A COMMUNITY’S multi-million-pound government fund has been viewed as an opportunity to reverse the declining population in the area.

Copeland mayor Mike Starkie says the £22 million fund offered to Cleator Moor can be used to attract more people to work in the area and persuade younger people to stay.

The Cleator Moor Town Deal board, with the support of Copeland Council, made the application for a share of the Government’s Towns Fund.

“This is such a huge amount of money,” said Mr Starkie. “I don’t think we can understate just how much £22.5 million is.”

Copeland Council was invited to bid for funding on behalf of Cleator Moor in January last year, and a Town Deal Board made up of community representatives has worked with the support of the council to produce its Town Investment Plan.

The areas of investment being considered are employment opportunities, sport, recreation and wellbeing, and regenerating the town square.

As well as attracting new members of the community, Mr Starkie said the investment could help attract more visitors to the area.

He added: “We’re looking at covering all sectors here.

“And we’re also trying to make the town look more aesthetically attractive by redeveloping parts of the square.

“When you put that in line with plans we’re already developing in Whitehaven and Egremont and the focus we’ve got on making Copeland a destination area, it all comes together to support tourism and attract more people over.

“Copeland has seen a population decline over a long period and if we could attract more people to live in and visit the area, it would take us on to an upward spiral.

“I can’t underplay the huge impact of such a massive investment.

“It’s vital that we can not only retain and keep our existing talent, but attract other people to live here.”

Across England, 26 other towns also shared in the fund of over £610 million.

The fund is part of the government’s multi-billion-pound levelling-up programme.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are levelling up towns and cities across the country by building stronger and more resilient local economies, boosting prosperity and opportunity in our communities, and helping them build back better from the pandemic.”

The Town Board and Copeland Council now have a short window to formally accept the outline offer, followed by a further year of work to develop the projects to the point of investment.