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Reuse old buildings for affordable homes: Chapelpark, Forfar

When the former Chapelpark primary school closed its doors in Forfar town centre after nearly 200 years, Angus Council was left with a valued historic B-listed building on its books – and, unfortunately, little market interest in taking it on, not helped by the complexity and cost of conversion. But the council felt a sense of responsibility to the community to save such a prominent and valued local asset. With high local demand for affordable homes, they decided to convert the school buildings into social rented housing, at a cost of £2.6m funded by the local authority (approximately 70%) and the Scottish Government.

The two year project was managed by the council and completed in 2018. With some demolition of more recent additions to the original school building and new build in the grounds, the site is now occupied by 29 high quality affordable homes: 18 one-bedroom flats, 6 two-bedroom flats, 1 three-bedroom flat and 4 five-bedroom townhouses. The homes were prioritised for existing social housing tenants who scored highly, and future tenants were allocated their homes early in the design process so that they could be closely involved with the design of their new home.

new homes in former school building, Forfar (courtesy of Angus Council)
new homes in the former school building, Forfar (courtesy of Angus Council)

Many challenges were encountered during the project – such as crumbling walls and tall windows – which gave rise to unexpected hidden costs and delays, as is so often the case with conversion of historic buildings. This meant that managing the expectations of the future tenants was important.

As befits such a prominent town centre building, a public open day was held when the project was completed to enable new tenants, former pupils and the public to see the transformation.

The Council has undertaken other similar projects on listed buildings at risk, such as the award-winning conversion of Glengate Hall in Kirriemuir town centre into 9 affordable flats (winner of the SURF Town Centre Regeneration Award 2014; see page 8 of the awards brochure for more information). The Council is looking at replicating the approach elsewhere in Angus.

The Chapelpark project won the SURF Housing Award in 2018; for more information see page 5 of the awards brochure. For any queries about the project, please contact Andrea Wilson, Manager - Housing Assets, Angus Council: phone 01307 492618 or email

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