bi4 Spring Issue 2021

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Special Agent

How to carve out

more time to enjoy

your land assets P5

Croft Original

It’s important to do

your homework and

consult an expert P16

Planning Expert

From pigeon lofts to

hill tracks why it’s vital

to get early advice P10

summer spring bi2019 bi2021 1




4 What is rural land worth? Head of

Valuations Sarah Tyson reviews the average

rural land values in Scotland and the North of


5 Looking for more time to enjoy

your land? Partner Rob Whitson examines

how expert advice from a professional land

manager can buy landowners more time to

enjoy their assets.

6 The NC500 effect Joanne Stennett

examines how the promotion of the NC500

has opened people’s eyes to the attractions of

the Highlands.

8 Helping It Happen Awards 2021

Managing Partner Mark Mitchell encourages

rural education innovators to share their

success stories.

9 Getting to know Bell Ingram GIS

Manager Marcus Humphrey turned an interest

in geography and cartography into a successful

career in Geographical Information Systems


10 Do I need planning permission? It all

depends, says Planning consultant Catherine


12 Plotting your dream move to the

country? With self-build becoming more

popular, architect Murray Fleming shares his

five top tips for buying the perfect site.

14 Spring Step Challenge Bell Ingram

walkers go the extra miles for our three chosen


15 It’s a sellers' market! Head of Estate

Agency Carl Warden looks at the latest trends

and explains why he is braced for a post

lockdown surge in demand.

16 Thinking of buying a croft? It’s

important to do your homework says our

resident crofting expert Ian Blois who shares

some top tips to consider before you take the


18 How important is Gaelic? Simone

Hogan explains why she thinks that employing

Gaelic speaking staff can be a unique selling

point for Scottish businesses.

A warm welcome to the Spring Edition of Bell

Ingram’s Insight Magazine.

It’s just over a year since the first Covid lockdown

so it’s a suitable moment to reflect not just on how

our clients’ interests and demands have changed,

but how Bell Ingram has successfully navigated the

pandemic challenge.

I’m pleased to report that the company’s substantial investment in technology

continues to pay dividends, enabling staff to deliver the high levels of service

our clients expect despite the ongoing restrictions to our working lives.

Farming has come through the crisis better than many sectors and our Head

of Valuations Sarah Tyson reviews the average rural land values in Scotland

and the North of England on page 4, while on page 5 Partner Rob Whitson

examines how expert advice from a professional land manager can buy

landowners more time to enjoy their assets.

Elsewhere, the property market has been through a period of enormous

upheaval with many buyers seeking to change their lifestyles in light of the

pandemic. On page 15 our Head of Estate Agency Carl Warden examines the

latest trends and government measures to stimulate the sector. Meanwhile on

page 18 Joanne Stennett, who heads up our Highland Estate Agency team,

reveals how better rural connectivity is attracting buyers further north.

Farm and crofting properties are generating a high level of enquiries as soon

as they come onto the market and on page 16 our resident crofting expert Ian

Blois shares some top tips to consider before you take the plunge.

On page 10 our planning consultant Catherine Newton emphasises the

importance of getting professional planning advice at an early stage to

prevent problems further down the line, while on page 12, architect Murray

Fleming talks about what you need to consider when finding and buying a

plot of land, while

Elsewhere, we ask, how important is Gaelic? On page 6 Simone Hogan

explains why she thinks that employing Gaelic speaking staff can be a unique

selling point for Scottish businesses.

While there are still challenges ahead, I remain optimistic that 2021 will

see improvements for us all, particularly since the vaccine roll-out gives us

confidence that life will return to some level of normality.

In the meantime, we remain grateful for the support of our clients, something

we never take for granted.

Mark Mitchell


Managing Partner

Editorial contacts for Insight

l Alison Lowson, Marketing Manager

Tel. 01738 621 121 or 07584 093354

l Design by Stuart Cameron

*Insight magazine is prepared for general information only. While care is taken

in its compilation, neither Bell Ingram LLP nor its employees or officers accept

any liability for the contents or their application to any individual circumstances.

Readers are strongly recommended to contact Bell Ingram to obtain advice

appropriate to their needs.

New faces in

Ayr & Forfar

Clare Morton and John

Kennedy pictured above

have joined Bell Ingram as

Associate and Assistant Land

Agent in our Ayr and Forfar

offices respectively.

Clare is a qualified Rural

Chartered Surveyor and

RICS Registered Valuer with

over 10 years’ experience

in the sector. A farmer’s

daughter from Dumfries

& Galloway, her expertise

includes rural property

valuations, compulsory

purchase and compensation

and utility projects.

Originally from Coll where

father runs the family

farming business, John

graduated from SRUC in

Edinburgh with an Honours

Degree in Agriculture

followed by a Masters

in Land Economy at the

University of Aberdeen. He

will be involved in a variety of

work including rural estate

and farm management. n

in brief

Thirsk office

takes lead on

SEGL contract

ell Ingram has secured

a new contract with

BNational Grid for work on

the Scotland to England Green

Link SEGL1 initiative.

The SEGL project is an integral

part of the UK’s commitment to

build a greener energy system

and help deliver net zero by


Thirsk Partner Derek Tyson,

supported by Assistant Land

Agent Harry Downing, will be the

lead surveyor on the contract.

Initially Bell Ingram will be

working to secure land access

for various surveys to determine

a defined cable route for a new

High Voltage Direct Current

(HVDC) link from Torness in

East Lothian to Hawthorn Pit in

County Durham.

As the country shifts away

from traditional forms

of fuel to heat homes,

charge vehicles and power

businesses, there will be

a greater need for green


To help deliver this greener

energy to homes and

businesses across the UK,

Bell Ingram plugs into green revolution

with installation of EV charging points

ell Ingram ramped up our eco credentials this month with the

installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging points at our Perth HQ.

BThe move came as our Head of Estate Agency Carl Warden took

delivery of a new Tesla and the company hopes to roll out more charging

points at other suitable Bell Ingram offices in the future.

Says Carl: “Until recently electric cars weren’t practical for business travel

because they didn’t have the range. The Tesla, however, is a game changer

in terms of the distance it can travel on a single charge (around 300 miles).

This factor, combined with the growing number of charging points, makes

it a much more attractive proposition for rural business professionals who

need to cover a lot of ground.

“I am very pleased to see Bell Ingram demonstrating its commitment to

zero-emission transport solutions and hope that our new EV charging

point will give colleagues and clients the confidence to make the switch

to EVs, knowing they can get the charge they need in the right places.” n

National Grid needs to increase

the capacity of the network

between Scotland with its many

renewable energy sources, and

the rest of the UK.

To do this, National Grid is

proposing to construct two new

High Voltage Direct Current

(HVDC) links which will function

as electricity superhighways.

SEGL1 will run from Torness to

Hawthorn Pit and SEGL2 will run

from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire

to Drax in North Yorkshire. n





for North



Bell Ingram Design

is working with


Holistic Energy to

develop plans for a

large-scale renewable

energy village

near Peterhead in

Aberdeenshire. The

plant aims to deliver

between 150-200

megawatts of green

energy to supply to

the Scottish grid, with

building work slated

to commence in 2023

and be operational by

2026. Holistic Energy

is working with several

partners in the design,

civil engineering

and construction

phases, including

Bell Ingram Design,

Will Rudd Davidson

and Aberdeen-based

Wood Group and XL

Group. n

2 bi2021 bi2019 spring

winter winter spring bi2019 bi2021 3

land management


land management

What is rural land worth?

Land values in Scotland and the North of England

Sarah Tyson

Partner and Head of



Bell Ingram’s guide to average

rural land values in Scotland

and the North of England

has been updated and

proves a useful tool for

many involved with land


In reviewing the figures, Sarah Tyson, Head

of Valuations, said:

“It is interesting to see arable land and the

best pasture land values rising, proof of the

limited supply and continuing demand,

especially where neighbours have the

chance to buy. If borrowing is necessary,

current low interest rates make sense and

we are seeing increasing interest in long

term, fixed rate loans with AMC.

“In addition, the forestry sector is still

very strong with good timber markets

at present. The unprecedented demand

from investors for land suitable for tree

planting continues and is now expanding

due to the impact of carbon sequestration,

although values are very site specific

making it difficult to apply averages.

“Values for sporting interests remain

steady, but again vary depending upon

the particular estate, location and

facilities - for stalking estates a

modern deer larder that meets current

regulations is essential to support the

sporting asset.” n

Bare Land Capital Values,Scotland £/per acre (min) £/per acre (max)

Best Arable 8,000 17,000

Secondary Arable 5,000 8,000

LFA / Low Grade Arable 3,000 4,500

Temporary Grass / Silage 2,500 4,500

Permanent Pasture 1,500 3,000

Rough Grazing 450 1,000

Hill (*excluding any forestry planting premium) 50 750

Existing Forestry (crop and solum) * £/ per ha (min) £/per ha (max)

Productive Conifer Woodland 6,000 16,000

Pre-­‐Productive Conifer Woodland 3,000 6,000

Native/ broadleaf/ retention woodland 3,000 8,000

*these exclude any carbon/ credit peatland sums which may apply

Sporting Values, Scotland

Red Deer Stags (per head) 12,000 40,000

Driven Grouse (per brace) 3,500 5,000

Salmon (per fish) 2,500 7,000

Land Values -­‐ North of England £/per acre (min) £/per acre (max)

Best Arable 9,000 15,000

Secondary Arable 7,500 10,000

Permanent Pasture 5,000 8,000

Rough Grazing 3,000 6,500

Hill 1,500 2,500

Existing Forestry (crop and solum) * £/ per ha (min) £/per ha (max)

Productive Conifer Woodland 6,000 16,000

Pre-­‐Productive Conifer Woodland 3,000 6,000

Native/ broadleaf/ retention woodland 3,000 8,000

*these exclude any carbon/ credit peatland sums which may apply

“An agent can

create some


breathing space.”

Professional advice

Looking for more time to enjoy your land?

Rob Whitson

Partner Rural Land

Management Highland

01463 717 799

f you think that owning a Highland

estate bears any resemblance to the

I‘Monarch of the Glen’ picture perfect

ideal of tramping through the purple

heather with a pack of black labradors,

then brace yourself for a big reality check!

Land management in Scotland is under

a microscope like never before with the

Scottish Government’s legislative framework

setting out objectives and principles which

put communities at the heart of decision

making in an effort to improve how land in

Scotland is owned, used and managed.

Gone are the days where estates could

operate in splendid isolation, modern

owners have a responsibility as landowners

to manage the land in a way that delivers

lasting economic, social and environmental

wellbeing to the community.

And while many landowners do indeed

have the privilege of living and working

in this unique environment, it takes

an enormous amount of hard graft to

stay on top of the increasingly onerous

administrative and legislative burden that

makes an estate tick.

The current pandemic has also added to

this workload with a sharp rise in visitor

numbers as people escape the towns

and villages to walk, cycle, ride or paddle

down rivers and camp overnight. While the

majority of these visitors are responsible,

landowners are seeing a worrying increase

in dog mess, dirty camping, gates being left

open and fly tipping.

4 bi2021 spring winter spring bi2021 bi2019 53


t is important to get over the message

that the countryside is also a home

and workplace to people and wildlife,

and help visitors understand their

responsibilities and behave in a way which

does not cause damage or annoyance to


Yet despite these challenges, land

ownership can still be a pleasure rather

than a pain! From sporting and mixed

estates to farmers and crofters at the other

end of the spectrum, Bell Ingram’s land

managers help our clients to navigate the

raft of ever-changing rules and regulations.

Whether it be heather management,

predator control or simply trying to

improve their land and the amenity of

their asset, we support our landowning

clients to keep on top of the changes to


The bottom line is that time is finite and

while you can't add more hours to the day,

you can engage an agent to create some

all-important breathing space between

you and some of the challenges associated

with land ownership, thereby giving you

time and energy to enjoy the land that

you own. Clear communication between

you and your agent is key, as with that and

trust built up through shared experiences,

the relationship can be very fruitful.

Bell Ingram currently oversees hundreds

of thousands of acres on behalf of a wide

portfolio of clients. Our bespoke, personal

service ensures our clients maximise their

assets and comply with the ever changing

rural management requirements. n

estate agency

estate agency


omentum is building across the

Highland property market as

lockdown begins to ease and

we look forward towards the summer


Last year saw Bell Ingram properties

across the Highlands and Islands selling

in super-fast time, attracting multiple

offers and often achieving 20% or more

over the asking price.

Island properties in particular sold like

hotcakes, some within 24 hours on the

basis of a video tour rather than a physical



And it wasn’t just traditional homes that

were in high demand. Interest in anything

with development potential, especially

if there was an existing footprint, was off

the scale, with decrofted land and croft

houses also generating dozens of notes of

interest and offers.

While we are not expecting the same

heat in the market post lockdown #3, we

are braced for a surge of interest once

things return to some sort of normality

hopefully around April/May.

Without a doubt Covid has changed the

way we live and work, with investment


in technology making the Highlands

a far more attractive proposition than


The big push to expand rural connectivity,

not just in Inverness but throughout the

Highlands, means that working from

home is much less of a compromise and

more of an attractive proposition than ever


The promotion of the North Coast 500

has really opened people’s eyes to

the attractions of the Highlands with

visitors seeing at first hand that there’s

infrastructure, facilities and support in

Joanne Stennett

Associate Estate Agency


01463 717 799

place to support not just tourists but

those who want to live and work in the

Highlands as well.


ttracted by the affordable property

prices and the access to a lot more

outdoor space, we are talking to

people who want to move north and are

happy to consider rural locations. These

buyers don’t just want holiday homes, they

want a permanent move to live, work and

be part of the Highland community.

The trend is about the quality of life now

and not just about being within an hour’s

commute of the office.

With demand outstripping supply in

the Highlands and Islands, my advice to

potential sellers is to start thinking about

marketing your property now and consider

those things you can do to prepare your

house for sale

We are expecting another surge in the

market when lockdown is lifted so if you

have all the preparatory work done for your

sale you will be in the best position to take

advantage of the market opening up fully.

Declutter: Ask yourself what you would

look for if you were buying a property. Have

a walk round every room and consider

whether it is appealing or not. Declutter,

don’t make it clinical and ensure your

home still looks like a home and is not

stripped of all character.

Kerb appeal: Look at things that could be

lifted by a lick of paint, nothing major just

something that freshens things up. Finish

any little jobs that have been outstanding

for a while.

Look at a Home Report: There is

no better way to prepare yourself for

the Home Report visit than by looking

through someone else’s. Look for number

2s and 3s and what the issues were. Is

it something that can be addressed

with little expense ie. clearing gutters or

touching up paintwork on the windows?

It can sometimes be something as simple

as this that can mark you down?

Approach an Agent: Contacting an

Agent early in the process is a good

idea. They can give you guidance on

anything that should be done to make

your property more appealing to buyers.

Establishing that relationship early in

the sale process means you can chat any

decisions through. Even if you are not

ready to push the button just yet, your

Agent can then get any pre-marketing

work done and banked so you are ready to

go when the Home Report is done. n

Start planning your next

house move by booking a

Free Market Appraisal

by contacting either Joanne

or Julie on 01463 717 799.


Highland housing

market gains

momentum as we brace

for post-lockdown surge

in rural living

62 bi2021 bi2019 spring winter

winter spring bi2019 bi2021 37








to enter

Helping It



Bell Ingram’s Managing

Partner Mark Mitchell

is encouraging rural

businesses across Scotland

to follow in the footsteps of last

year’s winner Duffus Estate and

enter the Education category

at this year’s Helping It Happen


The annual awards, which are

organised by rural business

organisation Scottish Land &

Estates, are free to enter and will

showcase the work done in 2020/21

by businesses, farms and estates to

help rural Scotland thrive during a

difficult year.

Bell Ingram is once again teed up

to sponsor the Education category,

won in 2020 by family-run Duffus

Estate. Judges were impressed

by the Earthtime’s Forest School

Nursery at Duffus which aims

to have the children outside for

at least 80% of the time. The

youngsters grow vegetables

which they then harvest and eat

in their own meals at lunchtime.

Earthtime was also chosen to

be an educational hub during

lockdown and provided 18 weeks

of emergency childcare provision

for 36 children of key workers or

vulnerable families.

Mark Mitchell said: “Together

Bell Ingram and Scottish Land

and Estates want to recognise

champions of rural education,

so that future generations grow

up knowing more about farming

and the countryside and what

it delivers as well as nurturing a

lifelong interest in the natural


“Duffus Estate was a very worthy

winner last year and I know that

the judges are looking forward to

seeing an equally high standard

of entries this year as we celebrate

the very best initiatives across the

sector, whether on-farm, in the

classroom, or even online.”

The Helping it Happen Awards

will once again be sponsored

by GLM and this year there is a

new ‘Business Resilience Award’

category which is open to those

who have, despite the pandemic,

seen their business flourish by

adapting, being innovative and

working hard.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive

at Scottish Land & Estates said:

“This year has been difficult for us

all. Our world leading tourism and

hospitality sector has lay dormant.

Across the rural sector businesses,

land managers and community

groups have done everything in

their power to keep their staff in

jobs and their work going in trying


“That is why this year we think it

is more important than ever to

celebrate the talent, innovation,

and passion of rural Scotland. To

recognise the efforts made in the

most difficult of circumstances by

our members and others to protect

communities, jobs and nature in

rural Scotland, through the Helping

it Happen awards.

“There is no shortage of

achievements to celebrate from

Scotland’s rural businesses. We urge

people from Shetland to the Borders

to submit their entries for this year’s

awards. You can nominate yourself

or others.

“The quality of entries we receive

to the Helping it Happen Awards

is always exceptional, and we are

excited to see this year’s crop of

nominations.” n

The 2021 Helping

it Happen Awards

categories are:

● Education Award sponsored by

Bell Ingram

● Business Resilience Award

● Conservation Award sponsored

by Anderson Strathearn

● Enhancing our Environment

through Land Management

Award sponsored by


● Innovation in Farming Award

sponsored by Douglas Home

& Co

● Iver Salvesen Award for

Combatting Climate Change

● Rural Business Award

sponsored by Shepherd and

Wedderburn LLP

● Rural Housing Award

sponsored by VELUX

● Tourism & Visitor Management

Award sponsored by GLM

● Working with Communities

Award sponsored by The

MacRobert Trust

The awards close to entries on 4th August and winners will be announced

at a live virtual ceremony on 27th October 2021. To view last year’s winning

entries or make a nomination please visit www.scottishlandandestates.

What can you do

with a GIS degree?

Marcus Humphrey turned

a schoolboy interest in

geography and cartography

into a successful career in

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

and hopes his journey will inspire others

to think differently about the type of job

opportunities that exist for students with

an aptitude for geography, maths or IT.

Says Marcus: “As a relatively new

profession, GIS has been overlooked

to a certain extent when schools are

giving out careers advice. I’m glad to

say that this situation is changing and

with organisations like Ordinance Survey

actively supporting the national geography

curriculum, the profile of GIS has never

been higher.

“A variety of careers are open to those

interested in working within the GIS

sector and I’d strongly advise young

people to test the water by organising

work experience with a company like Bell

Ingram to give them a flavour of what’s

involved in the job.”

Based in our Perth HQ, Marcus joined

Bell Ingram in 2016 and heads up our

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

department which provides mapping

expertise across the company.

After graduating BSC (Hons) in

Geographical Information Systems from

Kingston University in London, Marcus

Marcus Humphrey

Manager GIS &

Mapping Services

worked first for BP conducting offshore

mapping before joining a data

management company mapping utilities

in London and the South East of England.

His work at Bell Ingram has a similar focus

on utilities and infrastructure projects.

Marcus continues: “I’m currently mapping

routes for new fibre optic telecoms going

into Aberdeenshire. Working alongside

land agent colleagues, my role is to

confirm land ownerships as well as the

adopted highways.

“Rural professional services companies

often have dedicated GIS departments

which can offer support to staff with

different levels of mapping expertise.

This is the case at Bell Ingram where I

work alongside colleagues whose rural

or forestry degrees included a mapping

element. While some might have

completed a basic GIS module which

gives them the confidence to produce

a location/site plan, others have more

advanced skills.”

Marcus’ love of maps continues outside

work and he enjoys sharing his knowledge

by volunteering with the Scout Association

and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

He says: “As an adult volunteer I help

young people to develop their navigation

and outdoor skills. It’s a privilege to be able

to share my knowledge and expertise, and

maybe even encourage them to consider

GIS as a potential career.”

“It’s an exciting

time to be

involved in

the geospatial


thanks to the

advancement of

new technology

which is making

it one of the

fastest growing

global sectors.”

8 bi2021 spring spring winter bi2021 bi2019 91

design planning

Do I Need Planning


It all depends says Bell

Ingram’s Planning Consultant

Catherine Newton

Catherine Newton

Planning Consultant

Tel: 01738 621 121


Changes to



Rights (PDR) for

farm and forestry


The Scottish Government is making

changes to increase farm and forestry

permitted development rights (PDR)

which are intended to support rural

development and diversification.

These changes include increasing

the size of agricultural buildings and

allowing some farm/forestry building

to be converted into homes and other

uses without the need for planning


However, these extended rights are

still subject to a number of conditions

and limitations including size, height,

distance from a public road. There

also remains the requirement for prior

notification/prior approval from the

planning authority.

Do I need planning

permission to keep a

donkey; race pigeons;

cut down a tree; build

a shed; or form a hill track?

The answer to all these

planning questions around

land use and development

is invariably, “it depends”. It

depends on what, where,

when, why and who the

development is for. And it also

depends on legislation, local

development plan policies and


The same applies to the

question I’m asked most

frequently, ie. what planning

permission is needed to

develop new houses in the

countryside? My answer

is – you’ve guessed it is – “it


As Bell Ingram’s Planning

Consultant, I provide

professional advice to clients

and colleagues on an infinitely

varied range of planning

projects across Scotland and

the North of England.

My expertise is in everything

related to town and country

planning, and my knowledge

and experience allows me to

make an initial assessment

on whether or not a new

house in a specific countryside

location would be supported

in principle by the Planning

Authority and if further

investigation and appraisal

would be cost effect and

beneficial to the client.

For example, I often work

with my colleague Andrew

Fuller from our Oban office

to identify rural plots with

development potential for

clients who are in the process

of selling estates and farms,

and want to add value to the

sale.Most recently I was

able to provide

timely planning

advice to a client

before he agreed the sale of his

house and surrounding land

south of Oban. I was aware

that there is a clear planning

policy presumption in favour

of rural development in certain

parts of the countryside near

Oban. I undertook a site visit

and successfully identified two

suitable plots of land for small

scale development where,

in accordance with policy

criteria for new houses in the

countryside, development

would have no adverse

impact on the character of the


In this case, the Planning

Authority was able to agree

that the sites offered an

appropriate opportunity for

new homes, subject to a high

standard and sustainable

design being agreed through

the submission of a subsequent

planning application.

Ultimately our client did not

want to go as far as submitting

planning applications, but was

satisfied that the development

potential had been identified

to support the sale of the house

and the land.

The bottom line is that I can

give clear and pragmatic

planning advice on the best

approach, based on the client’s

needs and aspirations. Much

of my work starts with a quick

phone call from a colleague or

a client recommendation … so

if you need planning advice at

early stage please just get in

touch. n

l Securing planning

permissions was an

important part of

the process when

Bell Ingram Design

transformed this derelict

agricultural building in

the Angus Glens into a

stylish holiday home.

One of the biggest changes - which will

interest Bell Ingram clients - is allowing

the conversion of existing buildings to

residential dwellings. It is not intended

that the right should permit the

redevelopment of sites, but to allow

alterations to an existing building to

function as a dwelling with installation of

new doors and windows being included.

Conditions may still be attached when

Prior Approval is given and a building

warrant would also still be required for

the conversion.

In my experience, the conversion of farm

buildings to residential use requires

extensions, adaptions and often a new

build element beyond just conversion

to make the development financially

viable. Such changes would not become

permitted development. Therefore

we would not necessarily advise

trying to stay within the constraints

of permitted development, where

planning permission would otherwise be

supported in principle and provide more

flexibility to create a well-designed and

viable project.

If you have a project in mind, it

is always wise to seek planning

advise at an early stage. Contact

Bell Ingram’s Planning Consultant

Catherine Newton on

01738 621 121 or email

10 bi2021 spring spring winter bi2021 bi2019 11




Murray Fleming

Associate Design Highland

01463 717 799

Plotting your

dream move

to the


Here’s 5 top tips

for identifying a

perfect site

Readers of a certain vintage will remember

1970s’ sitcom The Good Life which

chronicled the adventures of Tom (Richard

Briars) and Barbara (Felicity Kendal) Good

as they embraced a life of self-sufficiency

in their home in Surbiton.

And this desire to create a ‘good life’

has been one of the enduring property

trends of the last 50 years with the current

pandemic only increasing the demand

for house plots as many people reassess

their priorities in favour of building a better

quality of life in the countryside.

So, if you are thinking of swapping city

living for the rural idyll, Architect Murray

Fleming who heads up Bell Ingram’s

Highland Design team shares his 5 top tips

for things to consider when plot hunting:

Where is the sun?

One of the great benefits of

designing a new house on

your own plot of ground is the

opportunity to take advantage

of the sun as it moves through

the day and to simply enjoy the

pleasures of a light filled house.

Whether it be the morning sun

in the kitchen or a view of the setting sun

from the living room, good house design

begins with designing around the sun


However it is not a simple as north facing

site = bad and south facing = good, it is

much more a matter of the surrounding

topography and how that affects how the

sun reaches the site. A north facing site

may actually benefit from sun throughout

the day if there are no obstructions and a

south facing site may not see any sun if its

path is obstructed by trees or a large hill

immediate to the south.

Try and visit the site at different times

of the day to find out when the sun first

hits the plot and when it dips below the

horizon at the end of the day. Then, taking

account of the time of year, an assessment

can be made of how this will vary during

the year, as the sun path from winter to

summer varies enormously at our northern


Where are the


Not so glamourous,

however as many sites

in the countryside are

sold with no utilities, an

assessment of the cost

of bringing in water and

electricity, and dealing with

sewage is crucial to understanding the

‘real’ cost of the project.

A site that seems like a good buy at first

can quickly become a money pit if the

cost of running in each of the utilities

is exceptional due to long distances

for water/electricity, or poor ground

conditions for a sewage system soakaway.

Watch out too if no water supply is

available and the only option is an

expensive and uncertain water ‘borehole’.

Where are the



While bringing services a

long way into a site can

be expensive, dealing with

services already on site, but

which are in the ‘wrong’

place, can be equally

problematic, whether it be a water main

running across the plot (which can be

the case even in an apparently remote

location) or overhead electricity or BT


There are several companies that can

supply this information for a fee, however

local knowledge is equally invaluable, and

a short chat with a long-time neighbour

of the site could save you thousands!

Where are

there planning


Most house sites will

be sold with either

‘Planning in Principle’ or

full ‘Detail Approval’ and

both are likely to have

‘conditions’ attached

which you will be required to comply

with. These can vary from a requirement

to carry out protected species surveys to

archaeological ‘watching briefs’ or simply

forming a new vehicular entrance from

the public road to meet the current local

council standards.

While many conditions may have no cost

implications, the above examples could

prove expensive and so making a careful

assessment of the potential costs and

indeed risks of any planning conditions is

an essential part of plot assessment.

Where is the


Buying a plot of land and

designing our own house

is a dream for many of us,

and it’s not as complicated

as it might first appear! But,

before you make that life

changing purchase, ask

yourself: “Do I love this site? For better, for

worse? For richer for poorer? ‘Til de … well

hopefully not that part!” And if the answer

is YES!, come and speak to us at Bell

Ingram Design and we can help make

your dream come true.

Start planning your dream home by

checking out the plots for sale on our


or contacting Murray Fleming by

ringing our Beauly office.

12 bi2021 spring spring winter bi2021 bi2019 13


Bell Ingram

walkers go the extra

mile for charities

intrepid walkers of miles) during the month-long

all ages and abilities March fundraiser, the group

37 have been stepping of colleagues from across the

up to raise cash for Bell

company’s offices in Scotland

Ingram’s three chosen charities and the North of England

- rural charity RSABI, the Great set themselves daily targets

North Air Ambulance (GNASS) ranging from 2,000 to 15,000+

and Scotland’s Charity Air steps.

Ambulance (SCAA).

Clocking up a combined total

of 10,843,048 steps (5,134

Supported by their dogs,

children and partners, the

walkers fitted in their extra

miles before, during and after

work as well as at weekends,

and a WhatsApp group was

set up to motivate the group

and soon became a great way

of sharing routes and posting


As well as walking some

people also added cycling

and paddle boarding to

the challenge, converting

kilometres into steps!

Alison Lowson, Bell Ingram’s

Marketing Manager, helped

organise the challenge. She

said: “With so many people

home-working at the moment,

the idea was to challenge

colleagues to take more

exercise during the day and

focus on something else apart

from Covid and the dreaded


“The land agents and foresters

definitely had an advantage

when it came to putting in

the mileage because the very

nature of their jobs means

that are always out and about

managing estates, farmland

and forestry as well as

supporting our utilities clients.

“However, it encouraged the

rest of us to ‘up our game’

and we made a real effort to

explore our local areas. We all

live and work in some of the

UK’s most beautiful places

and it was great fun sharing

pictures and seeing some of

the stunning walks.” n



is very much open

for business

The high level of transactions we saw

carried over from the latter half of last

year into January 2021 has now hit a

roadblock with demand far exceeding

supply in the prime residential market.

Given the lack of stock, buyers are

reluctant to sell their own homes which

in turn has created a vicious circle. The

incorrect perception that the housing

market is closed for business is another

factor creating a drag on the market.

However, we are very much open for

business and know that the demand

is there. In Perthshire and Kinrossshire

for example, we are seeing offers

accepted within hours of being listed

on our online platforms. Private deals

are also becoming more common with

properties snapped up before they’ve

even hit the market.

More good news for sellers is that the

market is attracting serious cash buyers

with no chain to hold them up. Any

Carl Warden

Head of Estate


available properties are selling fast, often

achieving 10-20% over the asking price.

Looking ahead, there are plenty of

reasons to be optimistic that the

situation will improve, and estate agents

are holding their breath in anticipation

of a much-needed housing boom when

lockdown eases in April and May.

In his Spring Budget, Chancellor Rishi

Sunak chose to keep the fire under the

property market alight by extending

the stamp duty holiday from the end

of March to the end of June. After this

date, the starting rate of stamp duty will

be halved to £250,000 until the end of


estate agency

l An offer was

accepted on this

Perthshire property in

just three days.

However, Stamp Duty is only applicable

in England and Northern Ireland, and it

will be interesting to see if the Scottish

Government follows suit with the Scottish

equivalent, the Land and Buildings

Transaction Tax (LBTT), as Ministers

previously indicated the LBTT holiday

would end in March

The Budget announcement of a mortgage

guarantee scheme to help people with

small deposits get on the property ladder

by offering incentives to lenders to provide

95% mortgages is most welcome. This will

help first time buyers get onto the housing

ladder which in turn stimulates the rest

of the property market and increases

property transactions

Simultaneously, the Chancellor is easing

the UK from an end-of-furlough cliff edge

and has turned away from increasing

capital gains tax - an increase in CGT

could have dented the holiday home and

investment sectors. These moves point the

way to a lively property market through


With the public looking forward to the

stepped retreat from lockdown and many

people planning new ways of working

between office and home, there are

compelling new opportunities for buyers

looking for first homes or for homes with

more room in different surroundings. n

214 bi2019 bi2021 winter spring spring winter bi2021 bi2019 153

estate agency

estate agency

TV programmes like Amanda

Owen’s ‘Our Yorkshire Farm’

and Ben Fogle’s ‘New Lives

in the Wild’ have tapped into

a national obsession with selfsufficient


So much so that even during

lockdown, farm and crofting

properties generated high levels

of enquiries as soon as they

came on the market.

But for those seeking the rural

idyll, does the romantic notion

of swapping city life for a sheep

farm in the Dales or living in a

white-washed croft house on

a west coast bay live up to the


Bell Ingram’s resident crofting expert

Ian Blois says: “It can do, but it’s

not always straightforward and

prospective crofters need to be

aware of a number of points when buying

a property which could be restricted by

crofting legislation.”

He continues: “Increased interest in

crofting properties during the Covid

lockdown has been prompted partly

by lower property prices and partly by a

genuine consideration of escaping to the

country and leaving behind the stresses

of city living. Working from home is now

a reality for many people and with good

broadband, connectivity to a business or

employment anywhere in the world is now

possible amidst the freedom and slower

lifestyle of the Highlands.

Based in Bell Ingram’s Beauly office,

Ian has worked with Estate Agency

colleagues advising potential crofters for

over ten years and reckons that a working

knowledge of crofting legislation almost

comes as standard if you are a rural

professional living and working in the


He adds: “While the rules and regulations

around crofting aren’t particularly

complicated, like most things of this

nature there are certainly a few pitfalls that

could trap the unwary, and it’s sensible to

do your homework and consult an expert.”

Ian Blois

Senior Land Agent

01463 717799


Thinking of

buying a

It’s important to do

your homework and

consult an expert

Here’s a number of points you might want

to consider if you are thinking of buying a


What is a croft?

Crofting is a system of landholding which

is unique to Scotland and is an integral

part of life in the Highlands & Islands. A

croft is legally any small land holding,

which is registered as a croft by the

Crofting Commisson and therefore subject

to crofting legislation. The croft may or

may not have a house or farm buildings

associated with it and there is no size limit.

Currently Bell Ingram have a number of

crofts for sale ranging from a 1.6acre croft

near Oban to 127 acres of farmland near

Lairg in Sutherland.

Where are crofts


There are 21,186 crofts entered on the

Crofting Commission’s Register of Crofts

(ROC) of which 15,137 are tenanted and

the remainder are owned. These crofts

are located within the traditional Crofting

Counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness,

Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney

and Shetland, or in one of the newly

designated crofting areas – Arran, Bute,

Greater and Little Cumbrae, Moray.

How much does it cost

to buy a croft?

This depends of a number of factors,

including location, land quality and

whether the sale includes a croft house.

For example, a croft (with a croft house)

in a desirable area like the Black Isle with

good transport links to Inverness is likely

to fetch a higher price than a property

without a croft house in a more remote


What is the legal

position if I buy a


There are two possible scenarios when you

buy a croft and these should be apparent

in the sales particulars. The croft may be

classed as owner-occupied, in which case

you would be buying the land and the

crofting tenancy, which is the right to farm

the land. Or, in some cases, the ownership

of the land is not part of the sale and

you would be buying the assignation or

tenancy of the croft, which is just the right

to farm the land.

What are my rights

and responsibilities if I

buy a croft?

Owning a croft is not the same as owning

an ordinary regular home or farm because

the use of the land is regulated by the

Crofting Acts. Whether you become an

owner-occupier or just the tenant, in both

cases you must comply with certain duties

imposed on you by the crofting legislation.

These are:

lA duty to

be a resident on, or

within 32 kilometres

of, the croft.

lA duty not to misuse

or neglect the croft.

lA duty to cultivate

and maintain the croft

or to put it to another

purposeful use.

If any of these rules are breached, the

Crofting Commission have the statutory

powers to terminate the tenancy and

allocate the croft to someone considered

to be more suitable. This applies even

if you own the croft, so it is important

that prospective buyers understand the

commitment they are making.

Can I buy a croft house

without any land?

A “croft” house is not necessarily a croft.

If a house is being sold without land, it is

unlikely to be subject to crofting legislation

which applies mainly to land. In this case,

normal property laws apply and you can

use it as a second home or let it out as a

holiday cottage.

If a registered croft is being sold with a

house, the house and garden has often

been de-crofted which means that while

the land remains under crofting tenure,

the house is no longer subject to crofting

legislation. This can be important if the

buyer needs a mortgage as lenders will

only offer financial assistance if the house

is free of crofting legislation.

Making an Offer

If you are serious about buying a croft,

speak to the selling agent and your

solicitor to make sure you are fully aware

of what it will mean to become a crofter.

It is usual to make a formal offer subject

to getting approval from the Crofting

Commission. This means that if your

offer is accepted, you will then make an

application to the Crofting Commission to

be approved as the tenant of the property.

This is likely to be successful as long as you

intend to live permanently on the croft or

at least within 19 miles of it and to actively

farm the land. Once approved, your offer to

buy will be completed.

Still Confused?

If you have found you dream house on

an internet search and you find that

crofting is mentioned, please do not be

discouraged. Just give us ring at either our

Beauly or Oban office and someone will

be pleased to answer all your questions. It’s

not as complicated as it sounds.

Useful links:

• Crofting Commission

• Citizen’s Advice

• Shelter Scotland

16 bi2021 spring spring bi2021 17



staff are a unique

selling point for

Scottish businesses



Simone Hogan

Administrative Assistant


01463 717 799

of interest in Scottish

Gaelic saw more than

560,000 people sign up

to learn the language with

learning app Duolingo during the 2020


Statistics released by the company

revealed that a third of learners on the

site are from Scotland, with another third

from the US, and the remainder from

around the world, including eight per

cent from Canada.

The global popularity of Scottish Gaelic

comes as no surprise to Bell Ingram’s

Simone Hogan who had been learning

the language since 2009 having

emigrated to the UK from Australia in

1995 and living in Kent before finally

settling in the Highlands in 2019.

And Simone, who works as an

Administrative Assistant in the company’s

Highland office in Beauly, believes that

Scottish hospitality and tourism industry

is missing a trick by not weaving Gaelic

into their business plans and employing

more fluent speakers.

Says Simone: “From personal experience

I know that international visitors seek out

Gaelic speaking businesses when they

travel to Scotland.

“For example, when a friend I met

through online Gaelic classes travelled

to Scotland from the USA with a group

of her colleagues, she specifically sought

out accommodation, restaurants and

excursions which employed Gaelic

speakers. As a Gaelic learner, she

understood how intrinsically linked to

Scotland’s landscape, history, heritage

and culture the language is, and she

wanted to share this with her co-workers.

“It’s also worth pointing out that

Duolingo’s Facebook group alone has over

9,000 members worldwide who use the

forum; combined with members of other

learners’ groups, the number of potential

customers exceeds 18,000. Post-lockdown

many of these people will be looking

for opportunities to travel to Scotland,

practice speaking the language and

interact with fluent speakers. So, say you

have a café with a Gaelic speaker behind

the counter then learners are more likely

to pop into your establishment to get

some practice speaking.

“The #cleachdi Gàidhlig badge is also

popular with learners and when I

wore mine I noticed others who did

too, including at the local outdoor

markets. Businesses can apply for these

promotional materials once lockdown is



is fàilte





“The bottom line is that Gaelic groups

are full of people asking about

accommodation, tours, excursions,

restaurants, music venues, ceilidhs, etc.

where Gaelic can be heard, and spoken.

In addition, there are people who take

photos of everyday instances of Gaelic

to post on social media; in some cases

just to make the language, and culture

(at least appear) more accessible. Any

sign, poster, brochure, clothing, jewellery

or gift that has the Gaelic becomes a

collector’s item. Honestly, these pictures

– together with the information on where

to see and buy these Gaelic products

– are shared around Gaelic groups and

pages constantly.

“If you are a business employing Gaelic

speaking staff, make sure you shout

about it as it’s a unique selling point.

Learners will spend considerable time

seeking you out even if you just promote

and/or support Gaelic.”

After a decade living and working

in London and the South East,

Simone finally made the move

to Scotland permanent in 2019,

working first at the port of Nigg before

taking up her current position with Bell

Ingram in Beauly.

She continues: “Scotland has always

felt welcoming and inclusive and the



first time I visited I knew instantly that I

wanted to make my home here. Learning

Gaelic felt like the best and fastest way

to immerse myself in the culture and

history of the country.

“My first time spontaneously speaking

Gaelic was at Bell Ingram when one

of our clients mentioned returning to

Uist. As I had only ever discussed Uist

in Gaelic classes, I instinctively asked (in

Gaelic) if she was from North or South

Uist – ‘Uibhist a Tuath, no Uibhist a

Deas?’, and our conversation continued

exclusively in Gaelic. It was exciting!

Weirdly, my very first use of

Gaelic in the workplace

was when I was in London

working for a Texan law firm.

They were drafting an agreement with

one of the parties having a Gaelic name,

and I noticed an accent was missing

during proofreading. Forgetting an

accent can be dangerous in Gaelic (you

might be referencing something rude!),

so I made certain the correct accents

were added.”

Despite the challenges of lockdown

Simone is committed to improving her

command and understanding of the


She adds: “I am aware of other learners



in my area, so once lockdown is lifted,

I hope to set up a Cofaidh & Craic

(coffee and fun) group in the area. More

particularly, I hope to find Gaelic friendly

venues to host the group as well as any

excursion providers who can expand our

working Gaelic knowledge, e.g. walking,

foraging, boating, cycling, etc.” n

Useful Links &


Visit Scotland’s Gaelic

Tourism Strategy: https://

A collection of available online

resources for (beginner) learners

can be found here: https://padlet.


There is also a Gaelic LinkedIn



18 bi2021 spring spring winter bi2021 bi2019 19 11

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Head Offce: Durn, Isla Road, Perth




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Tel: 01738 621 121



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Ayr, KA7 1BG

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Tel: 01307 462 516



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Beauly, IV4 7BS

Tel: 01463 717799



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Morpeth, NE61 5HB

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