Campaigners in Arkengarthdale, North Yorkshire, are making a final plea to secure land for affordable housing in their local community after all other potential sites have been rejected.
The Upper Dales Community Land Trust (UDCLT), a not-for-profit organisation, wants to acquire the site of a former school in Arkengarthdale and create “much-needed” affordable homes that they say will help sustain the local community.
The proposal will create high-quality and energy-efficient homes for local people, and repurposing the existing school site will support the long-term sustainability of the dale while preserving the heritage and aesthetics of the old building, say campaigners.
The school is the only remaining development site that fulfils the urgent affordable housing requirements to encourage young people to remain in the area.
Arkengarthdale Parish Council and the UDCLT say they have both long recognised the importance of helping young people to stay in the dale and have regularly supported planning applications to help futureproof the community.
There is no social housing in Arkengarthdale, and despite several housing surveys, showing a strong demand for affordable homes, there are no plans to introduce any social homes in the area.
Campaigners say that building on the site of the former school is a once-in-lifetime opportunity to provide affordable housing in Arkengarthdale.
If the offer is not accepted, the need for affordable housing in the North Yorkshire community is unlikely to ever be fulfilled, which may threaten the identity of the wider community, campaigners say.
Stephen Stubbs, chair of Arkengarthdale Parish Council and vice chairman of the UDCLT, said: “It was a very sad day when the school was forced to close, having been a focal point of the community for 360 years.
“What better way to preserve its integrity with a sympathetic development that will revitalise this pivotal building and continue its legacy.
“This development is being aimed primarily at young people to encourage them to bring up their families in the dale, and so keep the future bright for our deeply rural community.
“A dale without the presence of young families has no future at all. I urge all members of the Swaledale with Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council to let their voice be heard and support our offer.”
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“A better future”
The school building was purchased by Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council (APCC) in 1933, which funded the purchase with the belief of a building a better future for the next generation.
The APCC no longer exists, and the school building legally belongs to the Swaledale with Arkengarthdale Parochial Church Council.
John Watkins, chairman of the UDCLT, said: “We hope the PCC will take an altruistic approach to our offer, which is closely aligned with their charitable objectives, promoting the mission of the Church in the widest sense.
“We believe this scheme will enable us to honour the intent of the original parishioners.
“The scheme gives the building back its long-held purpose in supporting the welfare of the Dales people, serving at the heart of our community and offering a lasting and positive impact on the future sustainability of Arkengarthdale.”