Haverhill/Bury St Edmunds: Visitor centre triumphs at regional awards

Empty shops are an increasing problem, a survey has found

Empty shops are an increasing problem, a survey has found - Credit: Archant

A NEW school building in Haverhill and a residential barn conversion near Bury St Edmunds were among the winners at a regional awards event last night.

The East of England’s most impressive property schemes battled it out at Braxted Park near Witham for top honours at the 2013 Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) East Awards, with the Cory Environmental Centre at Thurrock scooping the coveted project of the year title. The annual contest celebrates inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors.

The community benefit award went to Clements New Primary School, Haverhill, and the residential prize was won by Chantry Farm Barn, Denston.

The design and innovation and the tourism & leisure crowns went to Cory Environmental Visitor Centre, and the commercial property title to Twenty One Station Road, Cambridge. The Warren House, Cambridge won the award for building conservation.

The judges described the level of the competition as “extremely tough”.

By creating a landmark building, Essex Wildlife Trust hoped to inspire local people to engage with the historical and natural significance of the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park. In November 2009, they appointed Van Heyingen and Haward Architects to design the new Cory Environmental Visitor Centre.

The design, build and maintenance of the new centre was planned with sustainable living in mind and is an environmental exemplar, contributing to the Thames Gateway Eco-Region.

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Commenting on the project, Stephen Boniface, Chair of the RICS East Judging Panel said: “This year, the quality of entries for the RICS East of England was exceptionally high and the judges had a very difficult decision to make. All entrants are congratulated on the precedents that these schemes have set.

“In the final analysis, Cory Environmental Centre was thought most deserving of the Project of the Year Award. What was particularly striking about this project were the standards achieved in energy conservation. RICS has recently launched guidance on the Calculation of Embodied Carbon, that is, the carbon accrued in new developments. The project developers chose materials for their longevity, character and reduced embodied energy.

“Judges were also unanimous in thinking that the project showcased the most unique design concept amongst this years’ entrants. The drum shaped building provides a distinctive, yet sympathetic presence in an elegant setting. Needless to say, the addition of the centre has had a tremendous benefit to the local area and the Essex tourism trade. Since the opening of the building in July last year the centre has had over 41,900 visitors including the Mayor of Thurrock and the Duke of Kent.”

A number of Highly Commended certificates were also awarded by the judges to projects which impressed but were just pipped to the post by the winners. These were: Luton Sixth Form College (Design and Innovation), Rosie Birth Centre (Community Benefit), Bruisyard Hall (Building Conservation), Land West of Bedford and Cherry Tree Close (both Residential).

Mr Anelay added: “It just goes to show that the East of England is continuing to produce exemplar property schemes, despite the ongoing uncertainty of the economic climate.

“The talented teams behind these developments should all be extremely proud of themselves; they are encouraging more investment in the region, with many helping to attract more visitors too, which will certainly help boost our local economy.”

Winners in four of the categories (Building Conservation, Community Benefit, Design & Innovation and Regeneration) will now automatically be entered into the national RICS Awards, where they will compete against other leading projects from across the UK later this year.