Even with the brooding slope of Pen-y-ghent as a distant backdrop, few architects would afford the 1,130 sq square yards at the northern edge of Horton-in-Ribblesdale a second glance.
Yet the triangular plot –bordered on one side by the Settle-Carlisle railway line and on the other by the B-road to Ribblehead – could become the spot on which the Dales are reinvented.
It is where the world’s leading architects are being asked to design a blueprint for a house of the future – one that will “radically reinvent” the model for affordable living in upland Yorkshire.
In a unique collaboration, members of the Royal Institute of British Architects will compete to produce homes which complement the landscape while at the same time meeting the needs of young families to whom the countryside might otherwise be out of bounds.
The hope is that the winning design will become a model for more “complimentary but innovative” homes on similar sites across the Dales and other National Parks that have seen an outward migration of young people.
“We know that housing is the key issue affecting younger generations who want to live with in the area,” said Lindsey Hebden of Great Place Lakes and Dales, a three-year project to encourage younger generations to live and work in rural communities.
“We want to generate new ideas that are sympathetic to the rural setting but also fit for purpose and functional. We are excited to see what new ground-breaking ideas might emerge.
“It’s a great opportunity and a real, appealing proposition for young people to actually be able to live and work in such a beautiful setting, in a landscape that has previously been prohibitive because of the lack of housing infrastructure.”
A second, larger site at Burneside, near Kendal in the south Lakes, is also part of the pilot project. Like Horton-in-Ribblesdale, it is close to a rail station and has superfast broadband on tap.
However, Horton has in recent years lost its village store, post office and primary school – a casualty of too few young families in the village.
Craven Council, which has earmarked the plot there for development, says it wants the competition among architects to “send out a strong statement” to other areas and to challenge preconceptions about affordable housing, which, it says, “can often generate a real or perceived stigma”.
Richard Foster, the council’s leader, said: “We know we need to provide more affordable housing in the Lakes and Dales, particularly for young people, and with creative design we can ensure this also has a positive impact on our stunning countryside.”
The competition, which aims to have produced a shortlist by May and a winner in July, will be judged by a panel of designers and landowners that will include Wayne Hemingway, who sits on the trustee board of the Design Council. It is open to architects and designers worldwide – with six shortlisted entrants each receiving £4,000 for work that can then be licensed and replicated for use elsewhere in the Dales and Lake District.
The designs on the shortlist will be made available for public viewing, with feedback invited, and the eventual winner can expect to see their design built.
Richard Dowson, a consultant with Great Place Lakes and Dales, said: “We definitely don’t want boring boxes. Successful entries will be interesting and attractive to younger generations and professionals.”