Whittles building, BEC, p Plantinum Live

BEC has owned the building since 2021. Credit: via Platinum Live

Cumbria digital hub gets £4m backing

Developer BEC is behind plans for a four-storey complex in Whitehaven town centre aimed at upskilling Gen Z in a range of computer-based disciplines. 

Sellafield has pledged £2.8m towards the creation of a digital skills and gaming hub within the grade two-listed former Whittles building, with BT contributing another £800,000. 

BEC, which has owned the former furniture store since 2021, will provide another £485,000 towards the scheme. 

Michael Pemberton, chief executive of BEC, described the development as “game-changing” and a “one-of-a-kind” for West Cumbria.  

“With this scheme, we will be addressing the digital skills gap and opening doors to exciting opportunities in the digital and creative sectors with the development, through work and learning experiences, industry connections and guidance,” he said. 

“We’re embarking on an exciting journey ahead, working closely with the community and a range of incredible partners to bring to life the digital and gaming hub.” 

The project is aimed at encouraging the development of future digital and tech leaders and will feature a digital recording studio, cafe, esports and VR area, green screens, and a rooftop terrace. 

Leader of Cumberland Council, Cllr Mark Fryer, said the project was “great news” for Whitehaven. 

“We welcome any plans that provide economic growth to our area. This [project] will bring a redundant building back into use, providing new training opportunities for future generations.”  

BEC said construction will start in early summer 2024, and the current expectation for opening is Q3 2025. 

Gary McKeating, head of community and development at Sellafield, said: “This project will provide an engaging and nurturing space to inspire the next generation of digital workers, and to restore a prominent local building. 

“The hub will be another great asset for West Cumberland and complements and enhances the range of other investments we’re making in the region.” 

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