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Derry/Londonderry’s historic centre crowned NI’s Best Place

Words: Laura Edgar
Londonderry / Shutterstock_187138295

The public has voted Derry/Londonderry’s historic centre as the winner of the RTPI’s Northern Ireland Best Places competition.

The nationwide competition celebrates the places protected, carefully planned or improved by town planners for communities.

Stephen Wilkinson, president of the RTPI, said: “Being crowned the Best Place in Northern Ireland is recognition of the outstanding work planners have made to the regeneration and reunification of the city. Good planning has been pivotal in the city’s hugely successful, ongoing waterfront regeneration focused around its historic core, the Peace Bridge and Ebrington barracks. Together, these elements have redefined the city as a great place to live, work and for new investment.”

Derry/Londonderry’s chequered and sometimes violent history – the 16th century plantation, the 1920s partition, and the Troubles, which started in the late 1960s – shaped the city’s physical and social form.

The city’s prospects changed following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, with planners working with other organisations and professions across the city to regenerate it.

In the lead-up to the city’s year as the inaugural UK City of Culture in 2013, the Peace Bridge was unveiled, creating not just a pedestrian and cycle link between the Protestant and Nationalist communities on either side of the Foyle River, but a symbol of unification.

Planners have used the Peace Bridge as a catalyst to regenerate languishing parts of the city. It links the once run-down Ebrington area, now a regenerated square with new shops, restaurants and cultural spaces, to the redeveloped waterfront and Guildhall area on the opposite side.

John Boyle, deputy mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “This award reflects the positive impact the Peace Bridge and Ebrington regeneration projects have had on both the local community and visitors. Symbols of the city’s positivity and aspirations for the future, they have contributed to our local economy and tourism offering, as well as our overall health and well-being.”

Beverley Clyde, chair of RTPI Northern Ireland, said: "Planning has long left a mark on our only remaining walled city, laid out in the 17th century. The recent regeneration of Ebrington Barracks, the construction of the pedestrian Peace Bridge and the continued conservation of the City Walls and Guildhall demonstrate how the planners have successfully protected the built environment and improved connectivity between the Cityside and Waterside. Planners have also been central to the maintenance of the city’s original Renaissance layout, along with the fine examples of Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian buildings.”

Nominations for the country’s best place were submitted from the public in April, before a judging panel reduced the list to 10 finalists. The public were able to vote for their favourite for six weeks in September and October.

Nearly 4,000 people voted for their favourite from a shortlist of 10:

  • Antrim historic core, Country Antrim
  • Merville garden village, Country Antrim
  • Armagh historic core, County Armagh
  • Connswater Community Greenway, Belfast
  • The Cathedral Quarter, Belfast
  • Giant's Causeway, County Antrim
  • Rathlin Island, County Antrim
  • Lough Erne, County Fermanagh
  • Derry/ Londonderry historic core, Peace Bridge and Ebrington, County Londonderry
  • Newcastle and the Mournes, County Down

Image credit | Shutterstock