An ambitious building programme involving three north east fire and rescue services has won two prestigious national awards.

Representatives from the three authorities of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham and Darlington fire and rescue services, making up the North East Fire and Rescue Authority (NEFRA), were the biggest winners at the Partnerships Bulletin Awards on 11 May.

During the awards ceremony hosted by Partnerships Bulletin in London, NEFRA scooped the ‘Best Accommodation’ category before going on to win the ‘Projects Grand Prix ‘award.

The Partnerships Bulletin Awards, formerly the Public Private Finance Awards, is now in its thirteenth year. The event is the biggest night in the partnerships calendar rewarding the industry for successes each year.

The evening was hosted by former BBC political editor John Sergeant who presented the awards to Neill Cook, project leader for NEFRA and Northumberland Fire and Rescue, and Michael Butcher, general manager for John Laing.

NEFRA was placed ahead of some of the top public building projects in the country to secure the ‘Best Accommodation’ award. Other projects on the shortlist included Belmarsh Prisons, Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Two Counties Police Investigation Centres, Luton New Homes, and Forest Gate – Newham Housing. In a unanimous decision by the judges, NEFRA topped a strong shortlist of international projects including the Lisbon to Madrid TGV High Speed Rail Link, Long Beach Court Building USA, Peninsula Link, Australia, and the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, Bermuda to win the ‘Grand Prix’ award, for delivering outstanding improvement in public service for the benefit of communities.

Five new community fire stations and a headquarters for Northumberland were built as part of a NEFRA Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This included new community fire stations for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

John Laing Investments provided project management of the construction and operational phases and national contractor Shepherd Construction, which has offices in Darlington and York, built the five new stations. Mouchel Ltd was the technical advisor to the project and John Laing Integrated Services is providing facilities management for the 25-year contract.

Other regional businesses that played key roles in the NEFRA project included: Newcastle-based law firm Dickinson Dees, which was involved in the legal contracts; national contractor Shepherd Construction, which has offices in York and Darlington and delivered the build and Napper Architects in Newcastle who designed the new fire stations and headquarters.

The stations became operational, as follows: Bishop Auckland, May 2010; Pegswood, near Morpeth, June 2010; North Tyneside East, North Shields, June 2010; Spennymoor, June 2010 and West Hartford, Northumberland headquarters, August 2010.

The design and construction of all five stations is environmentally friendly achieving BREEAM (energy efficiency rating) of between ‘very good’ and ‘excellent’.

As well as providing emergency fire and rescue cover, each community station provides state-of-the-art facilities, as well as free internet access and meeting rooms, which are available for local organisations and members of the public to book.

Building began in 2009 and each station took about a year to complete. As construction progressed each fire service sought to involve local communities; time capsule events with school children and open days to mark the completion of projects were among the events that took place. HRH The Prince of Wales opened Northumberland’s headquarters at West Hartford in November last year.

Chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, Alex Bennett, said: “All of those who were involved in the building projects from conception to completion are to be congratulated for their hard work in making these fantastic projects a success. These awards recognise the quality of the work that was carried out between all of the partners involved. All five fire stations are now integral parts of the communities they serve.”

Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Iain Bathgate, said: “We are delighted that the excellent new community facilities have been recognised nationally. Our new fire station in North Shields provides a first class base for our firefighters to help protect the local community. It also has an extensive community safety facility where members of the public can ‘drop in’ for free fire safety advice, helping to make the local community safer. There is no doubt that the fire station was already a winner in our eyes; these awards demonstrate that and are a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in the project.”

Chief Executive of Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Susan Johnson, said: “To win two major awards like this is a tribute to the tremendous effort by everyone involved in the project in delivering these superb fire stations. Our new stations at Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor are great assets for local people and provide much needed facilities for community groups and partner organisations to work together, with our firefighters, to deliver safety education. Our crews are also delighted with the modern working environment, equipped with the latest technology, to help them provide a fast and effective emergency response service.”

Regional Operations Director for John Laing, Joe Linney, said: “We are delighted that the project has won not one but an astounding two awards, which is testimony to all the hard work that was put into not only ensuring the provision of efficient, state-of-the-art emergency facilities for the benefit and safety of communities, but also doing it with a real partnership spirit.”

Graeme Dodd, Managing Director of Napper Architects said “This project continues our long relationship with the local fire authorities; the award is a testament to collaborative working and reflects the huge amount of hard work and enthusiasm of everybody involved.”

Andrew Constantine, construction director for Shepherd Construction commented: “This is a fantastic achievement. It is recognition of the strong working partnership that existed between all the partners in the project and which made the scheme such a success.”