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Planners' President sees best of North East planning

30 November 2010

Ann SkipppersThe President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Ann Skippers, visited the North East of England on 23/24 November 2010. Highlights of her tour included a meeting with the winners of the 2010 RTPI North East Regional Awards for Planning Achievement, Darlington Borough Council for their Supplementary Planning Document on the Design of New Development and a visit to Barnard Castle to see The Hub, a newly built youth project which is winner of the 2010 Chair's Award for the project which best illustrates the principles of sustainability.

During her crowded visit Ann also met with planners working for the newly reorganised Durham County Council, planning students at Newcastle University, and planners attending a professional development workshop on Housing, and visited Blyth, Gateshead and Newcastle, to see other examples of good planning schemes.

Although her flight back to London was delayed by four hours by the first snowfall of the winter, Ann Skippers was perhaps lucky not to have been 24 hours later with her visit, when she might have been in danger of being stuck in the snow somewhere on the edge of the Pennines!

RTPI NE Regional Awards 2010

Much of the President's visit was focused on the winning entries to this year's RTPI NE Regional Awards Scheme.

Distinctly Darlington

(Darlington Borough Council)

Distinctly Darlington is a Supplementary Planning Document which sets out Darlington Council's step by step approach to improving the standard of design in all new developments in Darlington. With varied guidance for different parts of the town, and sections on open space, landscaping and sustainability, as well as design matters, the guidance is both clear and concise, and the final document is well laid out and attractive. It was adopted by the Council, as part of the Local Development Framework, in July 2009.

During her visit to Darlington Ann Skippers heard from Council staff including Richard Alty (Assistant Chief Executive (Regeneration)),Tim Crawshaw (Principal Planning Officer (Urban Design)) and Karen Johnson (Policy Planner) about several interesting and original aspects of the exercise, including the use of a website and consultation workshops to encourage members of the public to express their views on the area and the excellent layout of policies and illustrations, with clear links to relevant national policies and guidance.

Winner of the 2010 Chair's Award

The Hub, Barnard Castle
(entered by Teesdale Community Resources (TCR) and Prism Planning, with Browne Smith Baker Architects)

The Hub is a lottery-funded youth project, still under construction at the time of the visit, which will provide a range of leisure, sporting, educational and recreational facilities aimed at 13-19 year olds. Local young people played a strong role in drawing up the brief for the project, helping with fundraising, and overseeing the design process.

The highly innovative building is set under a double curved grass roof. Other environmental credentials include a biomass boiler, high standards of insulation, a passive natural ventilation system, on-site water treatment system, reed beds, and a turf and wildflower roof. Already it is clear that this is one of the most innovative projects submitted for an RTPI NE award in recent years and a worthy winner of the 2010 Chair's Award, for the entry which best illustrates the principles of Sustainability. Ann Skippers was shown around the project by Rod Hepplewhite of Prism Planing and David Brown, Browne Smith Baker.


During her visit to the region Ann Skippers was also able to see the three projects given Commendations in the 2010 RTPI NE awards.

Virginia House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
(entered by Newcastle City Council. The project is a partnership between the City Council and the Tyneside Cyrenians)

Virginia House is a villa constructed in the West End of the city by John Dobson in the 1850's. Overlooked by 1960's tower blocks of flats, it became vacant and vandalised. As refurbished and discretely extended, the building now provides \"move on\" accommodation for single men, with training and recreational facilities. Ann's guide for the tour was David Lacey, one of the residents, along with Andy Stewart, Area Housing Coordinator, Newcastle City Council and Neil Baird of the Cyrenians.

Avondale Park, Gateshead
(Gateshead Council)

The commended project comprises the renovation of a small park in the heart of the Bridging NewcastleGateshead Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder, to provide seating, a play area, trees and grass. The design of the scheme owes much to extensive consultation with the residents of adjoining areas, and all the awards scheme judges noted how well-used the park was.

Besides visiting the park Ann Skippers was shown round some of the surrounding housing areas by Councillor Malcolm Graham, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities, Gateshead Council and Sheila Johnston, Group Director for Development and Enterprise.

Blyth Beach Chalets, Northumberland
(entered by IDPartnership-Northern. The project was carried out on behalf of the former Blyth Valley Borough Council)

Blyth Links and the Promenade area have been the subject to a number of regeneration projects led by the former Blyth Valley Borough Council. The construction of two terraces of colourful Beach Chalets (containing 20 chalets in all) lends an attractive and contemporary focus to the area, without distracting from the nearby Battery (an ancient monument) or other developments.

The background to the regeneration of the Promenade area was described to Ann by Bruce Ledger, formerly of Blyth Valley Borough Council, now Northumberland County Council, while Keith Dillon, Partner, id partnership-northern, Architects showed Ann inside one of the chalets.

Throughout her regional visit Ann Skippers was accompanied by Julian Ringer, Chair of the RTPI North East of England Region, and Chris Clarke, Member and Public Relations Officer. Ann Skippers, the RTPI's 2010 National President, is an associate lecturer for the Open University and and founded Charisma Spatial Planning in 2003, with her husband.