Economic development is very often a function of private and public entities working together. In North West England, that is unfolding with notable success.
Can the construction of a leisure centre in Allerdale signal the presence of work? Ironically, it may well do just that.
After years of planning and debate, an £11.3 million sports hall, swimming pool and outdoor pitches complex in Workington is approved and under construction in 2015. Mostly funded by Allerdale Borough Council with £1.5 million chipped in by Sport England, the centre replaces a 40-year-old facility at Moorclose. In the four decades since the construction of that facility, now deemed inefficient and costly to run, much has changed in the borough – enough to draw land investment funds from the private sector that parallels public investments such as this.
What indicators do we have that this growth is real? The West Cumbria region is now widely recognised as “Britain’s Energy Coast,” due to nuclear, wind and solar installations working here on a utility scale. Further developments that have stimulated a repurposing of publicly- and privately-owned land assets into commercial and housing development are:
Port of Workington – With the infusion of £5.7 million investment dollars in the Energy Coast initiative in June 2014 and later another £21 million from central Government, this is becoming a significant hub for business in the North West of England. It will have a 1 weekly feeder container service to Rotterdam, opening up trade to the world for area businesses. The first phase of this project is expected to bring in 3,000 jobs.
Connecting Cumbria Project – Bringing superfast broadband to homes and businesses, this enables growing companies in the tech sector to locate in Allerdale and other communities nearby. These are some of the firms that provide rapid job growth for the region.
Advanced Manufacturing Centre at Carlisle College – An educated workforce is perhaps as attractive to industry as port and road infrastructure. This is why part of the £21 million from the Government is allocated to educating future engineers through the latest industry technology (including laser cutters, computer-aided manufacturing equipment and 3D printers). The college has already drawn investments of £31 million from other sources over the past decade, an endorsement of the institution’s role in the local economy.
Improvements at the Barrow Waterfront Enterprise Zone – In nearby South Cumbria, this 60-acre enterprise zone has received more than £26.8 million in government cash. It is expected to attract additional investment and activity from supply chain firms and manufacturing businesses. Already BAE Systems has signed as an anchor tenant, a move anticipated as a catalyst for attracting other firms.
Managers of land investment funds keep a keen eye on what councils and employers are doing to boost the economic prospects of an area. Until the last decade, the general Cumbria area had experienced a decline because it had an aging manufacturing base. But with new technologies, a skilled workforce and improving, 21st century infrastructure that much is turning around. Some land that is publicly owned and dormant is now converting to commercial and residential development in response. And as community investment in Allerdale’s leisure and sport facility indicate, the area is becoming populated with engaged, active citizens who work as hard as they play.