What is it that makes West Cumbria an area for development in the next decade? It’s not one thing, it’s many things: Allerdale illustrates how.
The January 2015 announcement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that £21 million from the central Government will fund key infrastructure projects in Cumbria is yet another indicator that the area is primed for growth. This isn’t a one-shot investment in a region that is ailing. Rather, it’s money that holds the potential to make already good times get better.
Cumbria’s Borough of Allerdale will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of money as this is where the Port of Workington is located. Approximately 200 jobs were created in a recent regeneration of the port; more importantly, this has led to a more robust local economy with such vital infrastructure in place. “The Port of Workington is recognised in our council plan as a key strategic site for supporting the local economy,” said Allerdale Council leader Alan Smith. Emphasizing how a working port in the West Cumbria coastal town stimulates regional commerce, Smith added that the new funding will be used to construct a bridge to handle HGV (heavy goods vehicle) traffic, and to increase the county’s broadband capabilities.
But several factors made this northernmost part of England an up-and-comer in the diversifying UK economy even before this announcement. Investing in UK land makes sense in much of the country, but in and around Allerdale it is particularly interesting. The Allerdale population is currently around 93,500, which includes the towns of Cockermouth and Maryport, as well as the Lake District National Park with its 15.8 million annual tourists – which brings more than £1 billion to the area every year. The larger West Cumbria economic sphere has a population of 166,000 people, of which 103,500 are of working age.
Why should a land investor, particularly one focused on residential and commercial development, look at this region so far removed from the hyper-growth South East and London? The RBS Regional Growth Tracker found that in the year leading up to September 2014 the west Cumbria economy grew by 4.2 per cent. Compare that to a 3.7 per cent growth in London and 2.9 per cent for the whole of the North West. The senior economist at RBS says that average earnings growth and a falling unemployment rate characterised west Cumbria’s economy.
Also designated as Britain’s Energy Coast, Cumbria boasts 6,400 enterprises in a diverse range of sectors. Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster is focused on both nuclear and renewables supply chains, endeavouring to attract and grow companies in these categories.
Further, business start-ups in the UK were found through the Enterprise Research Centre to be more successful outside of England’s major cities – contradicting the popular perception that all the capital investing goes to London. The Office of National Statistics data from 2012 show that 75 per cent of new private sector jobs are created outside the Capital City.
Where there are new jobs there also need to be new houses, infra and the commercial establishments where people can shop, learn and play. This is of course where capital growth planning – converting unused land to economically productive property – can achieve its best goals.
The employers already growing in Allerdale include Iggisund Paperboard (in Siddick, near Workington), Eastman (chemical and camera firm from the U.S.), Tata Steel (cast product plant), Stobart (haulage) and Amcor (packaging). Nearby West Cumbrian towns host Associated British Ports Holding, Innovia Films, Sealy Beds UK, Carr’s Milling Industries, WestPort Windows and M-Sport.