by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Hillsborough Castle & Gardens has won the Project of the Year title at the RICS Social Impact Awards for Northern Ireland. 33 construction projects, who’s entries celebrate the role of property professionals in transforming Northern Ireland communities and the everyday lives of people, were">shortlisted back in February.

Eight projects have now been successful as category winners, with Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Visitor Facilities selected by judges from amongst them as Project of the Year.

The awards – which are supporting The Prince’s Trust campaign to get more young people into construction – were launched earlier this year to find the best examples of developments delivering economic, social or environmental improvements for their communities; therefore, recognising the real estate industry’s vital role in society.

All of the Northern Ireland winners were announced in a digital awards ceremony revealed by RICS this afternoon. They are:

  • Project of the Year: Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Visitor Facilities, Hillsborough
  • Commercial: Project FLEX at Allen & Overy Offices, Belfast
  • Education: Strabane Academy – Phase 1, Strabane
  • Healthcare: The Acute Mental Health Inpatient Centre (AMHIC), Belfast
  • Heritage: Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Visitor Facilities, Hillsborough
  • Infrastructure: Ormeau Avenue Sewerage Improvement Scheme, Belfast
  • Leisure: Leisure Transformation Programme, Belfast
  • Residential: Old Mill Court, Sion Mills
  • Student Accommodation: 123 York Street, Belfast


In 2014 Historic Royal Palaces took over the operation of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens and embarked on a major restoration project. The aim of the project was to open what was once described as a ‘locked away hidden gem’, making its heritage accessible for all and giving the castle a future as valuable as its past. The overall project included restoration works to the castle, gardens, extended grounds, and construction of new built elements to optimise the visitor experience.

RICS Social Impact Awards Head Judge for Northern Ireland, Michael Hannaway, commented: “The Hillsborough Castle and Gardens Restoration project is an exemplary display of traditional skills and workmanship working alongside modern surveying and delivery techniques. With extensive collaborative working with stakeholders and local community groups the project has revealed a once hidden treasure and for the first made its heritage accessible to all and secured for future generations the economic viability of the visitor attraction as well as the surrounding area.”

He continued: “The built environment is an integral part of the Northern Ireland economy but also makes a positive impact on our everyday lives. In these challenging times, it is warming to reflect on these winning projects, and how they are not only a demonstration of the breadth of talent within the profession, but showcase how buildings can make towns and cities more inclusive and deliver communities which people can be proud of.”


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