AN ambitious vision to “modernise” Whitehaven in a bid to attract more young professionals to live and work in the town is now taking shape.

Ideas on the table include the creation of a catering school, the repair of dilapidated historic buildings and improving the appearance of the harbour area.

Regeneration chiefs are also looking into the possibility of developing an “augmented reality” including holograms projected in the street – and interactive information on the town’s heritage beamed through to people’s mobile phones.

Among the ideas mooted are the development of community-led housing co-op for young professionals, a parking improvement overhaul and the creation of a youth and cultural centre in the heart of the town.

The authority also wants to improve the town’s wireless internet connection, with half a million pounds of funding already in place to develop the Beacon’s “digital offering”.

Julie Betteridge, the director of growth and inclusive communities, also revealed there was “scope” to move the substation on the harbour as part of the transformation of the town.

“That’s a big ask and we don’t know if that’s possible, but this is a big plot of land which could potentially be something else,” she said.

The proposals, which are still in a very early stage, are dependent on various funding pots coming into play but the emerging picture looks “very positive”, according to council bosses.

The re-development will focus on King Street, Strand Street and Market Square, including proposals to “open up” some of the town centre spaces along the high street where activities or events can be held.

It is hoped that the move will increase footfall among residents and visitors alike, encouraging people to stay in the town for longer rather than simply passing through.

The council has already been successful in the first phase of its application for a share of the Government’s £675 million Future High Streets Fund that aims to revitalise town centres.

The Government was so impressed with the authority’s initial funding bid, that the council has been awarded £150,000 – the top amount of money available – to develop a business case for a Whitehaven renaissance.

Council chiefs have already had their first top level meeting with Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with representatives from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also in attendance.

Mrs Betteridge told the Overview and Scrutiny committee that the meeting had been “very positive”.

A blueprint known as the ‘Whitehaven Vision’ is now being drawn up, with similar documents for Millom, Egremont and Cleator Moor already signed off.

Council bosses and their partners want to introduce more “contemporary design”, while respecting the Georgian heritage of the historic town.

The move comes with plans for a unique £3 million Coastal Activity Centre on the harbour in the pipeline.which will be funded by cash from central Government.

It also follows the building of the Albion Square office development in Whitehaven’s town centre.

The plans include expanding the ‘Streetscapes’ initiative to improve traffic flow and pedestrian access and safety on key routes through the town.