The quality of the planning and design work done to create the north east’s newest landmark has been recognised by the regional arm of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
The development of Northumberlandia by the Blagdon Estate and regional mining firm the Banks Group was named as the best example of Planning in a Rural Area at the RTPI North East’s annual awards.
The RTPI’s national President, Colin Haylock, visited the land sculpture, which sits adjacent to Banks’ Shotton surface coal mine to the west of Cramlington, to see what is the world’s largest human landform for himself and to present the project planning team with their award.
The judging panel, which was comprised of planning experts from across the region, highlighted in their citation how Northumberlandia “represents recognition from the Banks Group that the restoration and landscaping proposals for the Shotton site needed to be exceptional in order to provide much needed economic, social and environmental benefits to South East Northumberland, and meet Green Belt objectives.”
The panel also noted that the project has been completed well before mining has ended at Shotton as a result of the project partners’ commitment to a “restoration first” approach, where work has been undertaken to deliver a lasting positive legacy for both the local area and the wider region at an early stage in the development of the mine, rather than waiting until the end of operations.
Blagdon and Banks have jointly invested around £3m in the creation of Northumberlandia and its adjacent water bodies, which took two and a half years to construct by Banks using 1.5 million tonnes of carefully selected stone, clay and soil extracted from the Shotton mine.
It has been designed in line with a “restoration first” approach, where extra land not needed for coal mining has been provided by the Blagdon Estate to deliver a lasting positive legacy for both the local community and the wider region at an early stage in the development of the mine, rather than waiting until the end of operations.
Since being officially opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in early September, Northumberlandia has proved extremely popular with local residents and tourists alike, with many thousands of people visiting the 47-acre public park in which she resides every week.
Philip Baker, planning director at the Banks Group, says: “Northumberlandia was a very ambitious and challenging project, and her realisation and this subsequent award are a real testament to the unmatched levels of dedication and technical excellence shown by all of the team involved in her creation.
“Banks consistently delivers a wide range of tangible benefits across all the communities in which we work, but with Northumberlandia, we were looking to create something unique that would stand out both regionally and nationally, and believe this award is further recognition that we are achieving this goal.
“This project was designed as both an outstanding artistic landmark which would fit in alongside the region’s other main tourist attractions, and as the centrepiece of new high quality leisure facilities for use by the local community and visitors to the area.
“Taking a ‘restoration first’ approach to this project meant that the local community has been able to enjoy the benefits much more quickly that if we’d waited until production had finished at Shotton, and the speed with which Northumberlandia has become an accepted and popular part of the north east landscape suggests our approach was well chosen.”
Northumberlandia is now managed by independent charity The Land Trust in association with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Azure Charitable Enterprises as an amenity for the local community and an attraction for visitors to the region.
For further information on all aspects of the project, please visit www.northumberlandia.com