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Award wins for Darlington and Barnard Castle

11 October 2010

The awards were announced at RTPI NE's Annual Awards Dinner, held at Brasserie Black Door at the Biscuit Factory, in Newcastle upon Tyne, on 8 October, where the award winners were presented with commemorative certificates by Julian Ringer, 2010 Chair of RTPI NE and Colin Haylock, national Junior Vice President of the RTPI.

The RTPI North East Regional Awards Scheme takes place annually in order to recognise, celebrate and publicise good planning practice in the North East of England.

Introducing the awards, RTPI NE Chair Julian Ringer said: \"There are almost 1,000 town and country planners working and living in the North East of England, between the Tees and the Tweed, and almost all contribute to making the region the very best place in the UK to live and to work. A small number make an outstanding contribution either by their voluntary work or by delivering outstanding projects and plans.\"

\"This year we have awards in Darlington, Barnard Castle, Elswick, Gateshead and Blyth. It is reassuring that even when the going gets tough, as it surely has, individuals and teams can sustain the very best in quality, not just for today but for future generations. Thank you on behalf of all of us who live and work in the region for those special contributions made by our award winners.\"

It is reassuring that even when the going gets tough, as it surely has, individuals and teams can sustain the very best in quality, not just for today but for future generations.

Awards Scheme organizer Chris Clarke said: \"We would like to thank all those who entered. The entries were varied, and came from most parts of the region, including urban and rural areas.\"

Award scheme entries 

Regional Award Winner 2010

Distinctly Darlington, Supplementary Planning Document on the Design of New Development
(entered by Darlington Borough Council)

Distinctly Darlington sets out the 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 Darlington, and sections on open space, movement, heritage and sustainability, as well as guidance for detailed design issues, the document is clear and concise, well laid out, easy to use and attractive. It was adopted by the Council, as part of the Local Development Framework, in July 2009.

The Awards Scheme judges noted 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 character and distinctiveness of different parts of Darlington, the use of defined character zones, and the excellent layout of the policies and illustrations, with clear links to relevant national policies and guidance.

Winner of the 2010 Chair's Award 

(for the entry which best illustrates the principles of Sustainability)

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

The Hub is a newly built lottery-funded youth project, providing 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, the turf and wildflower roof, rainwater harvesting feeding the on-site lake, bat boxes and bricks, ample cycle parking, and a display in the reception area monitoring energy use. A wind turbine is planned and the Design Team is working towards a minimum excellent BREEAM rating.

Construction was not complete when the judges made their site visits, but already it was clear that this is one of the most innovative projects submitted for an RTPI NE award in recent years.


This year the judges gave three Commendations – slightly more than usual. All three projects are excellent in themselves, but all three also make significant contributions to the regeneration of their surrounding areas.

Virginia House, Elswick, 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, as a home for the shipbuilding Cruddas family. Now overlooked by 1960's tower blocks of flats, after being used as a hostel for homeless men, it became vacant and vandalised in 2006. As refurbished and discretely extended, the building now provides \"move on\" accommodation for single men, with training and recreational facilities.

The sensitive and well-designed development restores the best features of the historic building and provides excellent accommodation for its new use. The sense of ownership and pride amongst the residents is clear. Some Cyrenian service users were trained in construction as part of the project.

Avondale Park, Whitehall Road, Gateshead (entered by Gateshead Council).

The project comprises the renovation of a small park in the heart of the Bridging Newcastle Gateshead 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 judges noted how well-used the park seemed to be. There are ingenious design touches – such as the means taken to keep stray dogs from wandering into the park (something like cattle grids at all the park entrances) and the re-use of stone and other remnants of previous development.

The revived park provides a fine focus amongst the well refurbished surrounding terraces of Bensham and Saltwell, which provide homes for Gateshead residents, including members of its Orthodox Jewish community, as well as a Muslim Community Centre and a Methodist Church.

Blyth Beach Chalets, Blyth Links, 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.

Cleverly designed to face both ways (towards and away from the sea and promenade) the chalets revive an old tradition in an absolutely up-to-the-minute way, and bring colour, shelter and extra activity to the seafront. Other seaside towns, take note!

Other entries considered

Six other projects and planning exercises were also considered by the awards scheme judges:

  • Bedlington Market Place, Northumberland (Northumberland County Council)
  • Gateshead Integrated Employment Land Review, Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment and Office Capacity Study (entered by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners on behalf of Gateshead Council) 
  • Block Improvement Scheme, Phase 2, Gateshead (Gateshead Council)
  • The Refurbishment of Haven House, Leadgate, County Durham (Blake Hopkinson Architecture, on behalf of Derwentside Homes)
  • St Luke's Church, Frank Street, Wallsend (Arcus Consulting)
  • Affordable Housing, Lesbury, Northumberland (Isos Housing Group)


  • For information about \"Distinctly Darlington\" contact Tim Crawshaw (Darlington Borough Council) on 01325 388048 or 388047
  • For information about \"The Hub\" contact Steve Barker (Prism Planning) on 01325 345961
  • For information about \"Virginia House\" contact Marie McDonald (Newcastle City Council) on 0191 211 4976
  • For information about \"Avondale Park\" contact Dawn Tindle (Gateshead Council) on 0191 433 3356
  • For information about \"Blyth Beach Chalets\" contact Keith Dillon (IDPartnership) on 0191 261 4442