Hitachi project wins top RICS Award                       

Merchant Anglo’s Hitachi Rail Europe, Newton Aycliffe project won the overall ‘North East Project of the Year,’ at the RICS Awards’ ceremony at the Marriott Hotel, Gosforth Park, a brilliant display in itself of the region’s top 54 projects writes North East Times’ property writer, Chris Dobson

Over eight categories – Building Conservation, Commercial, Community Benefit, Design through Innovation, Infrastructure, Regeneration, Residential and Tourism & Leisure – the breadth and scope of the projects across the region short-listed was immense.

They ranged from The Palace Green Library, Durham City, Hitachi Rail Europe’s facility at Newton Aycliffe, Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre on the Northumberland coast, Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle University, Enterprise Zone Infrastructure, Sunderland, Cleveland College of Art & Design, Hartlepool,Weavers’ Court, Alnwick and The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre, Hexham.

Though being shortlisted is an achievement in itself, clearly this special evening would disappoint many but not those involved in attracting the Hitachi project to the North East.

As a very significant inward investment project, the 465,000 sq ft Hitachi Rail Europe plant at Merchant Park, Newton Aycliffe was developed by Merchant Anglo’s Development Team.

This Ryder Architecture designed building, described by Alistair Dormer, Group CEO, Rail Systems Business Unit, Hitachi, as a purpose-designed building which represents a state-of-the-art rail vehicle manufacturing facility was a “facility that brought much needed and extensive employment to the area,” said the RICS judges.

“It has also acted as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area. Most recently, the University Technical College was established by Sunderland University to support of the HRE facility.  This has created an additional 600 opportunities and jobs for young apprentices in the North East which will help to address the current skills shortages.”

Mr Dormer told North East Times: “We are delighted with the outcome of the development. The factory strengthens our global manufacturing capability and cements our position as a long-term British employer.”

He continued: “Since the opening of the factory in September 2015  it has gone from strength to strength. Hitachi Rail now employs over 1000 people at the facility who are building the next generation of rolling stock for the UK network.

“The first Class 800 trains built at the facility for Great Western Railway went into service at the end of last year. The plant has completed its first extension to the existing building which becomes operational later this year.”

The biggest investment that County Durham has seen since Nissan, the Hitachi building was required as a European-based plant that could accommodate large scale rolling stock assembly for two initial contracts – the Great Western rail route and the East Coast Main Line upgrades.

The original aim was to create 700 HRE jobs. This has been surpassed with over 1,200 being directly employed by HRE as of this year. Some 8,000 further jobs have since been created within the supply chain the majority of which are North East based.

Chair of the judging panel for the RICS Awards, North East, Adam Serfontein, managing director at the Hanro Group said: “Hitachi Rail Europe is a stand-out Project of the Year winner as not only has it brought valuable employment opportunities to the area, it has also acted as a catalyst for significant further regeneration at a regional level and scale.

“Most recently, the University Technical College was established by Sunderland University to support the rail facility, and this has created an additional 600 opportunities and jobs for young apprentices, which will help towards improving the skills levels throughout the region.”

He adds: “Our region has some of the very best, skilled property and construction professionals, and the fact that Hitachi chose to build their European manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe is testament to their expertise, along with the steadfast capabilities of the wider North East labour market.”

The HRE site is fully occupied and is in full train production. Three adjacent plots are now available. Geoff Hunton, director, Merchant Anglo, says Merchant Park has 25 acres available that can accommodate new buildings up to 312,000 sq ft. Serviced plots are immediately available and sustainable design and build solutions to meet occupier requirements for industrial, warehouse, office and other uses can be provided cost effectively and quickly. Letting agent is HTA Real Estate.

Category winners: 2018 RICS Awards, North East

Building Conservation – The Boiler House, Newcastle

After a comprehensive refurbishment and conversion project, the former redundant half of Newcastle University’s ‘The Boiler House’ has been transformed into a modern multi-purpose events space.

Still known as ‘The Boiler House’, the £2 million venue is used for congregation receptions, exhibitions, social events and musical performances. RICS judges said the project team – including Howard Litchfield and PF Burridge & Sons – have created a valuable asset for the university that is highly energy efficient with heating sensors and an improved electrical system.


Commercial – Wylam Brewery, Newcastle   

The Wylam Brewery development – delivered by One Concept, Wylam Brewery and Xsite Architecture – is not only a fully-operational brewery, but also a unique 800-capacity event space with a centralised office operation, all of which has allowed the business to flourish.

Housed within the Palace of Art at Exhibition Park – the last remaining building from the 1929 North East Exhibition – RICS judges said Wylam Brewery has breathed new-life into a neglected listed building and praised it for attracting a wide variety of popular events providing a renewed focus for Exhibition Park, increasing visitor numbers by 200,000.


Community Benefit – Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre, Northumberland            

Nestling on a nature reserve, the stunning Hauxley Wildlife Discovery Centre is one of the best wild-life watching spots in the region, and a much-loved attraction, complete with a natural playground and quality cafe.

RICS judges said the £600K facility – built on a site that was formerly an open cast mine – is an exceptional asset and praised the project team – including Andy Laurie Construction Consultancy, Bright Blue Studio and Northumberland Wildlife Trust – for creating what is arguably one of the North East’s greenest buildings for people of all ages to enjoy.


Design through Innovation – Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle upon Tyne         

The £58million Urban Sciences Building (USB) – delivered by Bowmer & Kirkland Construction, Hawkins Brown, Ryder Architecture and Turner & Townsend –  is a flagship ‘living laboratory’ for Newcastle University and its School of Computing.

Complete with a living green roof, the building’s walls, windows and fittings are connected through thousands of sensors, to ensure this ‘intelligent’ building will help the university better understand how to create more sustainable, efficient buildings for the future. RICS judges described the development as inspirational and futuristic, having achieved excellence in innovation, sustainability and environmental performance.


Infrastructure – Killingworth & Longbenton Surface Water Management Scheme

The £5.2 million Killingworth & Longbenton Surface Water Management Scheme – delivered by Esh Construction-MWH, Northumbrian Water and Turner & Townsend – involved storing and managing surface water across 5 ponds using sustainable techniques with one pond doubling as a new school amphitheatre in drier conditions.

RICS judges were highly impressed that the scheme has successfully provided flood protection to over 3,500 properties with total project benefits estimated at over £30 million. The judges also praised the project for providing opportunities to increase biodiversity through the creation of new wetland habitats, ponds and wildflower meadow, which are being used as outdoor learning facilities for local school children.


Regeneration – Hitachi Rail Europe, Newton Aycliffe           

The biggest investment that County Durham has seen since Nissan, the state-of-the-art Hitachi Rail Europe plant is a purpose-built building, built to accommodate large scale rolling stock assembly for two initial contracts – the Great Western rail route and the East Coast Main Line upgrades.


Residential property – The Maltings, Alnwick                        

The Maltings is a striking development of 37 stylish homes on Dispensary Lane in Alnwick that have been converted from the former Grade II Listed Bolams Mill and Kiln House which were in danger of being added to the Buildings at Risk Register and lost forever.

Ascent Homes and IDP Architects successfully brought the derelict buildings back to life – with RICS judges praising the collaborative and sensitive efforts of the project team, in delivering contemporary yet unique homes that have much of the historical features of the original buildings still intact. The judges also recognised that this conversion project has not only protected the listed building for many years to come, it has also preserved a rare part of Alnwick’s historic fabric.

Tourism & Leisure – Wylam Brewery, Newcastle

RICS judges said the team behind the project – including One Concept, Wylam Brewery and Xsite Architecture – have achieved just that. In its first year of opening, the business has outperformed every target, attracting significant visitor numbers, and hosting a range of events including: live music, food and beer festivals, tea dances, yoga, corporate dinners, as well as awards and charity fundraisers.

All category winners will go on to compete against other regional winners at the national RICS Awards Grand Final on 2 November 2018 in London, for the chance to be crowned the overall UK winner in their respective category.

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