Hebden Bridge wins best town award
Hebden Bridge has been named as the best town in Britain and Ireland at the Urbanism Awards.
The judges praised the West Yorkshire town's arts scene and eco-friendly policies such as a ban on plastic shopping bags.
John Thompson of the Academy of Urbanism gave out the awards.
He said:"Hebden Bridge is a worthy winner of the Best Town award, with its vibrant, independent economy, welcoming streets and a stunning valley setting."
The market town beat off strong competition from Stroud and Westport in Ireland to win the title of 2011 Great Town of the Year at the Urbanism Awards, which recognise the best, most enduring or most improved urban environments.
Historically, Hebden Bridge played an important role in the wool trade in the North during the 19th and 20th centuries.
In recent decades the town has developed a rich arts scene, with an arts festival and fringe arts festival taking place each year in the late spring, but has maintained a healthy economic outlook.
The town has also been praised for its eco-friendly policies, becoming the largest community in Europe to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.
John Thomson said: "Combined with its eco-friendly policies and its rich arts scene, Hebden Bridge is an inspiring model for other towns across the country."
Hebden Bridge 500 years old but still the best
He said: "If you have a compact urban place where people know each other and look after each other and local enterprise flourishes, that's a great place and you get that message within an hour of arriving at Hebden Bridge."
The award comes as the town celebrates its 500th anniversary this year providing even more events than usual in the town.
Recently the town received unwelcome publicity for drugs and alcohol problems.
But resident David Fletcher of the Pennine Trust said that whilst there are problems with drugs, alcohol and young people it's not any greater than other towns.
He said: "I don't believe Hebden Bridge stands out for those sort of factors, but that it stands out for good reasons."
Hebden Bridge enjoys a degree of cohesion amongst its groups.
Examples include the Community Association, who are taking over the former town hall to become a community-owned building providing a range of services, and the Town Partnership, where all the different bodies in Hebden Bridge come together to coordinate their activities.
David Fletcher said: "There's a great pride in the town, a great feeling of social togetherness and it shows when you walk through the streets"
And he welcomes the award. He said: "It gives people a sense of pride, they get involved in doing things in the town."
Historical win in Hebden Bridge's 500th year
The awards are run by the Academy of Urbanism, whose members include industry-leading architects, planners, engineers, developers and designers.
The academy was set up five years ago to encourage professional organisations to work together to raise standards. Chairman John Thompson said the idea was to initiate a new ambition for town planning.
He said: "Let's start creating places this century that are as good as ones we have inherited from our ancestors."