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Linen Quarter: Landmark’s restoration has a catalytic effect

The trailblazing Linen Quarter project in Dunfermline centres on the redevelopment of the former Pilmuir Works Damask factory into new homes – at the same time restoring an important landmark.

In line with the diverse nature of cities, the project targeted a mix of private and social markets. Creating a series of housing types for various needs which provides a sustainable socio-economic development.

And community has been at the core of getting the Byzantian Developments project  off the ground.


Through the design strategy, financial modelling, redevelopment and new construction for the Linen Quarter, the category A listed Pilmuir Works buildings have been saved from falling into ruin. This is a major success for an important landmark in Dunfermline and reverses an obvious symbol of decline in the city into a new residential community with integrated commercial spaces. 

The positive psychology this gives the local community and visitors to Dunfermline is that this is a place where preserving the historic fabric and identity of the city is important, and that this is a place where new communities are being created and a place where people want to live and work.

This is a demonstration of the positive environmental, economic, and social impact that property development can provide to a community. 

As energy prices soar, The Linen Quarter, is keeping residents’ bills down thanks to its connection to the city’s district heating system. An independent assessor found that a two-bedroom apartment in the new development has an average annual heating cost of £530. That is significantly less than the average annual energy bill for a similarly sized property announced by British Gas in autumn 2023 (£1,712).

Early engagement between the Planning Authority, Historic Environment Scotland, Client and Architect was hugely beneficial in helping to define the ambitions for the site and exploring what would be acceptable. It helped to collectively find a consensus of the historically important parts of the site to be retained and set expectations as to what was possible within budgetary constraints. Common ground was found in a shared understanding of the importance of this local landmark and the desire to re-develop the derelict factory before it fell into ruin. 

Initial 3-D hand-drawn design sketch ideas were shared with Planners. The design then developed digitally in three dimensions, supplemented with hand-drawn sketches to allow a continued refinement of the building massing, apartment layouts, understanding of the spaces between buildings, view, orientation, and key views were developed openly with input from the Client and Planning Authority.

Public Consultation events were held to get feedback for the proposed re-development of the site. There was a lot of positivity towards the proposals and the local community was very keen for the buildings to be saved from falling into further ruin for such an important local landmark and prominent location in central Dunfermline.

Further re-working of the proposals were needed for the central social housing building. Kingdom Housing Association (KHA) is a Registered Social Landlord with charitable status. Based in Fife and working across East Central Scotland, KHA provide housing to meet a wide range of needs, the majority being for social rent, however they also provide Mid-Market Rent, affordable housing for sale and factoring services.

The success of the development developed from the distinct points of difference that distinguish this urban environment from any other.

The category A listed building housing the previous linen factory offices was retained and converted to provide a series of new one and two bed apartments, with the existing stone facades retained with the fabric upgraded to meet current standards, and a new roof installed.

The Linen Quarter is the biggest private housing project to secure connection to a low-carbon network. This system is a successful part of the Fife Council’s pioneering “District Heating System”, bringing its customers the benefit of sustainable heating that is primarily sourced from 100% local green energy.

Additionally, a series of commercial units are provided along the main street frontage which assists with creating a multi-use development that targets city growth objections/needs.


Detailed designs

A detailed understanding of the site and its important heritage features set the basis from which the designs for the site were developed. Each piece of the site was thought of in terms of its future use and in relation to the existing context and cultural history of the site. While many UK town centres face very similar challenges, the responses to these challenges need to be individual and unique.

Each new building and element for the site is designed to complement the redeveloped existing heritage thus creating a new residential urban block which re-invigorates an important but neglected site. We need to be wary of preconceived solutions, the uniqueness of the “auld grey toon” makes the site and its wider environs interesting places to live, they generate value and pride and can often act as a catalyst for wider regeneration.

Catalytic effect

Through the success of the Linen Quarter, neighbouring sites have been developed during the course of the construction period.

Further residential development has begun within the listed context adjacent to the site. Any residential scheme within a Town Centre environment generates more footfall and creates a wider “buzz” around that area. Dunfermline is now a City and the general positivity around the future of the town centre is positive.

Commercial units located on the ground floor are designed with integrated open plan principles and are therefore flexible in use. Additionally, these spaces have also been carefully analysed to ensure that if required they could be adjusted into residential properties in future.


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