Winner - Great Places Housing Group

Sponsored by St George Regeneration

Great Places impressed the judges by transforming rundown areas where the private sector feared to tread. It has worked tirelessly with local communities in the North-west’s market renewal pathfinder areas to produce sought-after developments with high EcoHomes and architectural standards.

Residents, architects and developers are impressed by its dedication to fulfilling local needs without compromising on design – a strength that has won Great Places’ schemes plaudits from everyone from Cabe to the Brick Development Association.

In Oldham, a development of family homes at Selwyn Close – the first of its kind in the area – was snapped up by eager buyers, attracted by eco-features, such as wind turbines and solar panels. The group also created green spaces in a built-up area.

At its Santley Street and Northmoor developments in the Manchester pathfinder area, Great Places pioneered the pepper-potting of large family homes on small clearance sites for outright sale.

It also took part in a unique joint venture with two other housing associations (Irwell Valley and Mossacre) to deliver market renewal programmes across Manchester. Reviva Urban Renewal, set up in response to an EU framework advertisement, will undertake repairs, environmental projects and property management.

Runners up

Dominion Housing group

This southern association has a flair for unusual schemes that contribute to the local area. It won a competitive tender to be the lead developer on a £5.2m scheme in Ealing, and has taken a “reverse Section 106” approach to get private developers on board on its developments. Its collaborative approach, from consultations with local communities to close work with private developers, has been praised.

Glasgow Housing Association

Eight new play areas have been built through Glasgow HA’s play area improvement programme, at a cost of nearly £700,000. A further 12 will be finished before the end of the financial year. With Glasgow council, GHA is transforming brownfield sites into safe, clean, vibrant play areas with multipurpose games courts, BMX facilities and space for toddlers. It has also secured the involvement of community arts groups and the Scottish Football Association.

Midland Heart

Formed from the merger of Coventry-based Keynote Housing Group and Birmingham-based Prime Focus Regeneration Group, Midland Heart is now one of the top 10 housing and regeneration businesses in the UK. It owns and manages more than 30,000 homes and invests over £100m a year in neighbourhoods. In The Radleys in Sheldon, Birmingham it regenerated a declining estate of 1950s prefabricated Smiths Houses by building new homes and engaging the community through a range of initiatives including community arts projects.

Swan Housing Association

Swan transformed the unattractive, crime-ridden, unpopular Five Links Estate in Basildon into a cleaner, safer and happier place. This has improved the look of the area and halved the crime rate, with residents involved at every stage. An extranet and free set-top boxes kept them informed, encouraged involvement and boosted perceptions and self-esteem. Swan also established a basic skills training scheme for local teenagers, through which nearly 30 have now found employment.

Three Valleys Housing

When regenerating the 6000-home Hopewell Farm Estate in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Three Valleys Housing responded to the local pride of the residents by adapting its outdated design to the needs of a modern community, eradicating social problems that had stigmatised the area. The pride of the residents is now matched by the quality of the environment and a hotly contested waiting list for the properties.