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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Our future?

WEST Cumbria’s future has been mapped out for the next 15 years.

Some 3,000 new jobs and a £90 billion nuclear investment are outlined in a draft Economic Blueprint described by partners in Britain’s Energy Coast as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” with far-reaching consequences for the local economy.

Their key message? Act now and act decisively.

Included are new contracts for construction, business and professional services, scientific and technical activities as well as secondary spending to boost the hotel, food and accommodation sectors.

Capturing as much of the massive investment value as possible locally is crucial while also creating an environment which encourages innovation and supporting an enterprise culture where local people can grasp opportunity.

Nuclear new-build and related investment could potentially create 3,000 jobs, the blueprint says – “demonstrating that this investment is critical to the continued economic health of the area.”

“The aim,” says the West Cumbria Economic Blueprint, “is to build on the area’s unique nuclear experience and global position to develop a dynamic, wealth-creating sustainable economic future for today, tomorrow and future generations.”

With a programme of actions drawn up to help accelerate business innovation and growth, it stresses: “For West Cumbria to reach its full economic potential, we recognise the important contribution that good quality schools and healthcare, sufficient choice and quality of housing, a modern transport infrastructure and a supportive planning policy framework plays.

“It’s critical West Cumbria offers the best-quality infrastructure to attract visitors and retain people in the local economy... this will require investment in West Cumbria’s schools, healthcare provision and housing to ensure the area offers the best-in-class and can compete successfully for the investment

“This will involve equipping local businesses to access contract, providing the right level of skills and expertise to enable local people to access employment opportunities; providing land and property in the right locations for businesses looking for a local base; and enhancing transport and digital communications infrastructure to cope with increased demand.

“Investing in these areas will not only help to ensure West Cumbria benefits fully from decommissioning and new-build expenditure but that the infrastructure is in place which will make the area more competitive as a business location for the future.

“It will also involve supporting our business to ensure they are able to assess contract opportunities and benefit from this investment enabling them to create more high-value jobs as well as providing opportunities for delivering the economic regeneration of our principal town centres of Whitehaven and Workington.

“These areas of activity will need to be supported by targeted investment in key infrastructure and the assets of the area.”

Here are a few of the keynotes:

RETAIL EMPLOYMENT

RETAIL employment is forecast to grow in West Cumbria linked to the wider growth in the local economy and demand for convenience and comparison products.

“Increased employment opportunities and the attraction of additional households to live and work in West Cumbria will enhance demand for retail products and services.”

VISITOR ECONOMY

THERE will be a growing demand for opportunities for businesses operating in the accommodation, food and drink sectors linked to major investment in new-build and decommissioning.

“With an increasing presence of multi-national firms operating from West Cumbria, there will be a growing market for business visitors and associated expenditure.”

NUCLEAR NEW-BUILD

BY NO means a certainty in West Cumbria. However, if the development does proceed it will generate an unprecedented level of investment in the area, creating significant levels of both direct and indirect employment which will have land and commercial property implications.

By raising the international profile of West Cumbria, it also has the potential to stimulate investment and growth in other linked sectors of the economy.

Planned investment in the nuclear sector peaks around 2022/23 and then declines.

Enabling more business to diversify is important. Over the next 15 years there will be a £90 billion investment in the decommissioning process at Sellafield – and potential for additional investment in nuclear new-build activity.

CONSTRUCTION

THE scale of planned investment in West Cumbria is unprecedented and there will be many new contract opportunities for local firms in the residential, leisure and commercial sectors. This will lead to more opportunities for construction-related employment. The strategy sets out to “deliver these investments alongside targeted action to develop an enterprise culture, workforce skills and job readiness will ensured that the whole community of West Cumbria benefits from the economic opportunities created.

HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE

WEST Cumbria’s population is forecast to age over the period to 2027 and this will create additional demands and pressures on health and social care programmes. There will be additional job opportunities arising in the health and caring professions as a result of these important changes.

EDUCATION

WITH a focus on supporting the development of specialist teaching and education facilities to support the whole community, there will be enhanced opportunities for employment in the education sector.

AGRICULTURE & FORESTRY

FOOD security is an issue of growing national significance and the capacity of West Cumbria to continue to supply food resources in the future will be a valuable commodity. Alongside this trend with the growing importance of the low-carbon agenda there is an opportunity to harness West Cumbria’s land, water and forest resources to help to power low-carbon energy systems.

TRANSPORT

INVESTMENT in infrastructure will underpin business and job creation. The Port of Workington provides an international gateway to West Cumbria and can be a catalyst for growth.

ENERGY COAST INNOVATION ZONE

THIS will be set up to implement the strategy as a focus for investment.

“It underlines a significant West Cumbria role in delivering the country’s future needs at the same time as helping to deliver the government’s low-carbon agenda.

“Tied in with all this is a strategy which aims to maximise investment in nuclear and energy infrastructure.

“This is said to represent a step change in collective aspiration, thinking and action to establish a catalyst for delivering positive economic benefits for all the people of West Cumbria, the wider county of Cumbria and the nation as a whole.

“It provides an opportunity to deliver over unprecedented investment value and over 3000 jobs in the next 15 years as well as doubling our contribution to UK GVA levels.

“It is designed to work from a position of commercial knowledge and the competitive advantage associated with West Cumbria’s high-tech and productive economy.

“We will capture a substantial share of market growth in these dynamic sectors, benefiting not only the local area but also UK plc.

“However, these impacts are linked to the ‘one off’ investment in the nuclear sector, the impact of which will diminish beyond 2022/23.

“Responding to this challenge, we are also preparing our businesses now to play a leading role in the UK's emerging Clean Tech industries and advanced manufacturing sectors as well as capitalising on our continued specialist knowledge in the nuclear sector which is a saleable commodity to a global market.

“This will help to sustain the employment gains that will be achieved by 2022/23 as well as creating a more diverse business rate.”

The blueprint goes on:

Without nuclear new-build or associated investment, the economy will contract by about 1,800 jobs by 2027.

Enabling more businesses to diversify will ensure the economy is sustained in the post-nuclear investment period.

There will be an opportunity for local companies to access international opportunities as well as a mechanism for knowledge transfer from Sellafield to the local business base.

Measures will be put in place in the short term to ensure that as much of the substantial investment in nuclear new-build and decommissioning is captured by local businesses as possible. This will involve working with nuclear and associated partners to ensure that research and innovation flows into the local supply chain making local businesses more competitive – particularly important at Sellafield which contains a wealth of applied technical knowledge and expertise – this will also involve working with partners to ensure that their social and economic commitments to West Cumbria are delivered fully.

And there will be an opportunity to provide new housing for West Cumbria’s residents post the construction phrase.

The Blueprint has been drawn up by public and private sector partners to deliver the potential of Britain’s Energy Coast.

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