Landform up for honour

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The north east’s newest cultural landmark has been shortlisted for a national industry award.

Northumberlandia, the world’s largest human landform, created by Banks Group and Blagdon Estate, has been nominated in the Excellence in Planning and Design for the Public Realm category of the annual Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence.

The awards aim to identify the best planning projects, strategies and processes that are helping to make great places for people to live, with nominees for this year’s shortlists being drawn not only from across the UK but also around the world.

Northumberlandia was named as the best example of planning in a rural area at the RTPI North East’s annual awards last year, and will be competing for this latest honour against schemes in Weymouth, Birmingham, Belfast, Snowdonia and Singapore.

The winners of this year’s awards, which are chaired by world-renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell, will be revealed at a special ceremony in London in July.

Blagdon and Banks wholly funded the creation of Northumberlandia and its adjacent water bodies, investing around £3m in the project and taking two and a half years to construct the landform using 1.5 million tonnes of carefully selected stone, clay and soil extracted from the adjacent Shotton Surface Mine that Banks operates.

It was designed in line with a “restoration first” approach, where extra land not needed for coal mining was 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 September last year, 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.

Banks has also provided long-term funding for the management of the park 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.

Philip Baker, planning director at the Banks Group, said: “Northumberlandia’s creation was an ambitious and challenging project undertaken by Banks and Blagdon to provide something enduring and unique for everyone to enjoy that would also simultaneously stand out as a regional and national cultural icon, and being shortlisted for this award alongside five other truly excellent projects shows the levels of creativity and technical excellence that went into it.

“Banks aims to consistently deliver a wide range of tangible benefits across all the communities in which we work, and 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.

“Northumberlandia has very quickly become a well-used and highly valued asset for both the local community and the wider region, and her popularity is clear from the constant flow of visitors to the site.”

Bob Downer, chief executive at the Blagdon Estate, added: “Northumberlandia is a unique project which not only provides a recreational facility for local people and visitors but also represents a world class piece of art, designed by Charles Jencks, that is attracting visitors from around the world.

“Northumberlandia engages local people in a way no other project has done, allowing them to take ownership of the site and providing them with something which has generated unprecedented local pride and involvement.

“The additional visitors have already generated new opportunities for local businesses and the target of an additional £1m per year into the local economy is well on its way to being achieved, all from an entirely privately funded project.”

For further information on all aspects of the project, visit www.northumberlandia.com