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Competition: Lakes & Dales flexible housing, UK

The RIBA has launched an international competition for two small scale residential developments within England’s Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks (Deadline: 24 April)

The anonymous two-stage competition seeks innovative proposals from architect-led teams for flexible accommodation aimed at people aged between 16 and 34 – a demographic notably underrepresented in the region.

The call for concepts is being held on behalf of the Great Place: Lakes and Dales Partnership (GPLD), an initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England aimed at balancing out the area’s ageing population.

The picturesque Lakes & Dales region of England

The picturesque Lakes & Dales region of England

The picturesque Lakes & Dales region of England

The programme will focus on the huge, sparsely-populated rural area stretching from Skipton to Grasmere, and aims to harness arts, heritage and culture to deliver economic, social and environmental change and encourage more young people to live in the Lakes and Dales.

Sasha Bhavan of Knox Bhavan Architects, who will be the contest’s RIBA adviser, said: ‘This competition offers a unique opportunity to encourage the return of young people back to the rural communities of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District in conjunction with art, culture and heritage initiatives.’

Great Place: Lakes and Dales consultant Richard Dowson said: ‘We are looking for innovative design and a greater offer for younger generations. It’s about housing that will appeal to returners and young people already living in the area. Affordability and innovation are key strands to the concept.’

Site 1: Horton, Ribblesdale

Site 1: Horton, Ribblesdale

Site 1: Horton, Ribblesdale

The contest focuses on a large rural area where there around 44 per cent fewer people aged 16-34 than the national average and significant concerns over the future resilience of local communities and the economy.

The project aims to deliver new affordable and flexible housing solutions for young people who may wish to run their own creative business or work from home. The programme will focus on two existing sites which will be brought forward seperately by developers and aims to create new prototypes for similar schemes elsewhere.

The sites are a 0.1 hectare greenfield plot in Horton, Ribblesdale – a small village situated within the Craven district and Yorkshire Dales National Park – and a 1 hectare plot in Burneside village, north of Kendal in South Lakeland.

Proposals must respect the surrounding context; embrace sustainable and environmentally friendly design; clearly explain their construction costs; and carefully consider the construction process, programme and delivery. Judges will include Bhavan, Wayne Hemingway of Hemingway Design and Nathan Cornish of Urban Splash.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 2pm, 24 April

Contact details

RIBA Competitions
No 1 Aire Street

Tel: 0113 203 1490

Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Richard Dowson

The consultant at GPLD discusses his ambitions for the competition

Richard Dowson

Richard Dowson

Richard Dowson

Why are you holding an international contest for new flexible housing on two sites in the Lakes and Dales?

The Lakes and Dales future is threatened by an ageing population as younger generations move away. The competition is part of the Great Places: Lakes & Dales project, which is an Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Funded scheme using arts, culture and heritage to encourage younger generations to stay or move to the area.

Housing is a key issue affecting younger generations wanting to live within the area, and we want to generate new ideas and concepts that will deliver high quality and solutions. RIBA’s great reputation in running design competitions is why we chose this option.

Design competitions provide an opportunity to attract different talents and look at this challenge from a fresh perspective. We want participation to be as wide as possible and generate new ideas, whether they’ve worked in similar areas, or not.

What is your vision for the new homes?

Our vision is for new homes that are attractive to, and meet the needs of younger generations wishing to live in the Lakes & Dales. The homes will need to work from a design aspect, but also be functional for younger generations, be affordable, and take advantage of future workplace and connectivity trends.

Site 2: Burneside village, north of Kendal in South Lakeland

Site 2: Burneside village, north of Kendal in South Lakeland

Site 2: Burneside village, north of Kendal in South Lakeland

Site constraints, etc, are contained within the competition brief. However, there are some differences highlighted below.

Horton - The village sits within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and entrants will need to be conscious of housing development within this context. The development will be part-funded by Homes England for affordable housing, and we want to generate a new narrative around these.

Burneside - The village is situated outside of the Lake District National Park, but entrants will need to be conscious of the local planning context. The scheme will also form part of a wider initiative to transform Burneside into a World-Class village for the benefit of the community.

We are keen that this competition makes a statement about the opportunities and possibilities for younger generations to live and work in a rural context and so want to see new submissions, which meet these aspirations.

Sustainability is critical, as rural housing can often be costlier for young families with higher energy needs, etc. We want schemes to address this and meet the environmental and social responsibility aspirations as identified in the brief and research study into younger people’s perceptions of living and working in the area.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We hope to attract architects and designers who want to make a difference to these rural areas and their communities.

The competition is open to all and the first stage will be assessed anonymously, looking solely at designs and concepts. Entrants can submit proposals for one or both sites, which vary in size, so allowing them to choose the most appropriate for them.

Other rural areas face the same issues as ours and schemes that work here could establish reputations in this field. Legacy development is a key requisite of our programme, and we intend to share findings, etc, with other areas throughout the UK.

We don’t stipulate that entrants need to collaborate locally. However, we are keen to ensure that learning and knowledge from this process benefits the locality, whether via collaboration or information sharing, during or post competition.

We can’t guarantee that winning teams will be commissioned to deliver the projects at this stage, though this is our intention and aspiration, as this will be subject to agreement between the developers and teams.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We’re keen to ensure this competition acts as best practice for other developments locally, which is why we’ve asked entrants to submit costs for licensing/copyright of their designs, which might be used again.

Various schemes are at early stage development across the Lakes and Dales.

We can’t guarantee more design contests will be used in the future, but if this one is successful then others may look at this option for their requirements.

Are there any other recent flexible affordable housing projects you have been impressed by?

We have looked at different options around the country including schemes, but we’re keen that this competition generates its own ideas and concepts.

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