote of confidence in the region and could become a template for the delivery of future new communities because of its innovative funding and delivery model.
Mr McGregor added: “Working closely with the UK Government, we have created a model which could be used for other settlements, similar to the recently-announced Garden Villages in England, where quality, design, cutting-edge technology, local employment and accessible green spaces are the heart of delivering high quality urban realm. Our ambition reflects the vision for these developments which are about well thought-through communities and not simply dormitory suburbs.”
Extensive master planning was undertaken for Countesswells to ensure that it reflected its location and was designed as a community with its own distinct identity, supported by the appropriate infrastructure and amenities.
Speaking in Aberdeen last year, UK Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop said: 'The UK Government is offering this guarantee to allow this major Aberdeen project to go ahead. This is a great example of partnership working where the government can unlock the capital and the potential of the development.”
Glenn Allison, chief executive of Stewart Milne Group said: “This community is a critical project for the city region over the next 15 years, delivering much needed homes and community facilities that in turn will compliment Aberdeen’s future economic sustainability and, as such, is at the forefront of housing delivery in Scotland.
“There’s major investment in the region to ensure the remaining North Sea oil and gas opportunity is maximised and that our other key industries continue to grow and sustain high value jobs in the medium to long term. Providing well-designed communities that are attractive and well served with the right amenities for modern life is a key element of this strategy.
“At a time when the Scottish and UK Governments are prioritising the provision of new homes, we believe the approach taken here, with the innovative funding guarantee from HM Treasury, is one that could be replicated in other locations to ensure that well designed communities are delivered to meet current and future housing needs.
“Countesswells represents a new and exciting way of delivering housing projects of scale. Combining the HMT guarantee with our experience and approach is an ideal illustration of how Government intervention has changed over the decades.”
“Taking a planned and collaborative approach with the local authority and the NHS, we are determined to deliver a new town that is exemplary in terms of place-making for the future. This means not only looking at the physical requirements to provide the support services the new community will need, such as schools, health facilities and social services but using new technology to deliver new ways in which the community engages with these services in the future. By installing the UK’s fastest broadband in Countesswells at the outset we are paving the way for a technology-led, future-proof approach.”