Northern Ireland Awards launched

Joint awards aim to highlight excellence in sustainable planning, explains Claire Williamson.

The Northern Ireland Sustainable Planning Awards, a joint initiative between RTPI NI and wildlife charity RSPB NI, provide a platform that rewards and celebrates inspiring and creative planning.

The awards recognise developments that meet the needs of developers, communities and the natural environment, and that demonstrate an extensive range of benefits.

The 2012/13 awards were launched in Belfast on 23 October to coincide with Royal Town Planning Institute president Colin Haylock's visit to Northern Ireland.

Haylock said: "I know from previous years' awards that, despite these hard times, Northern Ireland continues to produce the very highest quality planning solutions, showing that it is not necessary to sacrifice the environment for growth. The RTPI recognises the value of jointly running awards that unite our work on and care for the built and natural environment.

"The awards offer an opportunity for developers, designers and planners to highlight their best work, to promote and share best practice, and to inspire others. I look forward to seeing the best of what Northern Ireland has to offer in this year's awards."

Previous outstanding entries include the redevelopment of the former Magheramourne Works limestone quarry as a new village and tourist attraction, and The Playhouse in Derry/Londonderry, which involved converting two condemned listed buildings that were originally 19th century girls' schools into a thriving community arts resource centre.

Others included one focusing on the natural environment and habitat restoration using tidal exchange, and Northern Ireland's first eco-village, where locally sourced woodchip is burned to heat 300 homes.

In addition, there is Leap Mill, a family home demonstrating that it is possible to design and create an affordable restoration project at the same time as maintaining local historical and family connections, while a derelict farm building in Fermanagh was restored to create an eco-tourism barn.

RSPB NI director Dr James Robinson said: "It is essential that new construction and development is truly sustainable. This means that new development should not only avoid negative impacts on the environment, it should also enhance it. The awards recognise visionary developers and individuals who have followed a green planning process from start to finish.

"The awards are a practical way of recognising some of Northern Ireland's most innovative developments, highlighting good practice and showing what can be done with a commitment to future sustainability."

It would not be possible to run the awards without the continued support of the Department for Social Development and Department of the Environment, which have been involved in the awards since their inception in 2007.

Claire Williamson is the RTPI's policy officer for Northern Ireland. The closing date for entries is 4 December. For more details and application forms, visit www.rtpi.org.uk/the-rtpi-near-you/rtpi-northern-ireland


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