The Planning Awards - Positive planning

The first Planning Awards, presented this week, highlight work that is ensuring quality design, environmental protection and community benefit. Kay Parris looks at the winners.

More than 300 members of the sector gathered this week at a sell-out central London ceremony for the presentation of the inaugural Planning Awards.

The awards recognise work that has improved or is likely to improve the built or natural environment or a community's economic or social wellbeing.

The entries were judged by 24 experts across a range of specialisms. Planning editor Richard Garlick, who chaired the judging, said: "It was inspiring to see so many entries showing planners and developers working with communities to win local approval of much-needed homes, commercial facilities and infrastructure. As a whole, the entries showed just how proactive the best planning teams are, and how much they do to ensure quality design, environmental protection and community benefit."

The awards were sponsored by Border Archaeology, CgMs Consulting (part of RPS), Ivy Legal, Locality and Thorncliffe.

The Editor's Award

Winner: Rogue Landlord and Community Safety Project, submitted by the London Borough of Hounslow

The Editor's Award is given to the entry that is judged to be the most outstanding of all the category winners.

In these inaugural awards, the Editor's Award goes to the London Borough of Hounslow's Rogue Landlord project, which won the Award for Enforcement, sponsored by Ivy Legal. This entry showed clear evidence of protecting vulnerable people in a west London community from the effect of unauthorised development.

The borough faces problems with unscrupulous landlords using unauthorised back garden shacks and sheds to offer accommodation. The borough says such residences are frequently cramped, damp and insanitary. The illegal accommodation also overloads council services such as waste and education, and detracts from other residents' enjoyment of their homes.

In January 2013, the borough responded by setting up a taskforce to tackle the problem. Over the next 18 months, it visited 3,540 dwellings, issued 400 planning contravention notices, brought 45 illegal dwellings out of use and fined transgressing landlords a total of more than £165,000.

There were a number of factors behind the selection of the project for the Editor's Award, ahead of 13 other prize-winning schemes. There was clear evidence of impact and residents' association support. The scheme was also an excellent example of the critical role played by planning enforcement teams in ensuring that democratically approved local planning policies are implemented.

Planning columnist Graeme Bell, who first suggested that the awards include an enforcement category, has recently written that "lack of enforcement erodes confidence in the planning system", as communities lose faith that there will be checks on individuals who flout rules agreed with the interests of the whole community in mind.

Planning policy is a key way for the borough to maintain the quality of its residents' lives and environment. But without the taskforce's work, it would have been in danger of becoming worthless in the fight against "beds in sheds". The taskforce has shown how planning policy, properly enforced, can protect vulnerable communities from illegal development and its consequences.

Award for Infrastructure Planning

Winner: Upgrade of Woolston Wastewater Treatment Works, submitted by Adams Hendry Consulting

The upgrade to an ageing urban wastewater treatment works site in Hampshire began in September and is due for completion in 2018. The project aims to reduce emission odours and enhance the local environment by treating wastewater to higher standards and housing the operation in attractive buildings. A major challenge is the need for works to continue operating during construction, so a temporary wastewater treatment works will be built on adjacent land. Adams Henry, working with 4 Delivery and Southern Water, secured permission for the scheme in June. Judges were impressed by the high-quality design and the public consultation that ensured consensus on the best approach. They said the scheme enabled the upgrade of a technically challenging site, while improving residential amenity and unlocking a regeneration opportunity.

Highly commended: Local Sustainable Transport Fund Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge, Reading, submitted by Peter Brett Associates

Award for Neighbourhood Planning/Public Participation in Planning

Sponsored by Locality

Winner: Winsford Neighbourhood Plan, submitted by Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

In October, local people voted to support the neighbourhood plan for the town of Winsford, Cheshire. The plan provides for development in the town's built-up area rather than its green fringe and identifies sites for residential development, allocating more than 3,000 homes and supporting a wider mix of housing to diversify the town's economic profile. The plan also sets out a vision for transport improvements, enhanced infrastructure and design, and seeks to create greater public access to the River Weaver Valley, which runs through the heart of the town. Judges said the process grasped a golden opportunity to effect changes the community needed.

Highly commended: Southall Opportunity Area Planning Framework, submitted by London Borough of Ealing; Winslow Neighbourhood Plan, submitted by Winslow Town Council

Award for Planning Consultancy of the Year

Sponsored by Thorncliffe

Winner: Deloitte Real Estate

Deloitte Real Estate's entry illustrated its work in wide-ranging schemes to improve the built environment while contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of communities by creating jobs and facilities. This work involves residential, retail, education, culture, transport and other specialisms. The many projects included in the submission included the Beswick Community Hub in east Manchester, which will feature a leisure centre, 600-space sixth-form college, retail centre and sports institute. Also featured was the Here East innovation campus and workspace for digital businesses on the former Olympic Park Broadcast and Media Centres site. Judges praised the professionalism of Deloitte's submission, saying the "impressive projects" are showing "real impact".

Highly commended: Hunter Page Planning, Terence O'Rourke

Award for Planning for Economic Growth

Winner: Royal Albert Dock, submitted by Farrells

Despite its access to commercial centres and its proximity to London City Airport and the Docklands Light Railway, the Royal Albert Docks site has lain disused since 1981. This scheme is backed by a Chinese developer aiming to help Asian businesses wanting to set up European headquarters. The project aims to reinvent the docks as an area for financial, high-tech and knowledge-driven industries, creating up to 20,000 full-time jobs and 1,000 homes and helping transform the wider Royal Docks and east London area. Farrells masterplanned the scheme, which secured outline approval, plus detailed approval for the first phase, in July. Judges described the plans as impressive, exciting, novel and likely to create positive, far-reaching and long-lasting economic and regenerative impacts.

Highly commended: Thorpe Park, Leeds, submitted by Zerum Ltd and Peter Brett Associates

Award for Planning for Housing Growth

Winner: Barton Park, Oxford, submitted by Barton Oxford LLP, Aecom & Terence O'Rourke

This project aims to create a garden city suburb in Oxford. Outline consent was granted in 2013 for up to 885 homes, 40 per cent of which are due to be social rented. The site is a postwar housing estate with considerable social needs. Emerging from cooperation with community groups, the plans include a community hub with a primary school, a park, an improved GP surgery, better indoor sports provision and targeted training and apprenticeships for residents. A community access agreement is intended to ensure that the scheme addresses existing community needs. Judges were impressed by excellent partnership between private and public sectors to enable growth.

Highly commended: North West Bicester, submitted by Barton Willmore, A2Dominion and Farrells; Advisory Team for Large Applications, submitted by the Homes and Communities Agency

Award for Planning for the Environment

Winner: Surf Snowdonia, Dolgarrog, submitted by NJL Consulting

This surfing and water sports adventure attraction in Dolgarrog, Conwy, north Wales, won permission in 2013. The project aims to turn a former aluminium works into the UK's first artificial surfing lake, benefitting the environment as well as social and economic regeneration. NJL Consulting undertook the planning strategy and technical work for the application. Judges said the project was an impressive solution to difficult environmental challenges, also offering strong economic and social benefits.

Highly commended: More From Trees: The Mersey Forest Plan, submitted by The Mersey Forest; Lymington Salt Marsh Regeneration, submitted by Lymington Harbour Commissioners

Award for Strategic Planning

Winner: Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan for Growth, submitted by Birmingham City Council

Launched in February, this masterplan covers 141 hectares, including the High Speed 2 (HS2) terminus, planned as an international gateway. The plan shows how the station is to be integrated into its surroundings with access points for travellers from various directions. The masterplan also aims to integrate with proposed extensions to the Metro tram system, pedestrian squares and green spaces, and seeks to maximise potential for economic growth and social wellbeing from HS2. Proposals include 600,000 square metres of commercial floorspace, 2,000 homes and 14,000 jobs. Judges praised the plan's ambitious and highly strategic approach.

Highly commended: Whitechapel Vision Supplementary Planning Document, submitted by BDP

Award for Waste and Minerals Planning

Winner: Joint Waste Local Plan for Merseyside and Halton, submitted by Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service

The product of eight years of joint working by six district councils - as well as six separate public consultations involving a total of 6,000 people - this plan allocates sites for a network of waste management facilities in the Liverpool city-region. Its approach is based both on existing planning consents and the industry's plans for the future. The entrants say joint working between districts enables major efficiency and financial savings, while the new waste management sites could create up to 1,500 jobs. The judges praised the joint working, collaboration and strategic coordination involved in developing the plan.

Highly commended: Planning for the First British Metal Mine in 45 Years, submitted by Stephens Scown

Award for Development Management Team of the Year

Winner: Southend Development Management Team, submitted by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

This entry showed how the council's development management team has juggled a wide range of demands in handling 2,000 planning and related applications in the last year. The entry showed several instances of the team's proactive work in bringing together public, private and third-sector partners on schemes. Judges were impressed by the quality of the submission, which they said showed that a development management team can be dynamic, engaging and make a difference.

Highly commended: Thurrock Development Management, submitted by Thurrock Council

Award for Planning Law Firm of the Year

Sponsored by CGMS, part of RPS

Winner: Mills & Reeve

This entry explained Mills & Reeve's role in securing consent for the applicant for an urban extension to Rugby. The scheme, which is intended to create 6,200 dwellings on the former Rugby Radio Station site, also aims for employment, community, education and retail benefits and quality open spaces and habitats. The firm took a phased approach to securing consent and fixing planning obligations for the scheme, due to roll out over 20 years or more - detailed information is given for approval phase by phase to save time and ensure that stakeholders remain engaged. The section 106 agreement was completed four months after the council granted permission. The judges said the submission evidenced an innovative approach to structuring planning obligations for a complex scheme.

Highly commended: Pinsent Masons

Award for Planning Permission of the Year

Sponsored by Border Archaeology

Winner: Wellesley, Aldershot, submitted by Grainger

Property firm Grainger secured outline permission in July 2013 for a 20-year transformation of a 255-hectare garrison into a neighbourhood accommodating up to 3,850 homes for Aldershot. Thirty-five per cent of homes for Wellesley are due to be available for social rent or shared ownership. The scheme also involves highway and infrastructure upgrades, two schools, green spaces and parks and refurbishment and restoration of six listed buildings. The scheme has strong council backing and won the Building for Life quality mark for its design. The judges praised Grainger for impressive reuse of brownfield land for a scheme that would offer major social, environmental and economic benefits.

Highly commended: Morleys Green, Ampfield, submitted by Pegasus Planning Group; Dollis Valley Estate Regeneration, submitted by Terence O'Rourke

Award for Planning Policy Team of the Year

Winner: Spatial Planning Service, submitted by the London Borough of Croydon

Croydon's local plan strategic policy document was adopted in April 2013. It divides the borough into 16 distinct places, identified by analysis of areas' characters and functions and consulting with communities. The borough's spatial planning service has since worked on its detailed policies document, now at preferred options stage. This was produced after consultation with residents' associations and shows stakeholders how the 16 places would change over the next 20 years. It also shows how the council aims to improve poorer-quality areas over the plan's lifetime. Judges praised the strong links between the team's work and private investment and the team's emphasis on delivery and plan-making.

Highly commended: Beyond the Development Plan - Using the full range of planning powers to secure local outcomes, submitted by London Borough of Islington

Award for Best Practice in Career Development

Winner: London Borough of Hounslow, submitted by London Borough of Hounslow Development Management Team

The London Borough of Hounslow's development management team prides itself on offering a career path that can take planners from school or university through to senior managerial positions. The borough's head of development management and one area manager began their careers at Hounslow as recent planning graduates. Non-planning graduates are also taken on and sponsored through a two-year planning Masters - one team leader and a deputy manager began at the borough this way. Each September for the past four years, the borough has also taken on a planning student or students for a year's placement, three of whom have then been employed by the council. The council is also creating a planning and an enforcement apprenticeship for school leavers. The judges praised the council for consistently finding ways to help young people enter the profession and progress upwards. They also noted that the schemes were helping the borough source and retain skilled staff.

Award for Enforcement

Winner: Rogue Landlord and Community Safety Project, submitted by the London Borough of Hounslow

Sponsored by Ivy Legal

The borough faces problems with rogue landlords letting illegal, substandard and often unsafe accommodation to migrant families. In January 2013, It set up a taskforce that visited 3,540 dwellings over 18 months, serving 400 planning contravention notices, bringing 45 illegal dwellings out of use and making seven prosecutions, levelling fines of more than £165,000. To ensure long-term impact, 240 homes have been identified to monitor, while the team issued tenant advice leaflets in five languages and referred relevant families to children's services. The award judges said the project had made a major impact, benefitting communities and environment, and praised its cross-disciplinary work.

Highly commended: Joint Regulatory Project - Problem Properties, submitted by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council

Planning Awards Sponsors 2014

Planning would like to thank the sponsors of the inaugural Planning Awards, who introduce themselves here:

Border Archaeology

We specialise in the resolution and discharge of archaeological and heritage planning conditions and have a track record of delivering solutions on time and on budget.

CgMs, part of RPS

CgMs is part of the RPS Group, resulting in RPS being the largest specialist and independent Planning and Environmental Consultancy in the UK, employing over 300 Planning and Environmental consultants, with Architects and Engineers.

Ivy Legal

Ivy Legal specialises in planning enforcement and carries out the life-cycle of planning enforcement activities: from investigations, issuing of notices, dealing with appeals and commencing or defending prosecution proceedings.


Locality supports communities to take action to improve their areas through neighbourhood planning, ownership of land and buildings, community enterprise and local service delivery.


Thorncliffe is the new name for Indigo Public Affairs, political and community consultation experts. Our 15th anniversary year sees us give a nod to our roots in Thorncliffe Road, Brixton. We have always been a bold company, as our planning committee results show, and when it comes to our brand, we are just as bold.

Prepare your next entry

The Placemaking Awards 2014 are open for entry. From the same stable as the Planning Awards, the Placemaking Awards recognise outstanding work in all placemaking disciplines, including economic development, regeneration, urban design, landscape architecture, community development and sustainability as well as planning. For more information, please visit

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