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Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards

2016 Winners

The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards are intended to provide a method for showcasing exemplary contributions to the field of private sector empty homes work in Scotland.

The Howdens Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards 2016 were given out at this year's Scottish Empty Homes Conference on the 15th November in Edinburgh.  Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing presented the awards along with Phil Hanson from Howdens Joinery.

Best Before & After Photo

The Howdens’ Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for this category is given to an individual or organisation who, in the view of the judging panel, has submitted the best before and after photo of an empty property brought back into use.  This can be a single before and after photo or a series of photos.

This year the winner was a set of external and internal before and after photos taken by Joanne Saurin, Empty Homes Officer at Fife Council.  The broad sweep of images showed all aspects of this empty home’s transformation. The before and after photos were taken from the same angle, allowing a direct and striking comparison to be made.  It’s clear from these before and after photos what a difference to the community bringing this empty home back into use has made.

Joanne Saurin, Fife Council

Poplar Road, Methil

Interior of Poplar road

Best Use of the Media

A well timed press release or visually arresting photo call can draw much needed attention to your empty homes project or service.  The Howdens’ Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for this category has been awarded to the organisation or individual, who over the past year has, in the view of the judging panel, best used the media to further their objectives to bring private sector empty homes back into use.

This year the winning nomination came from Allyson Allison, the Empty Homes Officer for Stirling Council. This is the second year in a row that Allyson has won this award, with the judging panel again impressed by the sheer volume of evidence provided by Allyson to demonstrate the wide reach of the project. Allyson never misses an opportunity to get her work into the media and spread the empty homes message to as wide an audience as possible.

The high profile she achieved contributed to the success of the Forth Valley Empty Homes Project and its smooth transition from one Empty Homes Officer for Falkirk and Stirling Councils, to two permanent full time Empty Homes Officers.  She is clearly continuing to keep the profile of her work high in her new role at Stirling Council.

Allyson Allison, Empty Homes Officer, Stirling Council

Outstanding Individual

The Howdens’ Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for this category is given to an individual who over the past year has, in the view of the judging panel, best engaged in activity to bring private empty homes back into use, going above and beyond the day job to promote and champion empty homes work in Scotland.

This year the winner is Karen Walker, Private Sector Liaison Officer, East Ayrshire Council.  Karen has campaigned tirelessly for an Empty Homes Officer post to be created in East Ayrshire over many years. That work has now finally come to fruition with an Empty Homes Officer post currently going through the grading and recruitment process at the council.

Karen has been an active member of the Scottish Empty Homes Officer Network as well as successfully securing empty homes loan fund money for her council, all of this in addition to her full time role as a Private Sector Liaison Officer within the Private Sector Housing Unit of East Ayrshire Council, and managing a team of staff in administering and enforcing Private Landlord Registration.

The judging panel felt her commitment to and enthusiasm for empty homes work could not go unrecognised and it’s for this reason that the judging panel have awarded her the Outstanding Individual award this year.

Karen Walker, East Ayrshire Council

Outstanding Individual Special Mention

The judging panel also decided this year that another nominee was worthy of a special mention award. Fiona Grant, Councillor for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch, in Fife, has campaigned for a number of years on the issue of empty homes in her ward, and in Fife in general. Her work has contributed towards Fife Council employing two part time Empty Homes Officers, and she consistently ensures that prominent empty homes blighting communities are investigated by council officers.  The judging panel felt Fiona exemplified the key role elected members can play in keeping an issue with no statutory requirement for councils high on the agenda.  For these reasons the judging panel have awarded her the award for Outstanding Individual Special Mention.

Cllr Fiona Grant, Fife Council

Outstanding Project or Service

The Howdens’ Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Award for this category is given an organisation that over the past year has, in the view of the judging panel, best engaged in activity to bring private empty homes back into use.  Elements such as innovation, replicability, commitment to best practice sharing as well as outputs and outcomes were part of the judging criteria.  Competition was close in this category and there were a number of projects and services worthy of recognition.  In the end the judging panel decided they had to split this award to recognise an excellent project but also an outstanding service.

So the award for the Best Outstanding Project Award goes to the Campbeltown Townscape Heritage Initiative led repair of 50-52 Main Street/2 Cross Street, Campbeltown.

James Lafferty, Campbeltown THI Project Officer

Campbeltown, Main street before and after

The property at 50/52 Main Street, 2 Cross Street, was a beautiful building in the centre of Campbeltown which had lain vacant for twenty years. It was once described by Historic Scotland as the ‘most elegant tenement’ in Campbeltown, but since then had become vacant and was found to be infested with 11 tonnes of pigeon corpses and guano. The building was issued with a Dangerous Building Notice, which could have resulted in a demolition costing £150,000 and leaving an unsightly gap in the town centre of Campbeltown. Instead, the Campbeltown THI worked with the owners to agree a sale to a developer, who obtained grants through the THI to develop the properties and bring them back into use. The result was four high quality one bedroom flats brought back into use for rent, and three commercial spaces re-opened under new ownership.

Jennifer Kent, Andrew White, Isobel Butt and Katrina Morrison, Perth and Kinross Council

The award for the Best Outstanding Service this year goes to Perth & Kinross Council.  The council’s Empty Homes Initiative was initially launched in 2012 as a means to target the 900+ empty homes in Perth & Kinross. Through a combination of grant and loan funding as well as proactive advice and information to owners, the project has proven to be hugely successful at bringing both empty residential and also commercial properties back into use. Although initially based in the city of Perth itself, the project has since expanded to include the whole of Perth and Kinross. In the year 2015/16, the council brought back into use a total of 149 properties, 25 of which were through the Empty Homes Initiative grant funding.

The panel felt that this service showed exemplary levels of partnership working across a number of different departments to achieve a range of positive outcomes for owners and the community alike.

Special Award: Glasgow Empty Homes Shared Service Project

This year the judging panel saw fit to award a special one off award to a project that they felt deserved recognition outside the main categories.  This project stood out to the judging panel for its successful partnership working.  The Glasgow Shared Services Empty Homes Project began in August 2015, this partnership between Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Housing Association has resulted in 185 empty homes brought back into use in its first year.

The Shared Services Empty Homes Officer, Barry Sheridan, is based within Glasgow City Council and has developed strong links with a number of Housing Associations across the city as well as the main partner, GHA. These partnerships have produced exceptional results and the panel felt that this service was worthy of recognition.

Glasgow Empty Homes Shared Service Project

Howdens Joinery logo

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