On a recent two-day visit RTPI President Stephen Wilkinson saw first hand a mix of examples – from town centre regeneration to re-use of heritage assets – that showed the continued emergence of the North East as a place for planning excellence.
He was impressed by the planner’s creative vision in number of innovative regeneration schemes, including affordable housing schemes developed by the Gateshead Regeneration Partnership, a joint venture between Gateshead council, Galliford Try and the Home Group, and the creation of a new public library in South Shields which has been used as a catalyst for the town’s wider regeneration.
In Durham, the integration of new development into historic areas often poses considerable challenges for planners. Stephen saw how city planners there successfully worked with architects and the private sector to develop a £30million office-led mixed-use development at Freeman’s Reach on the edge of Durham’s UNESCO site. He commented that this required a clear understanding of place, resulting in a building which responds well to this important context.
Stephen also visited Seaham waterfront where Durham City Council has created a new waterfront hub as part of the town’s regeneration programme within the historic listed Georgian dock.
Two other schemes demonstrated how planners successfully responded to the unique challenges of development in the Northumberland National Park. Walwick Hall Hotel in Humshaugh is a conversion of a Grade II listed building within a World Heritage Site and surrounded by a national park, which has preserved many of the building’s features and blends well with the natural landscape. He also praised the National Park Authority's new £10m visitor centre and hostel which features a unique wildflower grass roof and landscape discovery centre and demonstrates how modern design can be integrated with the landscape.
View: photos from Stephen's visit to the North East