Rural Housing Association Named Winner in RICS Awards

Rural Housing Association’s Old Mill Court Scheme located in Sion Mills has been named winner of the Residential Award in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Social Impact Awards, Northern Ireland 2020. The award ceremony was hosted online and compered by celebrity presenter Phil Spencer from Location, Location, Location.

The RICS Social Impact Awards recognise built environment’s positive and transformational contribution to society. The awards celebrate outstanding examples of innovation in the development of commercial and residential buildings from across the UK.

Old Mill Court is a flagship example of a housing proposal that combines innovative architectural design rooted in the history of its surroundings, with a commitment to improving the economic, social and environmental conditions of the village in which it sits. From project inception Rural Housing Association and GM Design Associates worked to develop a scheme that would blend into the surrounding community, whilst reflecting the rich historical context of the village. Rural Housing and GM Design Associates have achieved a scheme that reflects the history of the village whilst fitting unobtrusively into the surrounding community.

Old Mill Court received funding from the Department for Communities, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Danske Bank to develop the scheme.  As a ‘Housing for All’ (shared housing) development the Department also funds Rural Housing to produce a comprehensive five-year good relations plan for the area.  This will see the long-term delivery of a range of community focused programmes for the local residents of Sion Mills, aimed at encouraging more inclusive and connected communities.

This holistic approach to promoting cohesion between the new development and the surrounding community places Rural Housing at the forefront of building sustainable rural communities.

Rural Housing Association’s CEO Stephen Fisher commented: “In 2014 Rural Housing published its Rural Design Guide for social housing in Northern Ireland. Old Mill Court in Sion Mills is the first embodiment of that design guide and reflects many of the unique aspects of the guide.

We are delighted that RICS have chosen Old Mill Court for their Residential Award reinforcing the hard work in developing the scheme by our in-house development team, the architects GM Design Associates, and Kevin Watson Group who built the scheme. Many thanks to them all”.

RICS Head Judge, Michael Hannaway, commented: “Planners have worked to develop a housing proposal that is truly rooted within the rich history of the village, but which also goes beyond bricks and mortar in its efforts to reinvigorate the local economy and generate a sense of community belonging. The scheme provides high quality, future proof homes in an area of high social need.”

Rural Housing will now proceed to the esteemed RICS Social Impact Awards Grand Final in London, where they will be joined by regional winners from across the UK.