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Howdens Scottish Champion of the Year Awards 2017

This year we received a record number of nominations across the 5 categories.

Outstanding Project

Winner - Achiltibuie Schoolhouse -  Coigach Community Development Company & The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (Collaborative Project)

Achiltibuie Schoolhouse

An empty schoolhouse in Achiltibuie has been transformed into two affordable dwellings thanks to an innovative funding package secured by The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust and the Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) with support from The Scottish Government, The Nationwide Foundation and The Highland Council.

An example of co-operative and innovative working driven by the community and utilising the experience of The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) to develop a workable model with the co-operation of key stakeholders and funders to deliver affordable housing that meets local needs by utilising a vacant empty property.  The project has saved an empty home and boosted the community confidence in housing.

The panel were moved by the background of a local community which has seen its population decrease due to the lack of affordable housing in the area. The partnership model involved in bringing this property back into use, including funding from both the Nationwide Foundation and the Scottish Government, was felt to be an example of best practice in the field, and something which should be encouraged and supported on a much larger scale.

Runner-up finalists

  • Former St Stephen’s School – Blairgowrie
  • Port Ellen Police Station – Argyll & Bute Council

Outstanding Service

Winners - Fife Council

The 2 Empty Homes Officers (EHO’s) in Fife work part-time and have been in post since July 2014. In that time, they have worked tirelessly to promote the empty homes work that they do in Fife and continue to develop the options available to owners to increase awareness of their role in being able to assist empty home owners.

Against a strong field of competition, this nomination stood out for the panel above all others. The depth and detail of the information provided by Fife Council to support their bid was particularly noted by the panel. Their willingness to share, including giving a session at last year’s conference on their best practice approach to the council tax increase, also really pleased the panel.

Runner-up finalists

  • Perth & Kinross Council Lets
  • Angus & Dundee Shared Service

Outstanding Individual

Winner - Sean Maxwell, Dundee & Angus Councils

Sean Maxwell

Sean Maxwell is a shared service Empty Homes Officer working between both Angus Council and Dundee City Council. Sean took post in December 2015, after completing an MSc in Spatial Planning with Sustainable Urban Design from the University of Dundee. Since his introduction Sean has worked tirelessly to address and expose the issues of empty homes. Sean has introduced an innovative and approachable style of empty homes work that has led to impressive results being achieved within both Local Authorities.

This nomination really impressed the panel. Sean worked tirelessly in his first year to bring a large number of empty homes back into use, which he managed to do despite setting up the project from scratch in both councils. He is already on track to smash his targets in both council areas in his second year. He has worked well with the media to promote the project, as evidenced by his nomination in Best Use of the Media being a finalist. He used testimony from both an owner and a colleague to further back up his value to the project. Sean is known throughout the Scottish Empty Homes Officer Network as a friendly and approachable person, and the panel were delighted to be able to pick him as a winner in this category.

Runner-up finalists

  • Catriona Arbuckle - North Lanarkshire Council
  • Lesley Cockburn - South Ayrshire Council

Best Use of the Media

Winners - Orkney Islands Council

The Orkney Islands Council’s Empty Homes Project is relatively new. Having employed an Empty Homes Development Officer, Rachael Bowes, in June 2017, first contact was made with empty home owners in August. Public engagement with the Project has been high representing the enthusiasm for regeneration across the isles.

The panel were very impressed by the wide range of different media sources that the council had used to get across their message, and in particular by Luke Fraser’s radio interview with BBC Radio Orkney. The way that the council turned what was originally reported as being a problem (that Orkney were reported to have had the highest proportion of empty homes of any area in the country) into an opportunity and a positive message about the journey ahead, really resonated with the panel.

Runner-up finalists

  • Angus Council
  • North Lanarkshire Council

Best Before and After Pictures

Winner - Catriona Arbuckle, North Lanarkshire Council

The panel felt that the transformation that this somewhat unusual looking property in Cumbernauld underwent merited top prize for this category. They were particularly pleased with Catriona’s ability to take both before and after photos from the same spot, allowing a genuine comparison to take place. Seeing this otherwise unusable property come back into use as social housing stock, in an area with high demand, was a real inspiration.

  • Perth & Kinross Council
  • Argyll & Bute Council

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