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Friday 3rd July 2020

Furness Business News

Rail Corridor: £175,000 project to brighten up rail corridor

A £175,000 project to improve the southern approach to Barrow for rail travellers – and benefit the local communities – has been given the go-ahead.

Funded by West Lakes Renaissance (WLR), the project will cover three main areas: a community park for Marsh Street; improvements to Mardale Grove allotments; and landscaping work in the immediate area around Barrow station platform.

The work will be carried out by Barrow Borough Council as part of overall plans to implement improvements in the town centre. The council and WLR have worked with the Marsh Street Arches Garden Group (MAST), local schoolchildren, the Mardale Grove Allotments Association, and Network Rail, Transpennine and the station manager to develop the projects designed to improve both community facilities and the visual appearance of the rail corridor.

The local community have campaigned for years to be able to use the land immediately to the north and south of Greengate Bridge. The land is currently an eyesore, and the community want to provide a green space for public use, in an area with few private gardens. The Marsh Street Community Park will be an easily maintained open space designed to meet the needs of the surrounding community.

The Mardale Grove Allotments, which are next to the railway line, are run down. The project will include essential groundworks to improve their visual appearance, and to aid use by the community.

Work on the land next to the station platform will be the first steps towards a programme of sustainable improvements along the rail corridor.

The work with community groups will continue with the council and WLR continuing to support MAST to work with the Barrow Youth Re:Action Team to develop consultation exercises for local residents on the future use of the railway arches. David Haughian, of West Lakes Renaissance, said: “This project will enhance the urban landscape visible from the train on the approach to the town, which will improve visitors’ perceptions of the area. At the same time, the provision of a park and upgraded allotments will positively benefit the local community. It is also great to see that young people are able to be engaged on a ‘real’ regeneration project.”

Val Holden, of Barrow Borough Council, said: “The council is pleased to have been successful in an application to WLR for funding to implement this programme of improvements along the southern section of the rail corridor.

“The initiative is being phased to run concurrently with other major construction works in the town centre. Included in the programme is the demolition of unsightly flats close to the rail corridor, and a Rail Corridor Review, to identify and prioritise sites for future improvement.”

Meanwhile the Barrow Youth Re:Action team are holding a day of face-to-face interviews at Forum 28 on Saturday, April 28, as part of their research into what local residents want from the regeneration of Barrow. Anyone interested in being interviewed about regeneration should email Katie Carr at c.carr@lancaster.ac.uk

On the Water

The thrills and spills of three action-packed national water sports are coming to Barrow over the next month – proving that the town is becoming recognised as a great venue for water sports.

Starting on the weekend of May 11, 12, and 13, National Kitesurfing is coming to Earnse Bay, Walney. Then on May 26 and 27, the country’s top jet skiers will be showing off their racing and free-style skills in the 3rd round of the British championships, followed in June by the return of the National Powerboat Grand Prix. Thanks to sponsorship from West Lakes Renaissance the public will be able to go to all the events free of charge.

The power boat racers have been to Barrow before, but this is the first time the Kitesurfing and jet ski events have been held in the town.

More than 50 competitors are expected for round two of the British Kite Surfing Association Championship at Walney, which, as the windiest place in England, should prove to be the ideal venue for this spectacular new extreme sport. Riders are judged on freestyle tricks and jumps, as well as speed runs, and the event promises to be a breathtaking display of skills and technique.

Free kite safety sessions will be held during the event, giving anyone who wants to take up this sport the chance to get advice from professional instructors.

The man behind the event is Gary Powell, owner of Furness-based North West Kitesurfing. He said: “The event is generating a lot of interest, with people planning to come here from all over the north. But we are hoping that the local community will get involved as well, and come down to the beach to watch, and appreciate what a great facility this is.

“The only thing that could put a dampener on it is if we had three windless days – but that is very unlikely to happen at Walney. There is a timetable, but it is fairly flexible to make sure that we do make the most of the windy days.”

Three world and two European champions will be among the 70 competitors reaching speeds of up to 85 miles an hour, when the jet ski racers come to town at the end of May. This is the first time the event has come to Barrow, and Jeremy Hoyland, vice chairman and events co-ordinator of the Jet Sports Racing Association, said Cumbria was an area the sport was keen to hold events in, giving more people the opportunity to see what it was all about.

As well as the racers, Mr Hoyland said that there would be up to nine free stylers who put on some dramatic demonstrations of barrel rolls and 360 degree turns. “They do things you would not believe were possible with a jet ski,” he said.

The National Powerboat Grand Prix event in June will be the fourth time the power boats have been to Barrow, and Ted Walsh, the event organiser, said: “It is an excellent venue from a spectator’s view point with a great view of the circuit – it is the best venue in the country of being able to see what is going on, and it’s easy to get to.

“The power boats reach speeds of 120mph, and it will be very exciting to watch”

Entry to all three events is free, thanks to support from West Lakes Renaissance (WLR) who are the main sponsors of the kitesurfing event, as well as providing money to both the jet ski and power boat events to cover the costs of marshalling and opening to the public.

WLR’s assistant project manager David Haughian said: “It is great that these events are coming to Barrow. Kitesurfing is one of the most exciting sports to emerge from the world of lifestyle sports. It is a fusion of windsurfing, wakeboarding, surfing and kite flying, and we are expecting a lot of interest from local people coming along to watch, as well as enthusiasts who travel from all over the country.

“And it is fantastic that we can attract two other national events to Barrow, in the shape of the jet ski and power boat championships. These both promise to be action-packed weekends, and we hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to go and watch.”

Ann Taylforth, Barrow Town Centre and Festival Manager, said: “I am delighted that the town has been chosen to host three major water-based events of national standing. We are surrounded by wonderful coastline and beaches and West Shore beach on Walney has some of the best wind conditions in the country for Kitesurfing. We look forward to welcoming back the National Powerboat Grand Prix competitors who have always enjoyed their visits to Barrow, especially the great Barrow nightlife.

“It is marvellous that Barrow Motorboat Racing Club has been able to attract a jet skiing event to Ramsden Dock and this demonstrates that Barrow is a great venue for water sports.”

Ian Stephens, Chief Executive at Cumbria Tourism, said: "We are really pleased to see events of this magnitude coming to Barrow, which is a tribute to the work that is being done to position Barrow as a top destination for water-based events.

“We certainly hope that these events will be successful in encouraging further investment in visitor facilities in the area to guarantee the continued return of visitors year on year."

The kitesurfing championships are being held at Earnse Bay, Walney, on May 11, 12 and 13. The Pro Riders competition begins at 10.30am on Friday May 11, Amateurs and Junior riders start at 9.30am on Saturday May 12, and competitions are being held all day Sunday, with prize giving at approximately 4pm. Demonstration sessions will be held on Saturday. There will be a party at the Vickerstown Institute on Saturday May 12, from 7pm. Tickets for the party are £4.50, and there will be a raffle for an Ozone LD stunt power kite. The timetable is subject to change, depending on the weather. Anyone interested can sign up for text alerts over the weekend - for more information see www.walneyguide.co.uk

The jet ski championships are being held in Ramsden Dock, with racing taking place from lunch time on Saturday May 26 until 4pm, and from 9am until 4pm on Sunday May 27.

The power boat event, also in Ramsden Dock, will be on June 16 and 17, with practice from 10am to lunchtime followed by racing from 1pm to 5pm.

Hilary Scott

When West Lakes Renaissance (WLR) was set up as the urban regeneration company for Furness and West Cumbria in 2003, one of its key tasks was to work to halt this drain, so that by 2008 the number of people in the 15 to 29 age range would be the same as in 2002, and by 2013 it would have increased.

But new figures show that the figures for 2005 have already exceeded both the 2008 and the 2013 targets. In 2002 there were a total of 37,100 young people living in Allerdale, Copeland and Barrow. By 2005 this had increased to 39,500, a rise of 2,400.

It is hoped this trend will continue, with the development of the new University of Cumbria which opens this year, and other training opportunities such as the National Nuclear Academy and the new trade skills centre in Barrow. WLR is helping fund all these developments.

Chief executive Bob Pointing said: “Five years ago, before we were set up, many young people in the area thought Furness and West Cumbria had no future, and they voted with their feet. Now more and more are realising they can build a future here, and we are better at keeping them.

“The prospect of a University of Cumbria has helped, but all the colleges have improved what they have to offer, and there are better prospects of getting a job after education and training. I expect this trend to get even stronger, as we develop new jobs through investment and regeneration, and market what we have to offer.”

At the same time, employment rates for West Cumbria and Furness, which were lagging behind the county and northwest averages, have exceeded the North West average, and are improving at a greater rate than the Cumbrian average, while the number of people obtaining qualifications at NVQ Level 3 and above has increased, equalling the rates for Cumbria and the North West.

And there is good news for home owners, with increases in average house prices in the area as a whole exceeding those for the North West. In 2006 the average price of a house in Allerdale was £152,500 compared to a Cumbrian average of £146,260, and a north west figure of £140,665. Prices in Furness and Copeland are lower, but match the increases for the north west.

The GVA per worker, which measures the contribution to the economy of each individual producer, is also showing improvements for Furness and West Cumbria, compared to Cumbria as a whole, and the North West. The aim for WLR has been to prevent further widening in GVA per worker between Furness and West Cumbria and the North West; the latest figures available, for 2003, show the gap has actually narrowed.

Prof Frank Peck, research director at the Centre for Regional Economic Development, said that regeneration was starting to show results. “In recent years the economy of Furness and West Cumbria has struggled to keep pace with rates of growth in other areas of the country. Between 2000 and 2004 the economy grew by only 14% compared to a UK average of 24%.

“A major part of the reason for this has been the continued loss of manufacturing activity as some businesses have closed and others have relocated production. However there are encouraging signs. In 2003 to 2004 growth in Furness and West Cumbria was 5.3% nearly matching the UK average of 5.9%.”



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