Quango maps out future of Cumbria’s regeneration

Michael Hunt

Barrow Regeneration's board has met to discuss the way forward for its six programmes following recent announcements concerning the North West Development Agency.

The Government confirmed in June that it has decided to abolish all Regional Development Agencies by April 2012.

Following on from this, the North West Development Agency has also been asked to find savings of £52m for the financial year 2010-2011.

The NWDA announced on Monday it will not fund projects which are financially uncommitted in 2010-2011 and will make no new financial commitments in 2011-2012.

Barrow Regeneration said these decisions will clearly have a significant impact on Cumbria's regeneration efforts.

The organisation is focused on delivering six co-ordinated regeneration programmes that aim to ensure Barrow has the infrastructure, skills and communities needed to deliver sustainable economic growth and establish the town as a vibrant place to live, work, visit and invest.

The board has met and agreed on the following:

  • Waterfront Business Park The board said it has almost 20 acres of prime industrial land to offer developers with fully serviced sites and good road access. In order to take advantage of improving market conditions, along with the opportunities presented by the Britain's Energy Coast initiative, Barrow Regeneration will assume responsibility for marketing the land and said it will contact the 31 most promising leads with a view to brokering pre-let deals with developers and prospective tenants. Barrow Regeneration added that this previously would have been undertaken by partners Furness Enterprise. Barrow Regeneration will also prepare a submission for funding to the Government's recently announced Regional Growth Fund when the full criteria is known, and is very hopeful it will be eligible given the fund and Waterfront Business Park both focus on job creation and economic growth
  • Barrow Marina Village/Leisure Marina – Barrow Regeneration said it remains absolutely committed to this project because it believes its focus is on transforming the long term future of the town. The organisation will enter into discussions with the Homes & Communities Agency and the developer, Story Group, over the option of bringing forward an initial phase of the Barrow Marina Village housing development. The board said it will also consider submitting funding applications to its Local Economic Partnership, when this is set up, or other funding bodies, once the criteria are known. Barrow Regeneration and its funding partners continue to examine the viability of the Marina Village development but in the context of public sector funding cuts, it said it will keep the Leisure Marina development on hold until market conditions and confidence improve.
  • Housing Market Renewal – The board believes Barrow has too many obsolete and poor quality terraced houses which need to be replaced with modern homes. Barrow Regeneration said that over the last five years the HMR programme has been very successful in enabling Barrow Council to acquire over 160 terraced properties for refurbishment or demolition. In the case of demolition, the board said the intention is to sell the sites for new housing developments. Barrow Regeneration will make a case for Homes & Communities Agency funding through the Local Area Investment Plan in order that the HMR programme can continue to deliver real benefits for the town and its people
  • Town Centre – Barrow Regeneration said public realm work on Dalton Road and the Ginnel, leading from the Town Hall Square and the Mall, should be completed by October and a celebratory event is planned. The funding for this scheme is not affected by NWDA cuts
  • Enterprise and Skills – Barrow Regeneration has been funding projects such as The Workshop, which aims to help incapacity benefit claimants return to work, and the Enterprise Fund, which helps local firms to expand, which are delivered through its partners Furness Enterprise. The board said many of these are exemplars which could be rolled out nationally by the coalition Government. However, the board added that they are currently at risk and, together with Furness Enterprise, will promote what has been achieved in this area of work and identify funding for these projects by the end of 2010. The board agreed that they would also appear to share the same focus of the new Regional Growth Fund announced by Government, which will offer opportunities for the private and public sector for potential new projects from April 2011 onwards
  • Talented Minds – Barrow Regeneration's board said this programme is designed to involve young people, schools and colleges in Barrow's regeneration and to persuade more young people to stay in the area. The board said the programme has helped to reverse a worrying trend of outward migration of young people, which has been such a problem for the town and its economic growth. Barrow Regeneration said that the current funding situation means the programme is at risk, which is why the board is seeking replacement funding through avenues such as sponsorship, the National Lottery and similar sources. The board is reasonably confident that alternative funding can be found based on responses it has had so far.

Bob Pointing, programme director at Barrow Regeneration, added: "Barrow Regeneration is eager to stress that the NWDA's decision, which has been prompted by the new coalition Government's move to abolish regional development agencies and replace them with Local Economic Partnerships, does not mean the regeneration effort in the town will come to a standstill. Much has been achieved over the years, and Barrow is a very different place thanks to the investment which has taken place so far, much of which has come from the NWDA.

"With our local community and business partners, we are eager to progress this legacy and capitalise on the opportunities arising through the Britain's Energy Coast initiative. We are already looking forward to working proactively with our Local Economic Partnership, when this is set up, and gain a better understanding of how new funding streams, such as the Regional Growth Fund, and existing avenues can help us achieve our goal of transforming Barrow."

Barrow Regeneration was formerly the Furness arm of West Lakes Renaissance.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here