Anyone who has visited West Cumbria would surely agree that there is a special character to the rugged, windswept beauty of the place and the straight-talking nature of its inhabitants.

It is distinct from much of the county in being more overtly industrial, mostly driven by the presence of Sellafield and its extensive supply chain.
However, it is no secret that the relative remoteness which makes the area so special also comes with its challenges and the economic boon of the nuclear sector sits alongside a story of deprivation and decline.

It is also a place where major developments often seem to be tantalisingly on the horizon but just out of reach, whether it is the prospect of nuclear new build, bringing small modular reactors to the region or news of progress on the proposed West Cumbria coal mine at Whitehaven.
Dianne Richardson, chief executive of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, says while she believes business confidence is returning following the pandemic, there is also a sense of stasis.

In February, Community Nuclear Power (CNP) announced plans to build a privately financed nuclear power station equipped with four small modular reactors in Teesside.

While hope remains that a similar project could come to West Cumbria, Dianne says it also creates opportunities for the county’s nuclear specialists to work on the power station in the North East.
She says this is especially true in light of the area’s array of engineering and advanced manufacturing training centres, including Energus, Lakes College, the Energy Coast UTC and the National College for Nuclear.
“There’s a real pool of expertise here that can help deliver wherever nuclear is sited with a lot of expertise,” said Dianne.

She says it is not down to any one organisation to be held responsible for bringing major developments to West Cumbria.

“You can’t sit there and say the council should do it, you can’t sit there and say that businesses should do it, because they don’t have the full ability, you’ve actually got to all come together,” she said.
“I really believe in the power of conversations and bringing different people and businesses together. I think there’s a huge ability there to drive stuff through. We’re seeing that people are now understanding that.”