It's official. The UK's best new housing is in Matlock. A contemporary building that has transformed one of the town's streets has been named the supreme national winner in the housing industry's top UK design awards.
Parkside Matlock's success in the 2015 Housing Design Awards is being celebrated by principal contractor Barncroft Homes of Tansley, development partners James Neville and John Wilson, Matlock architects Evans Vettori and the local planning authority - your District Council.
Supported by Government, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the housing industry's largest professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the awards have been recognised as Britain's top industry accolade for almost 70 years.
Up against 21 other shortlisted schemes, more than half of them high profile London developments, it was Parkside - built overlooking Hall Leys Park and replacing a neglected hotel car park - that caught the eye of the judges.
Providing 10 apartments and four retail units with a sheltered arcade, Parkside has been constructed using local Birchover gritstone to match other local buildings and refurbished parts of the former Olde Englishe Hotel next door.
But there was no attempt to match the design of existing buildings, as the District Council's Development Manager Jon Bradbury explained.
"As a planning authority, what we tried to encourage was crisp and contemporary architecture so the building wouldn't compete with the high Victorian properties on Dale Road but rather would make its own statement, contribute to the environment and gain public acceptance."
James Neville of the Neville Wilson Partnership said:
"The site used to be a hotel and pub which had closed down, and the buildings were becoming somewhat dilapidated. We bought them with the idea of refurbishing the existing hotel and putting a new building on the car park. I have to admit my initial vision was more traditional and smaller scale than the Parkside development we see today."
All of Parkside's apartments include generous open plan living spaces, terraces or balconies, and the gritstone blocks have been milled to create a distinctive rilled effect.
Mr Neville added:
"The original hotel was built in Derbyshire gritstone so we looked around local quarries to establish the closest possible match and selected Birchover Stone Limited. We then looked at different depths of grooves for the stone ranging from 1mm to 2mm and so I was very engaged in the process of the specification of materials. I was a little concerned that people wouldn't buy into the idea of putting a modern building here, but I've had no negative feedback about the design whatsoever."
Dan Greenway, Practice Director with Evans Vettori Architects, said:
"James was great to work with, very open minded and happy to consider different designs and materials. We really hoped we had designed a beautiful building and we were excited about a project that would transform a neglected back street of Matlock.
"The final detail of the rilled effect in the stonework is remarkable; we don't think it has been attempted anywhere else. We asked William Twigg (Matlock) Limited to laser cut the slots in a steel template. Lant Lane Limited of Tansley carried out the sand blasting using the special template at Birchover Quarry.
"Now Parkside is complete it is good to see that the residents are really enjoying their apartments and getting out and using the terraces. The people of Matlock have complimented us on the building and that has been very nice to hear too."
Evans Vettori's Robert Evans paid tribute to the collaborative efforts that had made the project a winner. "It was a tremendous experience to work with James Neville and with a local planning authority intent on delivering a high quality design," he said.
Chairman of Derbyshire Dales District Council's Planning Committee, Councillor Garry Purdy said:
"Planning will always be a hot topic that stirs emotions, but Parkside is a superb example of planning officers playing a central role in helping a flexible developer and top class architect shape a tremendous town scheme."
Jon Bradbury added:
"Both as a planning local authority but also as a professional planner, when you are involved in a project that delivers a high quality building it raises your heart when you walk past it. It's what you are in the job for."