CARLISLE council’s blueprint for the district’s future growth is taking shape in a “period of great optimism and positivity” for the city.

The economy-boosting action plan, expected to be finished in January, is now being drawn up by finance chiefs in consultation with businesses, education-providers and the district’s workforce

The emerging strategy aims to put Carlisle on the map as a major regional centre and comes against a background of several major developments for the Border City.

Among them is the opening of Carlisle Airport, the multi-million pound Borderlands Growth Deal, and the cash awarded to the city via the £1 billion High Street regeneration fund.

The masterplan got St Cuthbert’s Garden Village, an ambitious proposal that could see the development of up to 10,000 new homes in the south of the city, is also on track.

And it was announced in February that the planned Southern Link Road (CSLR) for Carlisle will receive £102m from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Leading councillors also cited the growth of Kingmoor Park, the city’s largest industrial estates, as a “great success story” for the city.

Coun Paul Nedved, who holds the portfolio for Economy, Enterprise and Housing Portfolio Holder, said: “It’s a period of great optimism and positivity in the city.

“I think it’s critically important too that we are not just a district but a regional centre.”

The same meeting of the Economic Growth Scrutiny Panel heard that the city also faces some “significant economic challenges” including skill shortages and an ageing population.

Jane Meek, the authority’s Corporate Director of Economic Development, admitted that the need to attract more people to live and work in the Carlisle area was “quite stark”.

“If we don’t, we won’t have enough people of working age to support the businesses we have got,” she said.

Council chiefs also issued assurances that more rural areas such as Bewcastle and Longtown should not be left out of the strategy.

Coun Marilyn Bowman was particularly vocal in her criticism of how long the economic plans were taking to develop.

She said: “I’m pleased to hear that the strategy is emerging because it seems to have been emerging for ever and a day – and detail in this report has failed to satisfy my natural curiosity.”

But coun Nedved said that the council had been waiting for several important announcements including those surrounding Borderlands Growth Deal, the outcome of bids for the Future High Street Fund, and the funding announcement for the Southern Link Road.

“We can now see clearly and form a strategy that we might not have been able to do before,” he said.