Beacons of excellence

The 45 judges involved in this year's Regeneration & Renewal Awards have chosen their 14 winners. Colin Marrs and Stuart Watson report on what made these schemes stand out.

The downturn might have cut available funding for regeneration projects, but it has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of regeneration professionals. Representatives from all areas of the sector gathered last week to celebrate their achievements at this year's Regeneration & Renewal awards, held at the London offices of one of the sponsors, law firm SJ Berwin.

The awards panel of 45 expert judges considered 223 entries across 14 categories, which they whittled down to 64 finalists through a combination of discussion and site visits. Planning editor Richard Garlick said: "The standard of entries was once again extremely high, and demonstrated that despite - or maybe because of - the recession, there is a high degree of innovation shown by the winning projects."

The awards are endorsed by government regeneration quango the Homes & Communities Agency, while other sponsors are housing association North Hertfordshire Homes and construction and development firm Leadbitter Group.

Award for Boosting Economic Growth

Winner: Kennington Park Business Centre, Lambeth, London, submitted by the Workspace Group

Kennington Park Business Centre comprises 11 1920s industrial buildings converted by property company Workspace Group into offices and workshops available under flexible tenancies.

Workspace, a publicly listed real estate investment trust, took over the site in 2005, when it housed 17 firms. There are now 230. The trust says the complex accounts for more than one per cent of Lambeth's employment and has a £140 million turnover.According to a 2010 Cambridge Economic Associates study, 60 per cent of tenants said they would have located outside Lambeth if not for the scheme.

Highly Commended: Collective, Camden, London, submitted by Camden Town Unlimited.

Award for Regenerating Rural Communities, sponsored by North Hertfordshire Homes

Winner: The Highland Club, Fort Augustus, submitted by the Santon Group

The 18th century grade A-listed St Benedict's Abbey in Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness was a boarding school for Catholic boys until 1993 and later a heritage centre, but by 1998 it had fallen into disrepair and was finally closed.

In 2004 it was bought by developer Santon Group, which converted it into 109 homes and communal facilities on eight hectares of land. Completed in March 2012, the majority of residential units are holiday lets, helping to boost the local economy.

The prosperity of Fort Augustus has followed the fortunes of the abbey: in 2003, it had a population of about 650 and unemployment was more than 30 per cent. Since the conversion, the population has risen to 1,000 people and several small enterprises have been established to service the Highland Club.

Highly Commended: Redefining Sturminster Newton, Dorset, submitted by the Matrix Partnership.

Award for Best Use of Arts and Culture in Regeneration

Winner: Kings Heath Village Square, Birmingham, submitted by the All Saints Community Development Company

The scheme aimed to contribute to the wider regeneration of the Kings Heath area of south Birmingham by creating a space for local art, performances and exhibitions. The square was completed in November 2011 and has already been used for concerts, craft markets and New Year's Eve celebrations.

Local people played a leading role in commissioning and designing the project through the All Saints Community Development Company. Income from a local farmers' market will be used to fund maintenance, and the square incorporates artworks designed by local schools. David Powell, director of David Powell Associates and chair of the panel that judged this category, says: "It already seems to have become the heart of the local area."

Award for Best Use of Heritage in Regeneration

Winner: Bargoed Library, submitted by Caerphilly County Borough Council

The former colliery town of Bargoed in south Wales had suffered years of decline, which the council sought to reverse through its "Big Idea" regeneration project. As part of the scheme, the town's library was demolished to make way for a retail development, while a new library was created within the dilapidated grade II* listed Hanbury Baptist Chapel.

The redevelopment retained the chapel for the use of worshippers, while adding the library, family history resource centre, cafe and council one-stop shop. "Rather than seeing the church as an obstacle to regeneration, the council has secured the historic fabric in the long term by adapting and extending it," says Steven Bee, principal at Steve Bee Urban Counsel, who chaired the judging panel.

Highly Commended: Titan Crane Education and Outreach Programme, Clydebank, Glasgow, submitted by Clydebank Re-built.

Award for Best Use of Housing in Regeneration, sponsored by the Leadbitter Group

Winner: Kidbrooke Village, Greenwich, London, submitted by Berkeley Homes (Urban Renaissance)

Over the next 20 years the Kidbrooke Village regeneration scheme is due to see the demolition of the Ferrier Estate in south London and its replacement with 4,000 mixed-tenure homes over 109 hectares. The judging panel singled out the scheme's developer, Berkeley Homes, for its long-term vision.

Berkeley says the masterplan, prepared by architect Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, makes the new estate feel less dense than its single-tenure predecessor, despite the fact that it will be able to accommodate double the population, while building on just 35 per cent of the land. Since work began on the scheme in September 2009, 1,000 people are living in 344 new affordable homes and 175 private homes.

Highly commended: The Regeneration of the Packington Estate, Islington, London, submitted by the Hyde Group and Rydon;

St Andrews Square, Woodcock Street, Hull, submitted by Keepmoat (Yorkshire).

Award for Boosting High Street Vitality

Winner: New Windows of Willesden Green, submitted by the London Borough of Brent

Willesden in north-west London had been suffering from high retail vacancy rates and poorly-performing shops. The London Borough of Brent assembled a team to oversee improvements and secure temporary uses for empty units in the High Road area.

The project's first phase saw designers advise shopkeepers on how to improve window displays. A new shop window was opened on each day leading up to Christmas 2011 as a street-sized advent calendar involving 25 retailers. The second phase saw 13 shop units in a vacant parade transformed into space for business start-up units for local people.

Highly Commended: Leyton High Street Life, submitted by the London Borough of Waltham Forest;

Regeneration of Bridge Street, Worksop, submitted by Bassetlaw District Council.

Award for Community-Led Regeneration

Winner: Spirit Quarters, Coventry, submitted by Whitefriars Housing

Spirit Quarters is a housing redevelopment scheme aimed at providing more than 3,300 homes in the north-east Coventry neighbourhoods of Wood End, Henley Green, Manor Farm and Deedmore. The area has been undergoing intensive regeneration since 2001 through New Deal for Communities (NDC), a resident-led programme for which funding ended in 2011. In order to continue the lead role of local people after the end of NDC funding, a community anchor body, the Moat House Community Trust, was created. The trust is a signatory to legal agreements relating to the Spirit Quarters development.

Highly Commended: Caerau Village Centre, submitted by Bridgend County Borough Council and Caerau Communities First Partnership;

Rock Grove, Liverpool, submitted by Liverpool Mutual Homes.

Award for Design Excellence

Winner: Tower Festival Headland, Blackpool, submitted by LDA Design

Located between Blackpool Tower and the seafront, Tower Festival Headland provides the seaside resort with a new public space. Completed in February 2012, the project features artworks including a giant paved "comedy carpet" with jokes and catchphrases from 1,000 comedians embedded into concrete.

Awards judge Stefano Smith, technical director at AMEC, says: "The design quality, scale and impact stood out. It is an investment in the public realm that builds on the landscape of the area."

Award for Mixed-Use Development of the Year, sponsored by SJ Berwin

Winner: Titanic Quarter, Belfast, submitted by Titanic Quarter Ltd

In 2005, a masterplan was produced for the redevelopment of the site on which the ill-fated passenger liner RMS Titanic was built. Now residential, business, educational and entertainment schemes have been built on the 75-hectare site.

The panel was impressed with the site's "extraordinarily rich mix of uses". The scheme now includes 500 homes, the Northern Ireland Science Park, a 111,000-sq metre office, the Public Records Office Northern Ireland, a hotel and a television studio - currently home to the series Game of Thrones.

Highly Commended: Octavia View, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, submitted by Luminus Ferry Project;

Blakenhall Gardens Regeneration, Wolverhampton, submitted by Keepmoat.

Award for Partnership Working

Winner: The Beacon, Catterick, North Yorkshire, submitted by Riverside ECHG

A housing and training centre for ex-service personnel threatened with homelessness, The Beacon provides supported accommodation and training to help veterans re-integrate into civilian life.

Awards judge Andy Karski, principal consultant at Tibbalds, said the Beacon stood out because "it has a really rich mix of different partnerships involved over a sustained period", including the Ministry of Defence, the Homes & Communities Agency and Riverside English Churches Housing Group.

Highly Commended: Beautiful North, Liverpool, submitted by the Plus Dane Group.

Award for Skills Development

Winner: The Skills Place Newham, submitted by the London Borough of Newham

Set within the mixed-use Stratford City development, the Skills Place provides recruitment services, training and apprenticeships. The judges praised the scale of the project, its replicability and the impact it has had in an area of high unemployment.

The academy, which trains people for careers in retail, hospitality, leisure and administration, was founded in September 2011 by Stratford City owner Westfield and the London Borough of Newham. The judges were impressed by the number of people it has assisted: 985 have completed its Retail Works Programme, with 513 securing a job at Westfield. The academy aims to train 1,000 people annually.

Award for Sustainability Winner: NOMA: Phase One - 1 Angel Square, Manchester, submitted by the Co-operative Group

The first phase of the Co-operative Group's NOMA, an eight-hectare mixed-use scheme on the edge of Manchester city centre, has seen the construction of One Angel Square, the group's new head office.

The panel praised the sustainability standards that enabled the building to achieve a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method outstanding rating, an energy performance certificate A-rating, and a display energy certificate A-standard. The group says the building will form the blueprint for all future development within NOMA.The building is powered by plant oil and the system can export excess energy to the national grid.

Highly Commended: Engels, Salford, submitted by City West Housing Trust;

Stoneham Green, Southampton, submitted by Radian.

Award for Tackling Worklessness

Winner: Tackling Worklessness in North Staffordshire, submitted by the Aspire Group

The way in which social housing provider Aspire Group used its core activities to address local worklessness caught the panel's attention.

In 2008 the group, which manages 9,000 social rented homes in North Staffordshire, redefined its role in a bid to address unemployment rates of up to 32 per cent in some local areas. It created a social enterprise, PM Training, and a regeneration charity, the Realise Foundation. PM Training now runs five centres and provides 1,500 job and training places a year with 800 local firms - including Aspire Group, where 14 per cent of its 620 staff are apprentices.

Highly Commended: Supporting Employability and Enterprise, submitted by City South Manchester Housing Trust.

Award for lifetime achievement: eric reynolds

Eric Reynolds has near legendary status in the UK regeneration sector. In a tribute written for Planning's sister title Regeneration & Renewal in 2009, former government adviser Tim Williams said Reynolds "virtually invented regeneration".

Reynolds established his company - Urban Space Management - in 1971. Since then, he has worked on iconic London schemes including the creation of a vibrant market at Camden Lock, the revitalisation of Gabriel's Wharf on London's South Bank and breathing new life into Old Spitalfields Market.

He also created Container City, the brand behind the arts community made out of former shipping containers that is located in Trinity Buoy Wharf in the capital's Docklands. Completed in 2001, it was the first of the Container City projects: there are now more than 65 in the UK, plus one in New York.

According to the judges, Reynolds has been responsible for reviving rundown, atmospheric places that had lain untackled by other developers. One of the strategies pioneered by his firm is to provide "meanwhile uses" to raise an area's profile. The strategy involves acquiring short-term leases - typically running for between four and ten years - for each site and offering the space for rent as artists' workshops, markets, shops or cafes, or for use by community organisations.

One example of the success of this model is the Bishopsgate Goodsyard in London's East End, where one of Europe's oldest railway arches was transformed into a 2.6-hectare site containing a fruit orchard, swimming pool, football pitch, gallery, workshops and event space.

One judge says that Reynolds deserved the lifetime achievement award because he has always "rebelled against the system". The judge adds: "He does things the rest of the market won't do. With Camden Lock Market, he had the vision to create a successful market in a place that no-one else would touch, as they would not have had the vision."

Another judge says that Reynolds is an expert at "turning something that people consider of no value into a valuable asset". The judge says that Reynolds is adept at ascertaining the "spirit of a place", using this skill in particular to spot the opportunity for Camden Lock, which was "ahead of its time" and provided the area with an amenity that it previously lacked.

- Accepting his award this week, Reynolds said: "Back at the beginning we of course did not know that what we were setting off to do was 'regeneration' - we just saw it as producing affordable and hopefully attractive places at low cost.

"I have been lucky in my friends and supporters and in my strange 'almost everything is possible' cast of mind."

Planning's full Regeneration & Renewal Awards coverage can be found here.



North Hertfordshire Homes is a not-for-profit housing association managing almost 9,000 homes, including retirement schemes, across eight local authority areas in the counties of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Leadbitter Group provides a total solutions service for the private and public sectors covering project financing, property development, pre-construction management, and design, alongside a first class construction delivery capability.

SJ Berwin is an international law firm with a real estate practice providing real estate finance and funds advice, and boasting specialist planning and environment, construction and property litigation teams.

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