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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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New alliance aims to boost business growth along M6 in Cumbria

A new political alliance aims to boost economic growth along the M6 corridor through Cumbria.

M6 motorway photo
Traffic on the M6

There is an ambition to develop new sites for employment near motorway junctions, improve super-fast broadband access and deliver more housing.

The leaders of Carlisle City, Eden and South Lakeland councils are due to sign up to the Cumbria M6 Corridor Initiative on Friday.

It is a response to concerns in some quarters that west Cumbria gets the lion’s share of government assistance while the east of the county misses out.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson, Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart, and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron are backing the initiative.

Joe Hendry, leader of Carlisle City Council, said: “I would like to see us develop land around the motorway interchanges and I would hope some of these sites could be enterprise zones.”

These enjoy business-rate discounts and simplified planning rules.

Dr Hendry added: “This is an ideal time to do it.

“It could be an adjunct to what is going in west Cumbria with Britain’s Energy Coast.”

He believes there is a good chance that the Coalition Government will look favourably on any projects that might come forward, given two of the MPs are Conservatives and the third is a Liberal Democrat.

The councils will pledge to work with Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership to promote growth, provide employment sites, improve infrastructure and communication, seek inward investment and make it easier for businesses to locate there.

An early priority for the scheme will be to develop an action plan to “facilitate economic growth”.

Land close to M6 junction 42, south of Carlisle, and at junction 41, north of Penrith, could be developed for employment use.

Providing super-fast broadband connections to all strategic employment sites is seen as critical to the success on the ambitious programme.

The agreement promises to remove barriers to investment and development, create a marketing and branding strategy for the M6 corridor, and to provide targeted support for “priority sectors”.

There are also pledges to “deliver opportunity for new housing provision”, to “create a positive planning environment” and to engage with further and higher-education providers.

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