Highlands & Islands

Scotland's Housing Expo Flower House to open to public

Scotland's Housing Expo
Image caption The Flower House [right] is to be opened to the public at the weekend

One of the most talked about homes at Scotland's Housing Expo will finally be opened to the public just days before the event closes.

People will be able to get inside the Flower House with its floral patterned exterior this weekend.

It is one of a handful of properties at the site in Inverness not completed in time for the month-long expo.

But project manager Fiona Hampton said the event had been a huge success.

The Flower House had been a no-go attraction for visitors, but builders have now declared it safe to step inside.

Visitor target

It has attracted interest and comment because of its floral designs on the exterior walls and glass frontage.

Ms Hampton said she was confident that before coming to an end on Tuesday, the event would achieve its target of 30,000 visitors.

Professionals from the construction industry along with architects, local authority staff, families and schoolchildren have been through the gates.

On Monday and Tuesday, the last two days of the expo, a delegation from Finland is due to visit.

Backed by public money from Highland Council and the Scottish government, Ms Hampton said she did not expect organisers would be making any fresh requests for funds to cover costs.

Whether money will have to be drawn from funds underwritten by the government depends on the sales of the properties.

Delayed for a year because of the economic downturn, parts of the site at Balvonie Braes still remain unfinished.

Work was stopped on three plots so they could be opened to the public while another plot is vacant following a decision to delay the arrival of materials from Austria until after the expo.

However, Ms Hampton said one of the main successes of the project was its legacy.

She said: "This has not been an event in isolation. It is not an exhibition that is going to go away, this is going to leave behind a living, breathing community.

"Also, the whole process leading up to the event is going to hopefully influence future planning decisions so that this kind of design can be articulated in future developments.

"From the developers' point of view I think they have learned a huge amount from the techniques and processes which help the homes to achieve low fuel bills and that expertise can be built into future designs."

Film industry

Meanwhile, the expo has attracted interest from the television and film industry as a potential location.

The Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission said there had been interest in shooting a commercial at the site.

The commission's Trish Shorthouse said there was huge potential in the development being used for television and film as well as fashion shoots.

Because of client confidentiality, she could not discuss in detail the interest shown so far.

But she said: "The Highlands and Islands faces a lot of competition from other parts of the country in offering locations.

"The industry is looking for something really unique and the expo development is certainly unique and interesting."

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