Council showcases area’s huge potential at major investment forum

An overhead view of the Port of Barrow, with the docks in the foreground and the town and fells in the background

A team from Westmorland and Furness Council is this week showcasing the area’s huge potential at a major investment forum.

The new council wants to highlight its ambitions for the area – and the opportunities from its key role at the centre of defence and energy security.

Westmorland and Furness Council is being represented at the UK Real Estate Investment & Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF), which is expecting more than 7,000 industry and government delegates.

The council is exhibiting at the three-day forum at Royal Armouries in Leeds and meeting developers and investors interested in the North West. There is a focus on opportunities across the new unitary authority’s area and the vital role Westmorland and Furness has in maintaining the nation’s long-term defence and energy security.

To fulfil the requirements of the national submarine programme, BAE Systems at Barrow-in-Furness is expected to grow its workforce by more than 50 per cent, creating 6,000 new employment opportunities in the next 15 years.

The area is also at the forefront of decarbonisation efforts across offshore wind, gas, low carbon generation and storage opportunities and home to a fast-growing sector in clean growth and innovation.

There are already significant investment plans in place for a green hydrogen hub and creation of a one gigaton carbon capture facility in Morecambe Bay.

These developments require supporting investment in housing and infrastructure to attract more people to live and work in the area. And the council says there are major housing and commercial sites available for investment, and opportunity for significant growth.

The council is also keen to alert investors to the possibilities at other sites across Westmorland and Furness, such as GSK in Ulverston and Junction 41, north of Penrith.

Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council, said the scale of growth had the potential to be transformational for the area.

He said: “Thousands of new jobs will be created both within the defence sector, as well as within our thriving and skilled supply chain economy. Additional growth will come via our established green energy sector.

“The overall prize is significant. Projected jobs growth in defence and energy sectors alone, should lead to a £5bn uplift in local economic output over the next 15 years.

“We are ready to work with partners and stakeholders, to rise to this once in a generation, transformational opportunity. Our aim is to create a great place to live and work, which has a diverse and sustainable economy, that attracts new residents and meets the needs of our existing communities.”

After coming into effect on 1 April, Westmorland and Furness has begun a long programme of work towards its vision of being a ‘great place to live, work and thrive’.

Chief Executive Sam Plum said: “Being a new authority provides a huge opportunity to work with partners and stakeholders to explore new ways in which we can support and enable transformation.

“Westmorland and Furness, and Cumbria as a whole, has the slowest growing population in England and our future prosperity is dependent on reversing the decline in the working age population.

“As a council we are ambitious for our area. We are at the start of a journey and want to work collaboratively with public and private sector partners and with our communities, to facilitate and enable growth.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase what Westmorland and Furness has to offer.”

More than £40 million of regeneration investment has already been secured for Barrow, which was one of the first towns in the country to secure £25m from the Government’s Towns Fund for seven projects that will help the area to thrive for generations.

This includes a new Learning Quarter, improved active travel infrastructure, support programme for start-ups and entrepreneurship and a network of community hubs, including a £6 million Outdoor Learning Centre.

A further £17.5m regeneration scheme funded via the Levelling Up Fund will reinvigorate the town centre.