20 February 2017

A strategy that protects a Northamptonshire nature site of European importance while allowing for future housing growth has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Drawn up by the North Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit (NNJPU) the approach will mitigate the impact of development on the Upper Valley Gravel Pits SPA (Special Protection Area), which stretches along the River Nene between Northampton and Thrapston.

This part of the county is key in delivering housing development in the North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy. And while housing will not actually be built on the site of natural significance, the proximity of development could potentially be a threat to wildlife through increased recreational use, such as dog walking.

Which award is the project up for?

The unique approach of the strategy, which meant the area could be protected whilst allowing its continued use, helped it to reach the finals in the category for Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment at the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2017.

The strategy was prepared by a group including East Northamptonshire Council, which has adopted the strategy as policy, the North Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit, Natural England, Northamptonshire County Council and the Borough Council of Wellingborough.

Head of NNJPU, Andrew Longley says: “This really was a team effort and we are very proud that our excellent work has been recognised through being shortlisted as finalists for these awards.

“The NNJPU regularly delivers complex projects in partnership with private and public stakeholders with the aim of making North Northamptonshire a great place to live, work and invest in.”

What does the strategy do?

The strategy includes introducing measures such as increased fencing and screening and the re-routing of some paths. On-site wardens also offer increased protection to wildlife.

The RTPI Awards are the most established and respected awards in the UK planning industry. Running for 40 years, they celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.

Ross Holdgate, Natural England Planning and Conservation Adviser said: “It has been fantastic to work collaboratively with partners on this project, and really pleasing that Natural England’s contribution has helped deliver a piece of work that has gained the recognition of an RTPI award nomination.”

Stephen Wilkinson, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute said: “The finalists represent some outstanding contributions to planning which are making a positive impact for the community and environment. The judges will find it difficult choosing the winners given the high calibre of entries this year.”

This year saw a nearly 40% increase in entrants and the judges have shortlisted 90 finalists across 14 categories with an overall winner awarded the Silver Jubilee Cup. The winners will be announced during a ceremony held at Milton Court at The Barbican, London on 15 June 2017.