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What's New

The following are aspects of our work where guidance, legislative change or services have either altered in the recent past or are anticipated to do so in the coming years. If you wish to learn more, please get in touch.

The perfect storm… with the potential to kill !

It has been 20 years since a waitress was killed by falling masonry as she served customers outside Ryan's Bar in Edinburgh, when five others were also injured.

Despite a 2002 Fatal Accident Inquiry identifying "shoddy" repairs, which called upon Edinburgh City Council to audit all buildings, accidents continue to occur. In 2018, a woman was again left with life changing injuries after a lump of masonry hit her on Dalry Road, whilst in February 2020, Edinburgh Bus Station was forced to close after strong winds caused masonry to come loose.

A report by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament in 2019 found very little had been done to improve the maintenance of Edinburgh's tenements and recommended five-yearly inspections, reiterating the findings of the 2002 Inquiry.

Building owners, both residential and commercial are, of course, legally responsible for loose and unsafe masonry and any other defects with their building and Councils can, and should, issue statutory notices requiring such repairs be carried out where shortfalls are identified.

However, it is quite clear to anyone who cares to look upwards, whilst walking through any built-up area throughout Scotland and the wider UK, that this is a significant and widespread problem. The condition of far too many buildings falls below a reasonable level, and it is only a matter of time before further injuries and, although we hope not, fatalities occur. Unfortunately, far too often property owners fail to appreciate well enough the condition of their property and the risk they pose to life and limb.

Add into the equation, the fact that our high streets and in particular the retail element thereof, is under severe commercial pressure following Covid closures, online and out of town retail. The result being that high street operators are working with ever reducing margins. As a result, it can easily be appreciated that these problems are not going to be easily resolved and if anything, is likely to become an even bigger problem.

What desperately needs to happen, is that more Local Authorities take a far greater interest in the built environment, particularly where public access is involved. The suggestion has been made that inspections should be undertaken at 5 yearly intervals in the case of residential tenemental property. However, this approach requires application much more widely and where it is clear that those responsible for buildings are not complying with their obligations, Building Control, the department responsible for building safety, must adopt a far more proactive role and notify owners using the Statutory Notice procedures available to them.

Energy Efficiency Changes, to E or not… that is the question?

The key driver behind the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards in Scotland is the Energy Efficient Scotland programme and Route Map published in May 2018. The initial aim of the programme was to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland's buildings by 2040. This aim was accompanied by specific steps which outlined how this could be achieved:

  • Improve all Scottish homes to EPC band C (where technically feasible and cost effective) by 2040, to include social rented homes achieving EPC band B by 2032, private rented homes to EPC band E by 2022, band D by 2025 and band C by 2030 (where technically feasible and cost effective), owner occupied homes to reach EPC band C by 2040 (where technically feasible and cost effective) and all homes with households in fuel poverty to reach EPC band C by 2030 and EPC band B by 2040
  • Assess non-domestic buildings and improve them to an extent which is technically feasible and cost effective by 2040, at present this relates to a specific but increasing range of buildings in excess of 1,000 sq/m in size and, as always, is stated to be where technically feasible and cost effective.

However, in the intervening period, the Scottish Government has repeatedly delayed instigation of the MEES Regulations north of the border, most recently due to the Covid situation.

South of the border, MEES (minimum energy efficiency standards) regulations make it illegal to lease a property, domestic or non-domestic, with an EPC rating lower than E.

As it stands, in Scotland, large commercial properties are subject to what is known as Section 63 assessments and Energy Action Plans. Added to which, Scottish EPC ratings are calculated differently to those in England and an E rating in England bears no relationship to an E rating in Scotland.

Nevertheless, common sense and rising energy prices will inevitably, over time, encourage more owners and occupiers of property to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Added to which, inevitably, the way things are going, the Scottish Government will also be looking, according to their own road map, to encourage and no doubt, on occasion, enforce improvement in the efficiency of many more buildings over the coming years.

If you would like some assistance, or guidance, on how you can improve your buildings in the most efficient manner so that you can ensure your property does not fall foul of the inevitable thresholds or wish to enhance your buildings to make them more lettable and at the same time to benefit from energy cost savings, please contact Bruce Shaw to arrange a review of your building or portfolio.