A new £5m access road for Waterfront Business Park in Barrow-in-Furness has been officially opened.
The new road, called Harding Rise, will enable all traffic to Cumbria's newest business park and the adjacent dockland owned by Associated British Ports to bypass residential areas of Barrow Island.
The first phase of the park was completed last year and now has around 18 acres available for businesses, ranging from office accommodation, research and development to industrial, storage, warehousing and distribution.
The ceremony held today marked the completion of a 15-month project managed by Barrow Regeneration and Cumbria County Council, on land purchased by the council, and delivered by main contractor Carillion.
The project was funded by the North West Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund. Local member of parliament John Hutton was joined by Bob Pointing, programme director of Barrow Regeneration, to unveil the road in front of assembled stakeholders and community representatives.
The name Harding Rise is taken from an 18th century map which identifies the area of Barrow Island through which the new road runs as Harding Flat. Olde Barrow Isle, as it was known then, expanded dramatically during the next century as Barrow grew into one of Britain's major industrial power houses. Harding Rise was chosen to link Barrow's heritage with the town's current transformation as part of Britain's Energy Coast.
Bob Pointing said: "Harding Rise is a magnificent gateway into Waterfront Business Park with panoramic views to Walney and across the Irish Sea. Barrow is leading the development of a new energy economy for Britain's Energy Coast and this road allows us to connect with these new opportunities.
"We would also recognise the patience of Barrow Islanders who have had to put up with the construction traffic, although we were able to limit the inconvenience by importing the equivalent of 2,300 lorry roads of material by sea. It is fair to say everyone is delighted now Harding Rise is open and I hope that Harding, whoever he was, would have been proud too."
Cllr Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member for highways and economic development, added: "Various projects are taking place that will enhance Barrow and boost the town for this and future generations. Harding Rise is a key component of this regeneration and I'm delighted it is now opening."
Harding Rise links Michaelson Road with the Waterfront Business Park and docks area, allowing the residential area of Ramsden Dock Road to become a cul-de-sac. The business park and port traffic will now have immediate access to Barrow Link Road, which in turn gives quick access to the A590 and onto the M6.
Barrow Regeneration, formerly the Furness arm of West Lakes Renaissance, secured £4.9m needed for the project from the NWDA and £4.9m from the European Regional Development Fund. While the road cost £5m to construct, the remainder was used to buy land from neighbouring BAE Systems to demolish buildings to make way for the road, and associated works to improve the surrounding area.
Steve Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "The new access road is a vital step forward in making Waterfront Business Park a success. It will open up Barrow and the wider Waterfront development to new opportunities to attract investors and business."
Harding Rise was designed by Capita Symonds and built by Carillion, which has also been responsible for developing Waterfront Business Park site. Both companies were appointed by Cumbria County Council.
Local company Furness Enterprise is marketing Waterfront Business Park to businesses. Already more than 100 businesses have expressed an interest in locating on the first phase of the development, with more than 30 of these enquiries described as "promising". Around 1,500 new jobs are expected to be created by the park over the next ten years.
Harry Knowles, chief executive of Furness Enterprise, said: "The new access road improves Waterfront Business Park's appeal to expanding firms, with many already interested due to the very competitive price of plots. To coincide with this important milestone, we are launching a new international promotional brochure which promotes the life and work opportunities the Waterfront development will bring to Cumbria as Barrow' Britain's Energy Coast business park."
The business park is part of the wider £200m Waterfront Barrow-in-Furness development, which is being led by Barrow Regeneration. It also includes Marina Village, which comprises 650 homes, a hotel, leisure facilities, restaurants and bars, a new 350-berth marina and Watersports Centre, as well as a cruise ship terminal providing a sea gateway to the Lake District, and a wetland nature reserve. Carlisle-based Story Homes has been appointed as preferred developer for the scheme.