Across Scotland we are increasingly seeing so-called"heritage properties" being used for commercial activities. This form of commercial property throws up some unique challenges, however. This is evident with diversification and enhancement of large estates where there are multiple heritage buildings which offer commercial potential for holiday lets, galleries, event venues or boutique commercial office space.
Lisa Naylor comments in The Scotsman on why she feels the extra effort needed for heritage properties is worth it.
"Developing a heritage property can provide a more distinct, personal and stimulating end product and the potential returns on investment could be more than for a new-build project."
However, developing a heritage property comes with hurdles to overcome."At the concept stage, one of the most difficult challenges is determining the best use of the building and who is likely to be the occupier so that the end function suits the character of the property and will provide a viable return for the developer as well as the ongoing income necessary for maintaining a heritage building.
"A long lead-in time and engagement with the relevant authorities and expert bodies at a very early stage is essential to help minimise risk and uncertainty inherent in an historic structure. The selection of consultants and contractors with experience of similar conservation and regeneration projects is also key."
There will need to be far more surveys and design studies than for a new-build project."Specific issues may include load-bearing capacity, fire resistance, acoustics, asbestos, dry rot and stone degradation, among many others. For a heritage property it is generally appropriate to go for low-tech and sustainable design solutions to sympathetically improve the existing fabric.
"The execution of the works will have to be done carefully and sensitively. It goes without saying that it will be a more painstaking and expensive project than for new build works and adequate time in the programme should be allowed to give a realistic target date.
"Despite the unique difficulties of developing a heritage property, managed successfully, the end result should be immensely rewarding both in terms of creating a long-term asset and contributing to the historic fabric of society for future generations."