The Planning Awards: Best of the best

This year's winners span 26 categories across planning and placemaking, Mark Wilding reports.

Alconbury Weald, Cambridgeshire (award for mixed-use development)

Organised by Planning magazine, in conjunction with PlanningResource and PlacemakingResource, the Planning Awards span 26 categories – 12 in planning and 14 in placemaking. There is also the editor’s award, given to the category winner that is seen to be the most outstanding entry of all.

In pictures: the 2019 Planning Awards

Click on the image below to view pictures from the awards ceremony

The planning categories recognise outstanding professional planning work, while the placemaking categories reward excellence in planning-related activities such as urban design, law, economic development, housing, regeneration and environmental consulting as well as planning. The winners were chosen by an expert panel of 25 senior figures from across the sector.


Award for design excellence

WINNER: The Essex Design Guide, submitted by Essex County Council

In 2017, the Essex Planning Officers Association commissioned a review of the county’s renowned 1973 design guide. The new iteration was launched online in February last year and includes guidance on planning for issues ranging from the needs of an ageing population to the use of smart technology. Judges described an "admirable update to the seminal guide to ensure relevance for a new generation of housebuilders, planners, designers and residents". They added: "It feels like an old friend has had a radical and highly relevant makeover."

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Highgate Newtown Community Centre, Camden, submitted by RCKa Architects

Award for best housing scheme (fewer than 500 homes)

WINNER: Berry Court, Bournemouth, submitted by Bournemouth Development Company

Bournemouth Borough Council identified a need for private rental accommodation to tempt graduates from the local university to stay in the town. The Bournemouth Development Company, a joint venture between the council and construction and regeneration group Morgan Sindall, partnered with housing association Radian and delivered Berry Court to help address the issue. Completed in August 2018, the development provides 113 rental apartments on a town centre site. Judges praised the project’s "major contribution to the economic and social well-being of the town
centre" and also its "positive impact on place and the community".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Pavilions, 351 Caledonian Road, submitted by Jestico + Whiles

Award for best housing scheme (500 homes or more)

WINNER: Brightwell Lakes, submitted by Suffolk Coastal District Council and CEG

The Brightwell Lakes site had a controversial planning history stretching back ten years. New site promoter CEG worked closely with a dedicated case officer at Suffolk Coastal District Council and undertook extensive engagement to address the local community’s concerns. Following a nine-month application process, councillors granted outline permission for 2,000 homes, of which 25 per cent are planned to be affordable, plus community facilities and 34 hectares of green and open space. Judges were impressed by the scheme’s "holistic approach", as well as adding: "The layout is legible and the relationship with infrastructure is also innovative."

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Finberry, near Ashford, submitted by Crest Nicholson

Award for promoting economic growth

Sponsored by WECD

WINNER: Made in North Tyneside, submitted by North Tyneside Council

The Made in North Tyneside (MINT) initiative was launched in 2012 to address low levels of enterprise in the borough. Since then, the North Tyneside Council programme has helped increase the number of self-employed residents by more than 60 per cent. Over the past two years, MINT has adapted to falling public sector budgets by offering flexible support and adopting income-generating activities. Judges recognised "a strong local initiative" with "demonstrable evidence of success".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Port Sunlight River Park, submitted by The Land Trust

Award for best use of arts, culture or sport in placemaking

WINNER: The EMD Cinema, Walthamstow, submitted by Inner Circle Consulting and the London Borough of Waltham Forest

Walthamstow’s historic EMD cinema (formerly the Granada) is a grade II* listed venue, but has been vacant for 15 years. Waltham Forest Council used community impact modelling to identify the indirect economic benefits from using the building – which it accepted was unviable as a cinema in conventional commercial terms – as a multipurpose theatre and cultural space. Since October 2017, the council has acquired the site and developed initial design options. Judges praised an "excellent community-focused scheme" with "potential to greatly improve the area, both visually and in terms of quality of life".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Studio 144, Southampton, submitted by CZWG Architects LLP

Award for best use of heritage in placemaking (multiple buildings)

WINNER: The Welsh Streets, Liverpool, submitted by Placefirst

The Welsh Streets in Toxteth were awaiting demolition when residential lettings company Placefirst proposed an alternative vision for their use. More than 400 homes in Victorian terraces have since been remodelled to create a build-to-rent neighbourhood, with rear yards and alleys replaced by shared gardens. Judges said the project "sends a very strong message that old buildings have a great future" and also remarked that "against the odds, this area has been transformed".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Plot 5, Fletton Quays, Peterborough, submitted by Peterborough Investment Partnership and Bride Hill Developers

HIGHLY COMMENDED: St Clement’s, Mile End, London, submitted by JTP on behalf of Linden Homes

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Swanage Pier Restoration, submitted by Footprint Futures – Planning & Regeneration on behalf of Swanage Pier Trust

Award for best use of heritage in placemaking (single buildings)

WINNER: Kirkmichael, Black Isle, submitted by McGregor Bowes

Restoring the buildings at Kirkmichael not only rescued a derelict scheduled ancient monument but also provided a new space for the exhibition of nationally significant medieval art. Refurbishment of the kirk involved numerous volunteers helping to clear the site and assisting with the associated archaeological work. The restored building is now home to a unique collection of carved gravestones saved from sites nearby. Judges said the project was "particularly impressive for its community engagement and enthusiasm" and because of "the uncovering of artistic as well as heritage assets".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Spanish City, submitted by ADP and North Tyneside Council

Award for partnership working

Sponsored by PBA, now part of Stantec

WINNER: Whitehill and Bordon Healthy New Towns Partnership, submitted by East Hampshire District Council

One of ten NHS England Healthy New Towns, Whitehill and Bordon aims to create a community in which residents are encouraged to be healthy, active and independent. More than 20 organisations, including developers, NHS managers, planners, public health professionals, schools, third-sector organisations and community groups, have joined forces to help realise this vision. Judges praised this "very good example of partnership working, which is delivering long-term benefits for the community".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Thurrock/Brentwood – Managed Service Arrangement, submitted by Thurrock Council and Brentwood Borough Council

Award for regeneration

Sponsored by Pegasus Group

WINNER: The Green, Hartlepool, submitted by Placefirst

Formerly 175 "two-up, two-down" homes, The Green in Hartlepool has been remodelled and refurbished to offer 83 rented family houses within original Victorian terraces. The buildings now offer open-plan ground floors, increased natural light, superfast broadband and 50 per cent higher energy efficiency, according to developer Placefirst. Judges were impressed by the way the scheme "makes a sustainable use of existing buildings" and "offers a good example of how existing residential buildings typical of many northern towns could be viably reinvented".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Connswater Community Greenway, Belfast, by The Paul Hogarth Company

Award for mixed-use development

WINNER: Alconbury Weald, Cambridgeshire, submitted by JTP on behalf of Urban&Civic, David Lock Associates, PBA, now part of Stantec, and Bradley Murphy Design

Redeveloping a former Cold War airfield in Cambridgeshire, surrounded by razor wire and filled with hundreds of shipping containers, meant creating a new neighbourhood from scratch. Alconbury Weald is planned to eventually comprise 5,000 homes, an "Enterprise Campus" business park offering flexible space and discounted business rates, schools and community facilities within more than 280 hectares of green space. The first phase includes extensive landscaping, a new school, allotments and sports and leisure facilities. Judges praised a "great example of a master developed approach, producing a great long-term placemaking strategy".

Award for community-led placemaking

WINNER: Brent Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy, submitted by the London Borough of Brent

Brent’s Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) focuses spending on projects that are intended to support development of the local area. Bids are expected to be genuinely community-led. To date, four funding rounds have seen money allocated to 80 social and physical infrastructure projects, including a library refurbishment, tree planting and employment skills programmes. Judges described the approach as an "innovative way of utilising and implementing CIL" that has been "taken up strongly by communities".

Best use of publicly-owned land and/or property in placemaking

WINNER: Preston Markets, submitted by Preston City Council

Preston’s indoor and outdoor markets were in a dilapidated condition. The city council, which owns both sites, oversaw construction of a new hall and restoration of the markets’ historic canopies. Promoted through the Preston city centre area action plan, the project involved planning and listed building applications, and was completed in May 2018. Judges described it as "a great-quality space and community asset" with potential to serve as "a catalyst for further transformational development".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Waltham Forest Town Hall Campus Redevelopment, submitted by Inner Circle Consulting

Best use of brownfield land in placemaking

WINNER: Quebec Park, Bordon, submitted by ArchitecturePLB

Quebec Park is the 100-home first phase of a wider masterplan intended to see the former garrison town of Whitehill and Bordon transformed into a green town by 2030. Completed in June 2018, the development provides a mix of family homes and flats, 25 per cent of which are affordable, and features two former barrack buildings that have been reused as an employment hub offering flexible office space to start-ups and a home to a community café. Judges said: "The retention and refurbishment of two of the existing buildings on-site helps to maintain a connection between past and present."

Award for excellence in placemaking at high densities

WINNER: Hackney Wick Fish Island, submitted by Hackney Wick + Fish Island Retrospective Masterplan Team

Development in Hackney Wick and Fish Island is governed by the London Legacy Development Corporation local plan, which sets a maximum building height of 20 metres. Despite this, more than 2,500 homes have been approved on 22 sites at an average density of 266 dwellings per hectare. The area has been designed to create a tighter than usual grain of streets and blocks, connected by a network of public spaces including parks, canals and yards. The judges praised a series of "strong and diverse" projects that "will create a lasting difference".


Award for plan-making

WINNER: North Warwickshire local plan, submitted by North Warwickshire Borough Council

North Warwickshire saw its population grow by just 100 between 2001 and 2011. While the borough had maintained its rural qualities, problems included failing infrastructure and little availability of skilled jobs. The council’s local plan proposes development of 9,600 homes and 100 hectares of employment land by 2033 – and expects to meet ten per cent of Birmingham’s housing shortfall. Judges described the plan as "brave, bold and truly groundbreaking in its decision to accommodate the needs of Birmingham".

Award for neighbourhood planning

WINNER: Holbeck and Walton neighbourhood plans, submitted by Leeds City Council

Walton is a small village near Wetherby. Holbeck is an inner-city neighbourhood in south Leeds. Both of them sought to create neighbourhood plans that would enable change. The Walton neighbourhood plan features three site allocations, including a greenfield site for 14 homes, while the Holbeck neighbourhood plan seeks to secure investment to regenerate the area. Judges recognised their "successful and innovative" neighbourhood planning and noted that they were "backed by an encouraging and supportive local planning authority".

Award for infrastructure planning

WINNER: Whittlesford Parkway Station Masterplan, submitted by WYG

The Whittlesford Parkway Station Masterplan provides a framework for investment in this
South Cambridgeshire transit hub. Collaborating with transport providers and other stakeholders, planning consultancy WYG worked to identify a series of interventions intended to increase the station capacity, reduce the reliance on cars for access, enhance the setting of nearby listed buildings and also facilitate the development of local brownfield sites. Judges believed the masterplan would eventually result in "really dynamic change" that "will generate improvements to Whittlesford in physical and environmental quality".

Award for planning for increased housing delivery

WINNER: Suburban Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document (SPD2), submitted by the London Borough of Croydon’s spatial planning service

The Croydon local plan outlines the borough’s ambition to deliver 32,890 homes by 2036, of which it expects 10,000 to be built on windfall sites. A Suburban Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document was developed to provide guidance for small windfall sites and encourage high standards of design quality – the first such design guide in Greater London, according to the council. Judges described the guide as an "innovative piece of work that could be used in suburban areas outside highly pressured cities and towns throughout the country".

Award for planning for affordable housing

WINNER: Redbrick Estate, Islington, submitted by HTA Design LLP

The London Borough of Islington’s planned redevelopment of the Redbrick Estate on Old Street provides two important opportunities: an upgrade of community facilities and the provision of affordable housing. The plans would see an existing community centre replaced with a larger facility at the heart of the estate, and also a youth club relocated to a modern property nearby. Thirty-nine of the 55 new homes are planned to be affordable. Judges praised a "well-designed, durable scheme" that is "tenure-blind and integrated" andnoted that it "meets community housing needs".

Award for planning for the natural environment

WINNER: Bird Aware Solent, submitted by Portsmouth City Council

Development in the Solent provides much-needed housing but raises a question: how to protect internationally important birds? Bird Aware Solent is a partnership between 14 local authorities, one county council and four conservation bodies. Chaired by senior planners, it uses developer contributions to fund mitigation measures, including rangers, public education and green spaces for recreation. Judges described the initiative as "a truly innovative scheme" with "long-lasting impact".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Tresham Garden Village, Northants, submitted by Charlton Brown

Award for use of new technology in planning

WINNER: PlanX, submitted by Southwark Council

Plan X aims to make the planning process simpler. This digital tool asks applicants a series of questions instead of requiring the submission of documents, allowing applicants to easily find out whether their project complies with local policies, while officers are freed of the need to conduct repetitive checks to validate applications. The tool also provides planning officers with analytics indicating which policies most need to be reviewed and improved. Judges said the tool "has the potential to create a real platform for the future of processing applications".

Award for stakeholder engagement in planning

WINNER: Consultation of the Living Lakes: Your Local Plan, submitted by the Lake District National Park Authority

More than 2,700 people responded to the Lake District National Park Authority’s consultation on a review of its local plan last year – equivalent to seven per cent of the resident population. Policies were drafted to be easy to understand, presented online using short videos and interactive web mapping and promoted via a social media campaign. Judges were impressed by the authority’s "innovative use of digital consultation tools, which has increased the amount of young people in the process".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Camden Goods Yard Options Appraisal, submitted by One Housing and the Juniper Crescent & Gilbeys Yard Resident Steering Group

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Stratford Waterfront, submitted by Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners and LLDC

Planning permission of the year

WINNER: 101 George Street, Croydon, submitted by HTA Design LLP, the London Borough of Croydon, Greystar Europe and Tide Construction

Occupying a prominent location opposite East Croydon station, the proposed scheme at 101 George Street is intended to provide 546 homes for rent on a site that has been vacant for 20 years. The 44-storey building is to be delivered using modular construction, which is claimed to make it the tallest project of its kind in the world. Judges said this "important scheme stands out in a number of ways", praising its pioneering construction technique and the collaboration between the London Borough of Croydon and developer Greystar.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Grand Union, Alperton, submitted by St George

HIGHLY COMMENDED: The Merton Regeneration Project, submitted by Clarion Housing

Planning law firm of the year

Sponsored by RPS

WINNER: Dentons UK and Middle East

The UK government has outlined its desire to see development of a new wave of garden cities; Dentons is helping to realise that vision. The firm is acting on several individual garden city projects and has also advised the government on the policies and legislative frameworks intended to guide the development of the new communities now and in years to come. Judges recognised the firm’s "valuable contribution to one of the most pressing planning problems of our future".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Pinsent Masons, submitted by Pinsent Masons

Planning consultancy of the year

WINNER: Inner Circle Consulting

Inner Circle Consulting does not prepare planning applications or local plans. Instead, this planning consultancy sees its role as being to help public sector bodies translate broad ambitions into business strategies, programmes and projects. In Cornwall, Inner Circle Consulting helped the council regain control of development taking place around Threemilestone by developing a vision for the area, acquiring land and securing central government funding. Judges praised the consultancy’s "unique approach", which helps it "stand out from the crowd".

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Nash Partnership planning team

Local authority planning team of the year

Presented in association with the Planning Officers Society

WINNER: Gateshead Council built and natural environment team

Established in August 2018, the built and natural environment team at Gateshead Council brings together specialists such as conservation officers, urban designers, landscape architects and highway officers under one team leader. The team issues joined-up responses on planning applications while generating revenue for the council by offering a planning support service directly to clients. Judges were impressed by the way the initiative had achieved "collaboration across disciplines" and predicted "a significant impact on quality
of place and, most importantly, reputation and problem solving".

The Editors award

WINNER: Consultation of the Living Lakes: Your Local Plan, submitted by the Lake District National Park Authority

The recent electoral success of locally formed political parties campaigning against their councils’ emerging or adopted plans was a reminder that communities do not always trust the planning system.

This suspicion of a system that, used to best effect, is the most potent lever available to local people who want to shape development in their areas, may be frustrating for planners. But the only way to dispel it is to find even more effective ways of involving local people in planning decisions. Wider engagement doesn’t guarantee consensus, but it should improve understanding of the planning process, and address complaints about councils and developers cooking up plans behind closed doors.

So it is great to be able to be able to give the editor’s award to an entry that ensured a notably high level of community engagement in local plan-making. The Lake District National Park Authority’s consultation on its draft plan for 2020-35 secured consultation responses from seven per cent of the resident population, a proportion that the judges recognised as unusually high.

The high levels of engagement were linked to the authority’s "creative" use of "innovative" consultation methods, said the judges. A bespoke interactive web mapping tool, which the authority says has subsequently attracted government interest, was used to display proposed site allocations. Videos featuring residents and developers of recently completed schemes were used to show the real-life impact of planning policy. A conscious effort was made to create a short, interesting and easy-to-understand plan, prefaced by an engaging summary document.

At a time when effective stakeholder engagement in planning is particularly important, the national park authority’s entry is a worthy winner of this award.

Richard Garlick, editor, Planning


PBA, now part of Stantec

We’re a consultancy of engineers, planners, environmental consultants, and economists working on major development and infrastructure projects. We have a regional spread of offices with a depth of technical skills throughout the UK, providing provide trusted advice to create value fromour clients’ land and buildings.

Pegasus Group

Pegasus Group is a leading national development consultancy specialising in planning, design, environment, economics and heritage. We have more than 300 skilled and experienced staff operating from 13 offices, who work in collaboration with our clients to provide bespoke solutions focusing on delivering successful outcomes and maximising value.

RPS Group

RPS is a leading multidisciplinary consultancy with the expertise to support developers, investors, landowners and providers of infrastructure through the development process, from planning to design to implementation.

Warwick Economics and Development

Warwick Economics and Development is a multidisciplinary consultancy providing research, analysis and advice on economics, regeneration and development and business management issues for private, public and not-for-profit organisations in the UK and internationally.


  • Tony Bateman, managing director, Pegasus Group
  • Sam Bensted, policy officer, British Property Federation
  • Lucy Bird, town planning director, Lendlease
  • Tony Burton, owner, Tony Burton Consulting
  • Alpa Depani, associate, Public Practice
  • Richard Garlick, editor, Planning (chair)
  • Tom Higginson, director, planning and land services, Network Rail
  • Jane Hirst, director of planning and growth, Peter Brett Associates
  • Ruairidh Jackson, special projects director, Argent LLP
  • Rob Krzyszowski, head of planning policy, transport and infrastructure, London Borough of Haringey
  • Tracy Lovejoy, team leader, property and planning, Bromsgrove District Council
  • Simon Marsh, head of sustainable development, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • Duncan McCallum, policy director, Historic England
  • Janice Morphet, visiting professor, University College of London, Bartlett School of Planning
  • Darren Parker, director, South and South West planning, RPS Group
  • Catriona Riddell, director, Catriona Riddell & Associates Ltd
  • Anna Rose, head, Planning Advisory Service, Local Government Association
  • James Scott, director of planning and communications, Urban & Civic
  • Paul Seddon, director of planning and regeneration, Nottingham City Council
  • Mark Skilbeck, UK planning director, Taylor Wimpey
  • Stephen Tapper, director, Stephen Tapper Planning
  • Deb Upadhyaya, specialist planner, Homes England, and board director, the Academy of Urbanism, Homes England
  • Carly Vince, head of strategic planning, EDF Energy
  • John Walker, executive director, C|T|F Local
  • Sara Whelan, policy manager, Planning Officers Society
  • Helen Williams, head of neighbourhood planning and housing, Locality

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