THE battle between four entries in a prestigious North East planning award has been settled.
A quartet of projects had been shortlisted for the accolade by the Royal Town Planners Institute in the North East for recently renovated sites across the region.
The winner emerged as the carefully restored Witham Hall, in Barnard Castle, County Durham, which provides community, cultural and commercial activity in the town.
The group which runs the project had restored Witham Hall’s listed buildings, which were first erected in 1845, to make them accessible to the community.
A refurbished and restored Testimonial Hall and Music Hall are now linked by a new building with a café, meeting room and toilet facilities, and landscaped outside area.
The venue said: “2013 marks the culmination of over 10 years work to raise money and carry out work to restore its historic fabric and make The Witham fit-for-purpose as a fully accessible modern arts venue for the 21st century.”
The remaining three projects were commended by the Institute at its 100th anniversary celebration at The Centre for Life in Newcastle.
They are the Wooler Work Hub, the reclamation and restoration of Seaham’s historic dock to a modern marina, and a community-led approach to regenerate the Fish Quay in North Shields.
The extended Wooler Hub, part of The Cheviot Centre, was described “an innovative incubation space at a community hub facility” providing support to the community as well as the business community.
Judges said that the design of the spaces at the work hub allowed businesses to operate independently and relatively undisturbed but at the same time be part of wider community activity.
The Wooler project was a partnership between Glendale Gateway Trust which own and manage the building, Northumberland County Council and the North East Rural Growth Network.
Ian Mark of rural property specialists Smiths Gore’s Wooler Office was engaged by Glendale Gateway Trust, having worked with them on a number of projects in the past, to see the project through.
He said: “Our brief was to create an interesting and innovative working environment which would integrate with and enhance the existing community building, which already had office space, a tourist information centre, public library and function rooms.
“The design involved the relocation of existing space to create private offices, ‘hot desking’ space, and provide three external office pods”.
The new facilities provide offices of varying sizes, and appeal to both new and established businesses in the Glendale area. The project also focused on enhanced sound insulating and energy saving measures. The work was carried out by local contractor M T Richardson.
The Fish Quay project has seen 10 years of partnership working to bring about positive change to the area. It was suffering from dereliction and vacancies but has been vastly improved.
Seaham Marina has seen a Grade II listed structure safeguarded as part of the restoration of the harbour into a vibrant modern marina, including creating space for businesses, greater public access, and improvements to the docks.
Cath Ranson, president of the Institute, said: “I congratulate all those entering the RTPI North East Planning Excellence Awards.
“In the RTPI’s centenary year, there is no better time to celebrate planner’s contribution to society through excellence of planning, yielding tangible benefits for the economy and environment. I’m impressed by these examples of innovative sustainable development.”