Log in | Register

Pride of Planning: RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence 2014

Words: Roger Milne
Golspie Street Park View housing Govan

In its centenary year, the RTPI’s annual Awards for Planning Excellence highlighted the positive impact that good planners – and good planning – can have on space, place and community in the UK

Planners and planning have their critics, but the RTPI’s annual Awards for Planning Excellence offer a reminder of the very good reasons we have to celebrate planning as a profession that has the capacity to genuinely enhance people’s lives.
For the institute’s centenary year, the 23 award judges highlighted dozens of examples of excellence – in projects, private practices, local authorities and the individuals at the heart of the planning process. Ultimately, however, there could only be one winner in each of the awards’ 12 categories.
“For this year’s awards, the judges were asked to identify entries that were original, addressed the broadest definition of sustainability, were transferable and, above all, promoted the value of planning to the wider world by creating clear benefits,” chairman of judges Sir Terry Farrell explained at the award ceremony on 23 June. 
“In addition, the awards also celebrate the contribution of our best planners across both the public and private sectors. I am also heartened to see many of the entries providing a practical illustration of the Farrell Review’s recommendations – from pro-active planning, through obviously passionate commitment to place-making, to ‘broadening the base’ – the greater involvement of communities in planning in its biggest sense.”
RTPI president Cath Ranson said: “It’s wonderful to see that there is a pride and confidence in the profession and its achievements which continue to bring forward these high-quality and diverse submissions.”

Meet the winners

RTPI Award winners 2014
Overall Winner, Presented with the Silver Jubilee Cup: Central Govan Action Plan (including Govan Cross Townscape Heritage Initiative), submitted by Glasgow City Council
Planning Consultancy of the Year: Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners
Small Planning Consultancy of the Year: NTR Planning
Local Authority Planning Team of the Year: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
Young Planner of the Year: Zoe Green, Atkins
Best planning for Natural and Built Heritage: Stonehenge Environmental Improvement Project, submitted by Chris Blandford Associates'
Excellence in Planning and Design for the Public Realm: Marine Walk and Seaburn Promenade, submitted by Sunderland City Council
Exemplary Planning to Deliver Housing: Regeneration of Hudson and Manser Streets, 
St Paul’s (Cheltenham), submitted by Nash Partnership
Innovative Planning Practice in Decision Taking: Stirling Ecosystems Approach Demonstration Project, submitted by LUC
Innovative Planning Practice in Plan Making: Delivering a new strategic planning and investment framework for Coastal West Sussex and Greater Brighton, submitted by Coastal West Sussex and Greater Brighton Strategic Planning Board
Leading the Way in Planning for Community: Central Govan Action Plan (including Govan Cross Townscape Heritage Initiative), submitted by Glasgow City Council
Outstanding Planning to Deliver Growth and Employment: London Gateway Logistics Park Local Development Order, submitted by Thurrock Council

Overall winner: Central Govan Action Plan

A 10-year, community-led planning partnership that guides the regeneration of central Govan walked away with both the community award and the top prize of the evening – the Silver Jubilee Cup for the Overall Winner.

The aim of the Central Govan Action Plan (CGAP) is to turn a town in decline for decades into an attractive, vibrant and prosperous place to live, work and visit. Although it has high-quality planning and planners at its core, the project’s real effectiveness lies in its focus on community contributions to the regeneration challenge.
Since 2006, some £88 million has been invested in the town through the CGAP framework. In the words of Terry Farrell, this investment is bringing “real and noticeable benefit” – new homes stand on once derelict land and new shops and cafes are springing up in the town centre. Historic buildings are being restored and given new uses, and Govan Cross has become a stylish civic space. 
“Community-led and hard-won – I applaud the passion and energy that has sustained the Central Govan Action Plan through the last 10 years,” said Farrell. “Overcoming tough urban issues typical of our post-industrial cities, the action plan has genuinely brought together a community to create, realise and sustain many physical, social and economic projects… This is true proactive and ‘bottom up’ planning.”
Planning consultancy of the year: Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners
Crowned Planning Consultancy of the Year, Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners (NLP) is one of the UK’s largest and most consistently successful practices. In particular, the judges praised the firm for demonstrating “a client-focused approach to designing and delivering services, and demystifying planning processes”.
NLP is noted for developing the HEaDROOM tool that assesses housing need in line with the requirements of the NPPF and for regularly extending the practice’s range of expertise. In 2013, it was awarded the status of Environmental Impact Assessment Quality Mark Registrant and obtained planning permission for 10,000 new homes.
“The projects submitted in evidence show consistently high-quality outputs, as well as successful outcomes achieved for their clients,” said judges. “They are good ambassadors and their submission clearly shows that they continually strive to advance the planning profession.”
Small planning consultancy of the year
Center Parcs development visualisationNTR has taken a conscious decision to remain a focused and dedicated single-discipline practice. Rather than try to master every aspect of a project, it looks to work with high-quality partners in multi-disciplinary teams.  Its aim is not to be the biggest consultancy, but simply to be the best that it can be.
The practice never advertises, but relies instead on recommendations from happy partners and satisfied customers. It runs its internal CPD programme and offers free seminars to clients.
It is an approach that has won NTR the Small Planning Consultancy of the Year Award. “NTR showed a diverse range of project work where high-quality planning solutions have been or will be delivered,” said the judges. “There was clear evidence of satisfied clients and they demonstrated work well within a multi-disciplinary environment.”
Local authority planning team of the year
Sandwell New Square visualisationDespite being in an ex-industrial area where large tracts of development land are contaminated, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has stiff housing and employment land targets.
These are set out in the Black Country Core strategy, which the borough helped to develop. Its planning team is not put off by the need to provide 21,400 new homes and 1,000ha of employment land by 2026, but has shown a determination to excel: 86 per cent of big applications determined within 13 weeks in 2013; 81 per cent of minor and 91 per cent of all other applications within eight weeks. 
A Site Allocations Development Plan. Three Area Action Plans. A stated aim to turn West Bromwich into a “top town”, a strategic centre within the sub-region. Extensive town centre development completed in West Bromwich, creating 3,000 retail jobs. In-house training courses. And now the Local Authority Planning Team of the Year Award.
“The Sandwell approach has had a great impact in one of the 10 most deprived areas in England,” said the judges. “That the team have achieved this in during a long economic downturn makes their accomplishments all the more impressive. This is an excellent service that has clearly gone the extra mile.  It includes many elements that are transferable to other planning authorities.”

Image credits: From top to bottom - Golspie Street Park View housing, Govan by Andrew Lee; Center Parcs visualisation by Mathias Architects for NTR; Sandwell New Square visualisation by Vinci Construction