“IT'S Whitehaven’s turn”: that was the message of Cumberland council leader Mark Fryer as he invited the local community to contribute its ideas for the regeneration of the town.

Cllr Fryer highlighted Whitehaven town centre as a key area which needs investment in the near future to ‘turn the town around’, with a key initial focus being on the town’s civic quarter - which includes council-owned properties such as the Civic Hall and library.

He said there is a need for a 'more co-ordinated approach amongst stakeholders' to ensure that investment is spent in the areas needed.

He said: “I have been through to Whitehaven almost every week and it’s quite clear that it needs some TLC.

“It has had significant investment over a period of time, but it looks to me like it has been uncoordinated with a lack of focus... my view is that it needs a concerted effort to regenerate the town."

The Labour party councillor added: "I've already spoken to the Labour members and told them that it’s Whitehaven’s turn. That doesn’t mean to say other areas will miss out because we are well aware of a lack of investment across the whole of Cumberland - Whitehaven, Cleator Moor, Egremont...

“It doesn’t mean to say we are going to turn them around overnight. It’s going to be a long road map for all of the towns, but we want to start in Whitehaven.”

He claimed that plans are already being developed for this regeneration, with the council leader urging members of the community to come forward and give their views on how the town should be transformed.

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Cllr Fryer said: “We sat down with a number of business leaders and community champions about two or three weeks ago and put this to them, because the only way we can do this is with the community. I want Whitehaven to be Whitehaven in its best sense.

“The key point is stop the squabbling and let's got on with turning the town around.”

The council are looking already at 'working with external partners' to get further funding invested in the town centre in areas the public see as key, and with what he says will be 'a more focused approach' on investment.

Cllr Fryer said: “It might mean some possible demolition on King Street. We have to think differently. It might mean connecting King Street to the harbour side.

"We have got our own properties. The town hall needs cleaned, it looks dirty, so we have got to set an example.

“One of the things Whitehaven has got is a fantastic community and they know what they want, but we want people to come in, be proactive, be positive about the place, and anybody that wants to get involved get involved, and let's turn this town around.”

Whitehaven business owner Gerard Richardson MBE welcomed the initiative, encouraging the council to come up with a 'town plan'.

He said: "We seem to have had more than our fair share of knocks lately. Any attention whatsoever to this town would be welcome and redevelopment to the Civic Hall area would be great. The last time that was done was in the '60s and those buildings are probably desperately in need of work on them.

"It's 20 years since anyone really looked at the town as a long-term plan. We need a town plan not just for officials, but also so that landlords, potential investors know what direction we are going.

"What's happened in the past is for example King Street, there was a lot of work in the late '90s, early '00s, the street was lifted up and cobbled, there was various graphics and murals but then what happens is there doesn't seem to be a maintenance budget to follow on.

"I think the intentions are always good but we do need a long-term thought."