A FURTHER accolade could be heading for a regeneration scheme which has already scooped several awards.

Newcastle's Grainger Town Project has helped to preserve and enhance many of the run-down Georgian and Victorian buildings in the heart of the city centre during the past four years.

It has earned a nomination in the Royal Town Planning Institute's (RTPI) annual Awards for Planning Achievement.

Established in 1977, the awards highlight "positive achievements" of the planning profession, assessed on environmental impact and lasting community benefit.

Grainger Town is among 27 shortlisted finalists, competing for awards in 11 categories.

The project earned its nomination in recognition of its achievements regenerating much of the 90-acres of the southern part of the city centre, which carries one of the highest concentrations of listed buildings in the country.

Forty per cent are listed, including more than 20 per cent with Grade I-listing, compared to the national average of 2.5 per cent.

Since it was set up in 1997 more than £120m has been pledged to the project, two-thirds from the private sector, backed by contributions from English Partnerships, One NorthEast, English Heritage and Newcastle City Council.

Scheduled to run for two more years, the project aims to support the creation of 2,000 jobs and assist 200 businesses, adding 60,000 sq metres of commercial floorspace while aiding development of more than 500 flats.

City council leader Tony Flynn, who chairs the project, said the latest recognition shows Grainger Town is now attracting attention and support from well beyond the North-East.

Jill Pain, chairman of judges for the RTPI, described Grainger Town as, "an outstanding example of planning achievement, fully deserving of wide recognition."

The Awards for Planning Achievement 2001 will be presented at a ceremony in London, on January 30