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Four of our senior planners and a project we were involved in have been shortlisted as regional finalists for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2022.

The awards recognise and reward the brightest talent in the profession; the most outstanding projects, teams and people helping to transform economies, environments, and communities and focus on rewarding the excellent work done from across the profession.

Melissa Balk, based at our Bedford Office has been shortlisted as a Young Planner finalist in the East of England region alongside one of her projects, Featherbed Fruits, which has been shortlisted in the Best Project in the South East region.

Owner Harry Rymer whose family has run the farm for more than 100 years said: “When looking into diversification methods I wanted something which utilised new technologies to push boundaries and demonstrate that soft fruits can be grown almost all year round, with the greenhouse only being quiet between December and February. Utilising new technologies is certainly the future of farming and something which more people in the industry need to do.”

The diversification farm project in Mixbury, Oxfordshire saw the first plants planted in their two-acre greenhouses which housed almost 80,000 strawberry plants in February 2022 in a hydroponic, soil-free system consisting of coconut husk and irrigated rainfall collected from the roof.

The temperature and humidity are monitored using a climate controller to ensure the optimum growing condition for the strawberry plants all year round. The double layer of poly for added insulation is also one of very few in the country and will help the farm reduce energy use.

The farm has now welcomed its very first strawberries and is working with a company which caters for large-scale sporting events, with the fruit used at this year’s Queen’s Club Tennis Championship. Harry added: “After investing in the polytunnels and equipment, we also wanted something which could generate a good income in our first year, so we’re very happy to see our very first strawberries ripen.

James Beverley and Antonia Wyatt Senior Planners based at our Ashby office are also through to the regional finals. Nia Borsey, Senior Planner based at our Chester office won the North West regional final at a ceremony held in Manchester on Friday 24 June.

Liberty Stones, Head of Planning said: “It’s great to see a number of our planners shortlisted for Young Planner of the Year and also one of the projects we have worked on. I am proud to be part of a hardworking, proactive, and successful team who all deserve recognition for the work they do. It is wonderful to see The RTPI awards celebrate their contribution to the industry.”

The ceremony for the South East Region will take place on Thursday 30 June at the Jury’s Inn in Brighton. Winners across the regions will be announced and celebrated locally in June and July and will go through to the national finals. Finalists for all 15 categories will be announced in October followed by a final ceremony in central London in November.