The RTPI Regional Awards for Planning Excellence 2017 (kindly sponsored by WYG)
Category Winners Announced
This year the RTPI NW Awards for Planning Excellence received 14 entries for the 4 categories below. Site visits and presentations took take place on 26/27 June.
The awards judging panel went on tour again to see and hear from some of the best examples of planning in the region of the past 12 months. The shortlisted entries covered a wide range of projects. From strategic planning guidance documents to major mixed up regeneration schemes to individual buildings. It was inspiring to see all the good work done by planners in the region. Site visits were timed to make the most of British summer time - fortunately the judges had time to dry off between site visits!
And the Winners are:
The University of Cumbria in the Lake District - working together to achieve sustainable development (submitted by Lake District NPA)
Judges comments: The Panel was extremely impressed with the collaboration approach taken between the University of Cumbria and the Lake District NPA in enabling the positive redevelopment and in part reconfiguration of the Ambleside Campus in order to promote sustainable development.
Elements of the Campus had become under utilised and there was a need to reconfigure parts of the site to ensure a more positive legibility between Ambleside Campus and Ambleside Village itself. This to ensure the positive and sustained growth of the Campus given its unique local context.
The Panel recognised the complexities of the site and the sensitive relationship given the close proximity of Ambleside Village. They applaud the pro-active involvement of the Lake District NPA in collaboration with the University of Cumbria to bring about development which will undoubtedly safeguard the future sustainable development of the Campus to allow for a positive and integrated environment not only for its students but also the local community.
Manchester Residential Quality Guidance (submitted by Deloitte)
Judges comments: The Panel were highly impressed by both final output of the Design Guidance and the methodology employed in its production, both of which are considered to demonstrate quality and innovation in several areas. The Guidance is felt to strike the right balance between specifically addressing the distinctiveness of Manchester whilst also allowing for architectural innovation and expression. It manages to be both an accessible, user-friendly document, whilst also providing sufficient technical and planning robustness to 'give it teeth' in seeking quality design. The document is future-proofed in a number of ways, for example by using digital links to planning policies. It reveals a thorough understanding of design and planning processes and uses this to propose innovative solutions for achieving better quality - such as using Section 106 Agreements to retain design teams as design champions. Although, understandably, focusing on high density urban living, the Guidance provides a robust and flexible framework that could potentially be extended throughout the Greater Manchester Combined Authority area.
The methodology included a project 'sounding board' and a series of 'city conversations' involving Members, various community groups, developers and designers. This engagement was managed in a way that ensured that the Guidance benefitted from it, by generating ideas and helping to ensure deliverability, but without losing its clear and singular focus. The project team also provided training for officers on how to use and apply the guidance, which was felt to be a key consideration, and the Guide is already being successful used in the development management process to improve design quality.
It was evident that the Guide was the result of successful multi-disciplinary working, led and managed by Deloitte. Although this is a planning award, Planit-IE and CallisonRTKL should also be both recognised for their extensive and excellent contributions to this project. At a time of major growth, and within a national context focusing on delivery, Manchester City Council is also to be congratulated in seeking to maintain high quality design standards and development that will reflect the unique characteristics of the City. This award demonstrates how planners can successfully lead and deliver multi-disciplinary commissions that require wide ranging engagement. It also shows how the current planning policy context and development management system can be used to seek high quality, locally distinctive design for our cities.
Spinning Point, Rawtenstall (submitted by NJL Consulting)
Judges comments: The Panel were extremely impressed with the partnership led by Rossendale BC in achieving the regeneration of the Valley Centre and adjacent property in the heart of Rawtenstall town centre now known as Spinning Point.
Parts of the site in this key location had become an eyesore and impacted negatively on the town centre. The Council acquired The Valley Shopping Centre in 2011 and this was crucial in their strategy to secure renewal of the town centre including the replacement of the bus station.
This led to the establishment of the RTB Partnership, a Joint Venture comprising Rossendale BC, Together Housing Group and Barnfield Investment Properties.
The Panel recognised the achievement of the Partnership in assembling the land and bringing about a viable development that will transform the town, its economy, connectivity and which will undoubtedly encourage further investment.
BEST PRACTICE (new award)
McDonalds, Rawtenstall - 'Food for Thought' (submitted by Rossendale BC)
Judges comments: The Panel have given this successful scheme 'special' status because it demonstrates how a small local planning authority can achieve an excellent outcome in dealing with an application from a world famous company. We were able to visit the finished product and see for ourselves the undoubted quality of the completed drive-thru restaurant.
The now fully functioning building is alongside a major roundabout on a prominent site in Rawtenstall's town centre. It is surrounded on three sides by a conservation area boundary and overlooked by the impressive classical portico of the Listed St Mary's Chambers.
In spite of advice given in pre-application discussions, McDonald's agents submitted what appears to have been the standard single story restaurant with artificial stone elevations, large glazed areas and louvered detailing to suggest a pitched roof.
The case officer held discussions with the agent and pressed again for a more creative solution. Several further schemes and variations were submitted but they too failed to live up to the potential of this important town centre site. Officers 'negotiated' for seven months and McDonald's architects, at last, came up with:
"A bespoke, contemporary and attractive building, with understated detailing and a limited selection of high quality materials (including natural stone cladding) and colour palette which reflects the local vernacular"
In addition officers insisted on the retention of many protected trees and secured non-standard adverts and high quality boundary treatments.
We hope that by 'showcasing' this example we will encourage development control officers, in particulr, to stick to their guns and argue for the best possible schemes for their respective local authority areas.
We also hope that McDonalds recognise that by complying with the planning process they now have a valuable asset and landmark in Rawtenstall.
The overall winner of the RTPI NW Awards for Planning Excellence will be announced at the RTPI NW Annual Dinner on Friday 6 October 2017.
Entries for next year's awards will open in Spring 2018.