The continued uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the Government to plough £1m into a major Carlisle city centre project.

The city will receive £1m in the coming week as part of a nationwide Government plan to help kickstart more rapid economic recovery in the more than 100 towns and small cities set to benefit from the Towns Fund.

This is a £3.6bn Government scheme to invest in projects across towns and small cities across the country in the hope of “unlocking” economic growth and regeneration.

But the colossal economic disruption wrought on the country by Covid-19 has prompted the Government to fast-track the allocation of a portion of this fund, in the hope of jump-starting more economic activity across the nation in the new year.

John Stevenson, Carlisle’s MP, explained that the bulk of the Towns Fund - which could be worth up to £25m for Carlisle - is yet to be allocated.

“We’re hoping to have our final submission for the Towns Fund to Government in by the end of October,” he said.

“But this accelerated allocation from Government is to fund ‘oven-ready’ projects that can be put in place as soon as possible, so that as we begin to come out of the pandemic, the economy recovers as quickly as it possibly can.

“They’re looking to make sure that the some of the economic activity generated by the Towns Fund happens at the beginning of next year rather than the end of next year.”

Carlisle City Councillor Paul Nedved, the portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing, explained that the funding will go towards the realisation of two projects: the redevelopment of the Caldew Riverside area and a smaller project at Bitts Park.

The bulk of the £1m funding will go towards making the Caldew Riverside area fit for redevelopment.

This area of currently vacant land, adjacent to the Upper Viaduct car park, has long been the site of unsuccessful proposed development projects.

"There has been various projects sought on that particular piece of land that has always fallen foul for one reasons or another," Mr Nedved explained.

"The University of Cumbria had proposals for a campus on there, Tesco at one stage had proposals for a development on that site."

Mr Nedved explained that the projects previously proposed fell through as a result of the unsuitability of the land for development, but with the £850,000 Government funding allowing this hurdle to be overcome, a project would likely be rapidly put in place on the site.

He added that developing this land, which lies close to the city's train station and the recently demolished former Central Plaza Hotel site, would form a key part of the "jigsaw" that is the current collection of plans for the redevelopment of the city centre.

"It’s all part of a major jigsaw for the redevelopment of Carlisle," he said.

"This is a critical part of that jigsaw. What this funding does is it massively speeds up the process by which we can look towards redeveloping that site.

"The City Council has been in discussion for some time with Homes England for the redevelopment of that site. But the big stumbling block has always been the cost of remediation.

"Hopefully this will go a long way, if not all the way towards phase one of this being done."

Mr Nedved said he was "absolutely delighted" that the expedited funding allocation had been announced.

"We’re trying to set the framework for the city to develop and prosper, and this is part of that jigsaw," he said.

"This will very much enhance our housing offer in the city for years to come."

The city has, like all other towns and cities across the country, already experienced business closures and economic turbulence in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With rising cases indicating the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus on the horizon, concern is undoubtedly mounting nationally that further economic damage is likely to be done.

Mr Stevenson described the continued threat posed by Covid-19 to the economy as "unsettling".

But he stressed that the city's economy is "resilient", particularly given its strong presence in the food manufacturing sector.

"We have places like McVities, Nestle, Two Sisters, whose products should still be in high demand whatever happens," he said.

"But we do undoubtedly have a lot of uncertainty out there at the moment, and that make businesses hesitant about investment.

"Anything that continues to boost confidence and helps reinforce to businesses that we will get through this is really important.

"Things like the Towns Fund are an important part of this."