A DALES design firm has scooped a major contract to plan a city left devastated by the Iraq war.

In 2003 heavy fighting between Iraqi and American troops destroyed much of the country’s southern city of Nasiriyah.

Sedbergh-based Garsdale Design has developed a masterplan which will see the ruined city, and its 560,200 inhabitants, given new infrastructure, sewerage, water and electricity systems.

The family firm of five topped American, German and Malaysian architectural companies to take on the design work – worth more than half a million pounds.

Garsdale Design’s co-director Derrick Hartley previously worked alongside his wife Barbara in the Gulf, including Oman and Kuwait.

He believes their years of experience abroad was a key factor in winning the favour of the Iraqi Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, based in Baghdad.

Mr Hartley and his son Elliot were detained and forced into hiding in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein’s forces cut the city off in the early 1990s while Mr Hartley was working on a long-term masterplan in the area.

The 67-year-old lecturer in urban design at the University of Liverpool said his time in the country had warm-ed him to Iraqi civilians, who were deprived of basic facilities.

“Saddam’s regime suppressed the whole city,” he said.

“We could see tanks lined up on our street and we knew if we were found we would have been used as UK hostages.

“My time there, and the bravery of the people, made me want to make things better for ordinary people living in Iraq. To anyone from the West it still looks very poor.

“We are one of very few British specialised companies working in Nasiriyah and this is a huge task.

"The people are sincere – they want to see their city restored and it’s our pleasure to help them do that.”

Garsdale Design, a seven-year-old family firm with five employees, has seen its plans go through three years of development and consultation.

They are expected to be agreed before the end of the year.

The masterplan will focus on a contemporary and sustainable community and will see Nasiriyah given a substantial public transport network, including tramways.

Mr Hartley’s close-knit team includes wife Barbara, his son Elliot and Elliot’s wife Michelle, as well as his daughter’s husband Kevin Wade.

The highly-qualified family specialises in archaeology and heritage spaces, planning, geographic information systems and computer-aided design.

They have worked on projects in Sedbergh, Morecambe and Dent, as well as foreign contracts in Oman, Iraq and Kuwait.

Plans were created with the help of inspectors from Baghdad and Nasiriyah, who visited Kendal last summer and have been in constant communication with Garsdale Design throughout the process.

Their vision will see the original city, founded in 1840, regenerated and expanded to the north and west over the next 30 years, enabling the area to house 830,000 people.

Garsdale Design is already bidding for several other Iraqi contracts.

Mr Hartley said although competition abroad was high, he was hopeful their current work would win his team further foreign projects.