Building Briefs – July 23rd

  • Historic Union Bridge celebrates 200th birthday

The world-renowned Union Chain Bridge, which links Scotland and England over the River Tweed, celebrates its bicentennial this Sunday (26 July).

The bridge, between Fishwick in Berwickshire and Horncliffe in Northumberland, was designed by  English Royal Navy officer, Captain Samuel Brown, who patented and produced wrought iron chains after being affected by the loss of Royal Naval ships which had broken free from their weak hempen ropes.

When it opened in 1820, the Union Chain Bridge was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world with a span of 449 feet and the first vehicular bridge of its type in the UK.

Friends of the Union Chain Bridge Chairman, Robert Hunter said: “This is truly one of the most historic bridges in the world and a fascinating piece of engineering. We had planned a number of celebrations to mark the occasion, but unfortunately they have had to be postponed.

“However, the fact that work is shortly going to begin on £10m renovation is the best birthday present possible and will ensure generations to come will be able to enjoy the bridge in all its splendour.” 

ICE Scotland Director Hannah Smith said: “The Union Chain Bridge is an often-overlooked part of Scotland’s engineering heritage so the bicentenary is the perfect opportunity to pay tribute. We know it is renowned the world over and it is fantastic that work will shortly commence on its renovation.

“I am certainly looking forward to seeing it in all its glory at the earliest opportunity.”


  • Community Land Scotland reiterates importance of land reform to green recovery

Land reform must form an essential component of Scotland’s green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to Community Land Scotland (CLS).

In a letter to Just Transition Commission, which is advising on a net-zero economy, the body said how the land and other natural assets, such as forests, renewable energy and marine resources, are owned and used is critical to a fair and green future for Scotland’s communities.

The letter outlines some of the land reform measures that are essential to achieving a green recovery.

Chair Ailsa Raeburn said the ‘anchor’ function performed by landowning community trusts offers considerable scope to help shape a green economic recovery at the local level by working with partners to deliver community-led net-zero solutions. For example, in relation to the provision of local transport services and infrastructure, fuel poverty reduction and affordable, energy efficient housing.

She added: “In its Interim Report the Commission rightly highlights the importance of ensuring that communities’ voices are heard, their expectations met and opportunities for local economic development not missed in the process of making a just transition to net-zero.

“Landowning Community Trusts’ ‘anchor’ role leaves them well placed to undertake tailored local engagement through which to amplify their communities’ aspirations and needs regarding a just transition and contributing to its implementation in practice in the ways described in the preceding.”


  • Rettie & Co: Residential LBTT up year-on-year but future outlook remains uncertain

New research from Rettie & Co has revealed that Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) returns were up 1.2% in 2019/20.

The firm has also found that LBTT revenues had increased by 10% from the previous year, however, the future remains uncertain due to the severe impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant overall revenues for April and May this year were down by 67% on the year before.

Rettie & Co has also revealed that ADS revenue looks like it is exceeding £100m for the third year running and is now over 30% of total residential LBTT revenue.

The research has indicated that the middle to upper parts of the market continue to pay a significant proportion of LBTT revenue (10% of sales over £325k contribute three-quarters of revenue). This poses a risk if this part of the market weakens, as has happened at the start of 2020/21.

The Scottish Government has recently introduced an LBTT ‘holiday’ for the rest of the financial year, which will produce a saving up to £2,100 on property sales.

However, Rettie & Co have said that there other alternative measures the government could look at to stimulate market activity such as reductions or exemptions for certain groups, revising tax bandings based on firm evidence of behavioural change, and tying LBTT payments to the energy efficiency of homes.