31ST JULY 2020


31ST JULY 2020



You know how it is, you come to the end of a long but ultimately rewarding journey with a project that has been at the heart of your organisation, often for a number of years. You are proud of the outcome and want to shout about it for a number of reasons, not least of which being the desire to be able to do even better the next time around. One way of receiving success from your peers is by entering projects into awards. But there are so many in the property industry alone. How to prioritise which awards to enter and which categories?

One way of prioritising is to select the category in which you feel you have most chances of success – rather than perhaps the one which you’d really like to win, but feel will be more competitive.

This is how it has been at TOWN with our Marmalade Lane scheme. And why we were pleased when this year’s RTPI Awards came along to note that we weren’t restricted to entering only one category. So we entered in Excellence in Planning to Deliver Homes Small Schemes (up to 50 homes) but also in the Excellence in Planning for Health and Wellbeing category – in recognition of the Cohousing scheme’s contribution to building a community from the outset and the involvement of that community throughout the design and delivery of the scheme.

It was only after we had entered that we discovered that the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service, which is comprised of Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Council, had also submitted Marmalade Lane into the awards. This was particularly fitting as the City Council at Marmalade Lane was the landowner and SCDC the local planning authority. We had no hesitation in joining our entries with the GCSPS and eagerly awaited the recent virtual awards ceremony.

For those accustomed to long prize giving ceremonies at swanky London hotels, or perhaps alternative venues, it was refreshingly different to watch an awards ceremony on the RTPI’s YouTube Channel at lunchtime instead.

As the categories passed, we were delighted to find out that Marmalade Lane had won BOTH of the awards we entered. There was just the overall Silver Jubilee Cup to come – a prize that eluded me following my sole previous category award at the RTPI Awards more than a decade ago.

And the TOWN messaging channel went off when Marmalade Lane scooped the top prize, in the face of fierce competition and excellent winners in the other seven project categories.

Whilst we are flattered by the recognition of our peers in the planning world (and indeed in the other sectors and disciplines for which Marmalade Lane has won awards) the judges comments were particularly rewarding: “(They) … thought this project was an extremely worthy winner of the Silver Jubilee Cup… A well designed and attractive place has been created which puts the needs of the user at its centre. The development highlights both best practice and the benefits that can come from thinking outside the box. Community is both at the forefront and heart of Marmalade Lane, which the judges not only thought was timely but also a model that others will be looking to replicate in the future.”

And in the words of our own Neil Murphy:

Behind the success of Marmalade Lane is a powerful collaboration between a community, an innovative developer and an enabling public sector. It shows the power of doing things that local authorities sometimes resist, from selling land with an agenda beyond mere ‘best consideration’ to prioritising social space over parking for cars.

Although the Silver Jubilee Cup is a huge honour, we’re especially glad to win in the category of planning for health and wellbeing. Neighbourly support, access to nature and space to play are showing their worth more than ever in these unprecedented times.

It’s clearer now than ever that the people-centred, mutually supportive communities and places we need to build aren’t going to come from playing the same old speculative game of cops-and-robbers between a stressed-out planning system and an outmoded volume housebuilding model. Now is the time for councils across the country to be looking to the model of Marmalade Lane and using their assets to secure better outcomes and healthier lives.

We hope that by winning these (and other) awards, new communities that share the community-focused elements of Marmalade Lane will result, both in our future schemes and those of developers of all sizes and geography.

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