Work on a unique industrial and wildlife project in North East Lincolnshire has been rewarded with a prestigious national award, with judges praising their work as a blueprint for others to follow.
The South Humber Gateway Mitigation Strategy, part of the council’s £42m SHIIP project, has been victorious in the Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment category at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2020.
The awards, which took place virtually on the RTPI’s YouTube channel youtube.com/theRTPI, are the most established and respected in the sector and celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society.
In awarding the first place, judges were ‘extremely impressed’, saying the project represented ‘leading practice in the industry’ and provided a template that ‘should, be replicated elsewhere’. Highlighting the ‘strategic’ focus in uniting the economy along with public, private and environmental sectors, they said if others worked in the same way it would ‘significantly improve the planning system’.
For the partnership team at ENGIE and North East Lincolnshire Council, the win recognises how significant challenges were overcome and specialist bodies engaged to create a unique platform to protect wildlife.
In the entry submission, ENGIE’s Spatial Planning Manager, Ian King, said the project was a ‘shining example of what can be achieved when a true balance of economic social and environmental objectives is pursued’.
“It is testament to all those involved that we have achieved such success and we applaud the brave and innovative approach taken by our partners at the council. We have worked together to create the best possible outcome,” said Ian, who was part of the same partnership team that won planning Team of the Year in 2017.
Described as a ‘ground-breaking’ project, the team worked with Natural England, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, the Humber Nature Partnership, the Environment Agency and land owners and developers to create areas of wet and grass lands along the South Humber bank, which is a Humber Special Protection Area (SPA), SSSI and a Ramsar site (Natura 2000).
The approach enabled land at Cress Marsh to be developed for mitigation and it now contains a bird hide next to a large central lagoon, which feeds seven more water-filled ‘cells’ via pipework infrastructure.
This ‘offset’ land is available to businesses up front, allowing them to adhere to planning requirements with no delays. Such incentives, offered by the overall SHIIP project, were a factor in the decision of Velocys, supported by British Airways and Shell, to submit its application to site a waste-to-jet fuel refinery on the South Humber Bank.
ENGIE’s North East Lincolnshire Partnership Director Marcus Asquith said: “Our planning team is now firmly established as being amongst the best in the country in terms of its collaborative approach, its knowledge and skill and this latest award reflects that.”
As reported, Cress Marsh and the overall SHIIP programme is set to transform North East Lincolnshire’s industrial fortunes. Taking shape along the South Humber bank the project is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, (HLEP), the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) and North East Lincolnshire Council, under the management of ENGIE.
Council regeneration head Cllr John Fenty said of the win: “This is proof indeed of the innovative approach the team is taking to support businesses to develop or expand here whilst protecting the natural environment. We are delighted that this work has been recognised nationally.”
Commenting on the overall awards, RTPI President Sue Manns FRTPI said: “This year’s winners shine a spotlight on the very best practice in delivering future places and spaces that work for everyone. They provide us with inspiration and confidence in the future of our profession.”