A Chinese delegation will arrive in West Cumbria next year to help strengthen links between the areas.

Copeland mayor Mike Starkie visited two provinces in the country to witness the launch of two new schools, opened by St Bees Schools.

By opening the primary school in Schijiazhuang in the Hebei Province and a high school in Dongguan in the Guangdong Province, both of which will take the St Bees name, St Bees managers Full Circle Education Group aims to offer students based in both countries the option to exchange schools for parts of their education.

While in China, Mr Starkie met with business and political leaders and addressed a total of more than 1,000 people at events.

He said: “It was important for us to sell them Copeland as a place to do business and to visit on holiday. Hundreds of thousands of people from China visit the Lake District – we have to tell them that West Cumbria is just as worth visiting.”

A meeting with Laia Shayou, secretary general of Donnguan Municipal People’s Government, saw plans put in place for a delegation to visit Copeland next year.

Mr Starkie added: “We agreed there was much to learn from each other and an exchange of culture and ideas would be helpful for both areas.

“A letter was waiting for us when we arrived back from China from Ms Shayou, saying they would be visiting next year.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming the educationalists and entrepreneurs I met to Copeland and show them what we have to offer.

“It was the same with the deputy mayor of Shijiazhuang, Ziping Ren, who said he would welcome greater co-operation between Copeland and Shijiazhuang.”

Mr Starkie also met with representatives of China General Nuclear Power Group, the firm which is in the frame to take on the Moorside site, which is earmarked for nuclear new-build.

He said: “They are still very much interested in Moorside and we had a good discussion.

“We have great scope with the establishment of the St Bees brand in China to explore how we can strengthen links between our areas and encourage investment from China into Copeland.”