Award-Winning Planner is Borough Council’s New DirectorPublished Monday, 13 August 2018
An award-winning planner behind two of Lancashire’s most successful regeneration projects is the new director of economic development and planning at Ribble Valley Borough Council.
Nicola Hopkins hails from Bury, where she attended St Gabriel’s RC High School and Holy Cross Sixth Form College, before gaining a BA and MA in Town and Country Planning from the University of Manchester.
She started her career as a planning officer at Trafford Council, before joining Chorley Council as a planning and regeneration officer. She was quickly promoted to principal planning officer, where she led one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the North West – the redevelopment of the 200-hectare redundant Royal Ordnance factory at Buckshaw Village, featuring 2,500 houses, a primary school, health centre, two supermarkets and a railway station.
She was then appointed planning manager at Rossendale Council, where her team won a raft of awards, including the Royal Town Planning Institute Award for Planning Excellence for the McDonald’s restaurant in Rawtenstall. Judges said the development demonstrated how a small planning authority could “achieve an excellent design outcome when dealing with an application from a world-famous company.”
Nicola’s building control team also won the award for Best Social or Affordable New Housing Development at the 2017 North West Building Excellence Awards, while her planning team was one of only five council teams in the UK to be shortlisted for the National Planning Team of the Year Award.
Nicola, who has been a chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute for 13 years, also took the lead on the Spinning Point development in the centre of Rawtenstall, a multi-million pound scheme featuring a bus station, retail and leisure facilities.
The first phase of the development featuring the refurbishment of the former town hall is well advanced and has been awarded the North West Royal Town Planning Institute Award for Regeneration. Judges said the successful regeneration of the former Valley Centre site will “transform the town, its economy and connectivity, and undoubtedly encourage further investment.” The work of Nicola and the project design team secured planning permission for the second phase of the development in March.
Ribble Valley Borough Council leader Ken Hind said: “The council needs to drive the local economy to increase income from business rates in order to secure future services.”
“Nicola is an outstanding planner and her appointment is the start of a new era for the council, which is promoting itself as a place to start and grow businesses, and create new jobs.”
Nicola said she was looking forward to her new role, particularly improving economic development in Ribble Valley, securing high-quality development, increasing the profile of the borough and leading on the redevelopment of Clitheroe Market.
In her spare time, she is a theatre, opera and ballet enthusiast, and has seen Wicked on Broadway, starring Idina Menzel of Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’ fame, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man, the celebrated ballet dancer Carlos Acosta CBE, as well as performances at the Sydney Opera House.
She is married and lives in Bury with her husband, Mike, and children, eight-year-old Eva and six-year-old Sam.