Carlisle is poised to benefit from a range of potential major infrastructure projects. With so much investment proposed for the city and surrounding area, we’ve rounded up the schemes that could transform how people live, learn and travel



Driving between the west of Carlisle and the south east of the city has long been a drawn-out affair, involving a detour through the city centre or a convoluted route via Dalston. The Carlisle Southern Link Road (CSLR) will end that. CSLR fills the missing piece of ring road around Carlisle, which began with the M6 to the east and continued in 2012 with the Northern Development Route (western bypass).

The CSLR – likely to be widely known as the southern bypass – will skirt the south of the city, connecting Junction 42 of the M6 with Wigton Road. Cumbria County Council has launched the process to find a contractor to design and build the five-mile road. The intention is to award the contract next January with the work starting in 2022 and completed by March 31, 2024.

The council’s development, control and regulation committee is due to determine the planning application for the road in October. The proposals include four new roundabouts, four new road bridges, and a cycleway/footpath on the northern side of the road.

Government agency Homes England has announced funding of £134 million. The county council and Carlisle City Council have also committed to contributing £5 million each, which will be sourced from developer contributions as homes are built in St Cuthbert’s Garden Village. The road is closely linked to the creation of St Cuthbert’s, which would see up to 10,300 new homes built to the south of the city in the next 30 years.

County council leader Stewart Young says: “The reason Homes England are funding the road is to facilitate the development of the garden village. I don’t think you could build 10,000 homes without having the road.

“I could make a case for having the road on its own merits, but we’d never get the funding. The volume of traffic wouldn’t justify it. But it will bring benefits, regardless of the garden village. It will get rid of a lot of unnecessary journeys through the middle of Carlisle.”



St Cuthbert’s has the potential to be the biggest of 14 new garden villages proposed nationally by the government. The first stage of the St Cuthbert's Masterplan was completed last year. Three draft options have now been consulted on.

Option 1 would see three ‘compact communities’ built around Durdar, Cummersdale and Carleton. Option 2 would have dispersed village clusters set in a more rural landscape. Option 3 would have some ‘urban infill' on the edge of Carlisle, as well as a focus on Durdar, Cummersdale and Carleton.

All options would see new schools, shops, health facilities, parks, public transport connections, and other community facilities. The development will also feature St Cuthbert's Greenway – a six-mile loop for cycling, walking and recreation connecting the new villages with each other and with Carlisle.

Paul Nedved, Carlisle City Council’s portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing, says: “The final plan will probably have an element of all three options. Hopefully it will be decided towards the latter part of this year. What we don’t want is just a massive build. We want it to be creative, so it fits well with that area of the city.

“We’re going along very carefully, trying to take the affected communities with us. There’s been an immense amount of consultation. We don’t want it just being urban sprawl. It will be a series of developers creating high-quality housing, including good social and affordable housing.”

Some people have questioned the need for so much housing in Carlisle. Paul says: “The local plan suggests demand is there. We want to see the city grow. Not just in the sense of population but in economic growth. With growth comes increased prosperity and jobs, as we’ve seen north of the river. St Cuthbert’s helps to rebalance the city.

“We’ve had an immense amount of development north of the city in retail and housing. The ultimate plan is for up to 10,300 homes. It’s a long-term plan – we’re talking about the next 20 to 30 years. It will be dictated by the appetite for development in that part of the city. Market forces will dictate that to a large extent.”



Carlisle Station is turning back to front. The government has allocated it £15 million through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, a major investment programme in the border region. The most significant step for the station would be moving its main entrance to the back. The plan’s supporters say this would bring practical and aesthetic benefits.

County council leader Stewart Young says: “The main access at the front gets very congested. There’s conflict between pedestrians and vehicles. When there’s a rail replacement bus service, it’s pandemonium. The idea is to make the main entrance and the car parking at the back, accessed via James Street. I’d be looking for work to start next year and to be done within 12 months.”

Work would include improvements to James Street’s roundabouts to increase their capacity. The city council’s Sands Centre redevelopment includes two new swimming pools. Demolishing the James Street pools would allow more room for station parking and dedicated spaces for coaches. Further, as yet unspecified, development could took place on the pools’ site in years to come.

Inside the station there could eventually be a new platform for HS2 trains, if it’s agreed that any will stop at Carlisle. At the front of the station, Court Square will be mainly pedestrianised.

The project is being developed jointly by Cumbria County Council and Carlisle City Council working with Avanti, Network Rail and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership.

Borderlands is a £394.5 million investment package which aims to deliver 5,500 jobs and attract more than four million extra tourists to the border region, unlocking investment in towns across the area and boosting its economy by £1.1 billion.

Councillor Young says: “Because of Covid we haven’t signed the Borderlands deal. The anticipation is we would have done it this summer. The station scheme was one of a small number where the government advanced the money up front.”



Carlisle’s iconic citadels could become part of a new city centre campus for the University of Cumbria under plans submitted as part of the Borderlands deal.

A public consultation online in May and June saw most respondents support the idea. A second round of consultation will be held soon. This will provide more detailed plans and designs for what the redeveloped site could look like. £50 million has been provisionally allocated to bring new purpose to the citadels and the adjacent site. As well as both citadels, the site also includes the entire block behind the west citadel, along English Street to Victoria Viaduct, as far as the old Woolworths building.

The project is being developed by Cumbria County Council, Carlisle City Council and the University of Cumbria, working with Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership.

Councillor Young says: “It’s a really exciting scheme. Covid has thrown up a series of issues for the university. But they’re still very enthusiastic and confident. We’ll have to sign the Borderlands deal before we get the funding. We’d like to get pressing on that. Once it does get underway, I’d have thought we’re talking probably two or three years for the whole thing to be done.

“Covid has had a massive impact on the high street. It’s accelerated the growth of online shopping. This scheme will bring students and staff into the town and use empty buildings. The campuses are currently at Fusehill Street and Brampton Road. The university will still have a presence on Fusehill Street.”

The city council owns the block behind the west citadel and currently rents out some of the ground floor as shop units. That might continue, and there could also be leisure facilities on the site.



Carlisle City Council is investing £25 million in the Sands Centre. This will fund the biggest transformation of Carlisle’s largest events venue since it opened in 1985. Changes include two new swimming pools and a new sports hall, allowing the existing main hall to be transformed into a dedicated auditorium for gigs.

There will be a 25m, eight-lane swimming pool and a 20m by 8m learner pool with moveable floor. These will replace the James Street baths.

Other additions include a 120-station gym, a new four-court sports hall and viewing gallery, dance and fitness class studios, an NHS physiotherapy suite, and new bar and café facilities.

Carlisle City Council’s portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing, Paul Nedved, says building work should be starting very shortly.

City council leader John Mallinson says: “The Sands Centre redevelopment is a cornerstone in our plans to support our communities to continue to improve their health and wellbeing. The former Newman School at Lismore Place will provide temporary facilities during the construction works.”



The Market Square outside the Town Hall could be revitalised to create a space for events. Empty city centre sites could be redeveloped, Devonshire Street made better for café and bar customers, and key buildings lit up at night. These are among the proposals made by Carlisle City Council in its business case for the city to receive up to £14.4 million from the government’s Future High Street Fund. Carlisle’s bid aims to renew the city centre as a place to live and work while encouraging more evening activity.

Councillor Nedved says: “We felt we weren’t doing the Market Square sufficient justice. We could have more trees, an entertainment space for live music and events, a temporary ice rink. We’re looking to invest in areas that had been suffering even prior to COVID-19, because of shop closures. The bottom end of Castle Street adjacent to Tullie House could be used for specialist retail or artisan. The former Hoopers department store on Castle Street, it’s been bought by Edinburgh Woollen Mill. We could assist them with developing it.”

Other proposals include a hotel on the vacant Central Plaza site and making Devonshire Street more pedestrian-friendly: potentially removing bus stops and widening pavements. Another idea is to light up city centre landmarks at night, following the four-day City of Lights event last February, to help the visitor economy and the night-time economy.

Coun Nedved says: “The bid was submitted at the end of April and we’re expecting a response very soon. The government would have to agree the submission. It’s not all or nothing – they could back some of the proposals but not all of them. A hundred and one other towns and cities have bid. But we are confident. It’s trying to be positive and creative about the city centre’s future. The future won’t be just retail. We want to improve the leisure experience.”

The city council is also involved in applying for funding for other projects through the government’s Stronger Towns Fund. This offers up to £25 million and takes a ‘whole town’ approach, not just the centre. A board comprising people from the public and private sectors is preparing to submit an investment plan.

“We’re determined to put forward a bid for a series of projects by the end of October,” adds Coun Nedved. “We have a shortlist. We need to get it down to between four and six. They’re all aimed at delivering economic growth in different parts of the city, away from the centre.”



Some projects, such as the southern bypass and the station and Sands Centre developments, look certain to go ahead. Others are not definite. So how likely are they to happen at such an uncertain time?

Coun Young says: “All of this is against the backdrop of COVID and leaving the European Union. Either one of those would have been significant. Coming together does present a huge challenge. But we can either give up or try to grasp opportunities. Because there are always opportunities in any crisis.

“If the government is true to its word, they are looking to restart the economy by investing in infrastructure schemes. We want to increase people’s confidence and say ‘despite everything, Carlisle does have a future.’ We want to give people hope.”

Coun Nedved adds: “It’s unprecedented in recent times for Carlisle to have so many schemes underway or in the pipeline. Despite COVID-19, there’s an immense amount of confidence in the city. It reflects Carlisle’s place as a regional capital with a catchment of nearly 400,000 people. This is an extremely exciting time for the city, offering people huge opportunities. The city is resilient. It has a history of being resilient.”