Team behind major Northumberland project wins award

Left to right: Alison Thornton-Sykes, JDDK, Samantha Curtis, Cundall, Ian Cansfield, Cundall, and Julia Hartley-Brewer.
Left to right: Alison Thornton-Sykes, JDDK, Samantha Curtis, Cundall, Ian Cansfield, Cundall, and Julia Hartley-Brewer.

The team behind The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland National Park is celebrating after scooping one of the most prestigious planning awards of the year.

The Sill won the Planning Permission of the Year accolade at the 2015 Planning Awards, held this week at The Royal Society of Medicine in London, beating off tough competition from top initiatives around the country.

The Sill final designs

The Sill final designs

The winners were revealed at the event, which celebrates outstanding achievements in planning work by local authorities, consultants, developers, lawyers, voluntary and neighbourhood groups and all the other key players in the planning system.

Cundall’s Planning Team acted as planning consultants for the project and worked in a pro-active and collaborative way with the Northumberland National Park Authority planning team.

The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre was granted planning permission in October 2014. When it opens in 2017, the £14.8m initiative will combine year-round facilities that include a YHA Hostel accommodation, exhibition spaces, activities programme, retail facilities and a local produce café, with a business hub to help support the growth of the rural economy.

Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: "We are delighted The Sill has been awarded Planning Permission of the Year at the prestigious Planning Awards.

"This award is an important national endorsement of our work. I think this achievement is a great testament to the hard work and dedication of both our own planning team and that of our excellent planning consultants, Cundall. The award is particularly pleasing as Northumberland National Park was in the situation of being both the developer and the regulator for this process. This challenging position meant that we had to take extra care in ensuring that we carried out both roles to the very best of our ability in the wider public interest.

"The Sill is the largest initiative of its kind for any UK National Park, and it will see the fruition of our exciting plans to open up Northumberland National Park and the surrounding areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to more people, helping them learn about and explore some of Britain’s finest landscapes."

The award judged projects based on the most significant positive impact on the physical or environmental quality of a place, as well as the economic or social well-being of a community or communities. The Sill scooped the award based on areas such as its originality, potential for long-lasting impact, and its involvement and benefit to the local community.

Cundall were appointed in March 2013 by Northumberland National Park Authority to provide planning and lighting consultancy services to support the development. The Scheduled Ancient Monument Consent was granted and planning application approved. Cundall also completed a lighting assessment which was especially important given the granted Gold Tier Dark Sky Park status awarded by the International Dark Skies Association. As a result of this award, The Sill site is now part of the largest area of protected night sky in Europe.

Ian Cansfield, director of planning at Cundall, said: "We are thrilled to have picked up the award – celebrations all round for everyone involved. This has been a fantastic project to be part of and we have relished the challenge of securing consent for this contemporary designed facility in a sensitive environment."

The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre is a partnership between Northumberland National Park Authority and YHA (England and Wales). It has been supported by a range of funding partners. Earlier in 2015, The Sill received a £7.8m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and has also been supported through funding from Northumberland County Council and the North East Rural Growth Network.