Architects in Scotland are facing a bleak year ahead following the announcement of severe cuts for affordable housing and regeneration in the 2010-11 draft budget
The Scottish government has cut expenditure by nearly 40 per cent, with affordable housing spend plummeting by £173 million to £351.9 million – a drop attributed to money being brought forward to help Scotland through the recession.
The latest figures from industry analyst Glenigan show that spending on affordable housing in Scotland over the last year has been buoyant, but economic director Allan Wilén warns it is set to decrease.
Wilén said: ‘I would advise architects to get as much [social housing] work now as they can, because it will drop off.
‘Unfortunately, the planned cuts in the Scottish government’s housing budget for 2010-11 come at a time when there is little sign of a recovery in private sector activity. Cutting social housing projects next year risks delaying the recovery in overall housing investment in Scotland.’
Neil Baxter, secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: ‘I understand the need for politicians to balance the books, but these cuts seem like an extraordinarily large figure.
‘There are lots of practices that do rely on various aspects of the public purse. There is no doubt that any cuts are bad news, not just for architects but for Scotland as a nation,’ he added.
The cuts will have a particular impact on firms specialising in affordable and social housing. John Gilbert of Glasgow-based John Gilbert Architects said: ‘There will be a big drop in our books. We would normally have some large projects to work on, but have had to branch out to more smaller projects, as well as conservation projects.’
Paul Rodgers, director at RMJM, said: ‘Just very recently we saw one major opportunity that we had been tracking in Scotland cancelled overnight… As these cutbacks begin to take hold in our domestic market, we continue to focus our efforts on emerging market countries.’
Next year’s budget also sounds the death knell for the £400 million Glasgow Airport Rail Link (a sketch of initial masterplan for airport interchange by 3DReid pictured above), which was being taken forward by Atkins. Gerry Grams, city design advisor at Glasgow City Council, said: ‘After all our hard work it’s been a real kick in the teeth. It’s an absolute key element of the [2014 Commonwealth] Games and I don’t know how the city will move forward without it.’
The demise of the rail link also spells the end for the new £1.5 million Happitots nursery in Paisley, which was designed by Atkins as part of the overall scheme. The nursery was due to be moved as part of the link’s displaced facilities project and would have changed its location from the proposed viaduct to the west of the airport to a new site to the east.
The budget cuts come as Scottish firms continue to shed staff. Glasgow and Edinburgh-based Cooper Cromar admitted it had recently let people go and earlier this week, Glasgow’s gm+ad announced 15 redundancies. Speaking for the firm, partner Alan Dunlop said: ‘The past 18 months have been a struggle to keep the team together, as a consequence of high-profile projects being stopped or mothballed.’