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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Stage set for £20m regeneration plan

WORK is due to start early in the year on clearing the way for one of the major Energy Coast regeneration schemes – the £20m Albion Square office development in Whitehaven.

It is now confirmed that around 900 Sellafield nuclear workers will eventually move into Copeland’s main town to occupy a complex stretching over 100,000 square feet and rising four storeys at the Preston Street end of the town.

The deal was formally signed in Christmas week following acquisition of land from two businesses – Hanratty’s scrap metal and the G&A Autos. While it will be two years before the Sellafield staff move can take place the completion of the land purchase deals has been warmly welcomed by all the Energy Coast partners involved.

Tim Hirst, for West Lakes Properties, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Britain’s Energy Coast, explained: “It was on a strictly commercial basis, an independent valuation was carried out. Everybody involved is very pleased with the outcome.”

The next step is to secure a private sector development and for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to take on a long-lease with whoever wins the contract.

“It’s absolutely brilliant we have reached this stage,” said Copeland Council’s leader Elaine Woodburn.

“One of the reasons we are going ahead with Albion Square is to inject viability into the town centre.

“We have been lobbying Sellafield for a long time to bring staff into Whitehaven and so this is a big step forward for us. It will have such a positive impact on Whitehaven town centre. Late 2013 is when it will be up, open and ready for use.

“Bringing 900 more people into the town centre to work and do shopping, that’s a massive amount of money coming into Whitehaven.”

BEC, funded through nuclear partners, is considering putting up around £3m in funding. The scheme as a whole will cost nearly £20m.

The successful private sector developer will be required to put in a substantial investment. Meanwhile the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is ready to pay for a long-term lease from the eventual developer having already reached agreement in principle with the government.

Pat Graham, Copeland Council director for people and places, said: “The bulk of the money will be from the developer who will be the investor. In the current economic climate it’s a good, sound long-term investment.

“It shows developers that Whitehaven is the place to do business.”

The lease is still subject to final government approval once the Treasury has given its blessing to the business case.”

Britain’s Energy Coast Board is satisfied with Albion Square’s business case and the government is expected to give approval shortly to a financial viability appraisal required by its property unit. Pat Graham adds: “The business case also looked at all the options for relocating Sellafield workers both in Cumbria and areas of the north of England across the NDA estate. It concluded that Albion Square is the best option.”

Brian Wilson, chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria, said:

“We have always been committed to Albion Square as a direct means of bringing new life into Whitehaven town centre.

“It has been a long, arduous process for all involved but I hope this agreement opens the door to rapid progress.”

An appraisal ordered by the government into Albion Square’s financial viability, whether it provides value for money and is the best option to relocate Sellafield workers is now complete.

“There will be a lease. This is just the final signature that’s needed,” said Coun Woodburn.

The office development has assumed increasing importance due to the sudden collapse of Whitehaven’s other major regeneration project, the Transport Interchange but all the partners believe Albion Square will prove worth every penny of its projected near £20m investment.

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