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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Cumbrian council unveils blueprint for high-wage jobs

Hi-tech industries are being targeted in a drive to fuel a business boom that it is hoped could create up to 1,500 jobs.

 Malcolm Smith photo
Malcolm Smith

Council leaders in Eden want to move the area away from low-wage jobs, blamed for preventing people being able to climb on the property ladder or forcing them to move away from the area in search of a career.

The lofty ambition for multi-million pound industrial investments has been unveiled as part of a blueprint to grow the district over the next 18 years. It includes a vision to build about 200 homes a year over the same period – half in Penrith.

Eden council has earmarked more than 65 acres of land that it wants to see taken over by business and industry to fuel job creation.

Just under half the land identified will be in Penrith, split between the Gilwilly and Skirsgill estates.

Councillors hope that by allocating this land it will help to create up to 1,500 jobs with professional, IT and communications jobs being preferred.

And with the sites for such plans set aside, barring any public discontent, attention now turns to how those jobs will be created.

Malcolm Smith, who holds the council’s planning and economy brief, said that the authority wanted to develop higher-paid jobs in the area and there was evidence that people want to do business in Eden.

“We know it is very ambitious but people really want to come here so we have got to have the sites and housing ready for them. We can’t have industrial sites without houses to go with them, they go hand in hand,” he said.

“We are predicting 1,500 jobs to be created over the period. A lot will hopefully be in IT, communications and professional services.

“What we are trying to do is create more of a skilled workforce so they can afford the houses here. We’re trying to get away from the low wages of tourism and agriculture.

“This will help to address the imbalance we have between house prices and local wages, especially for young people, who currently leave the area for better-paid, professional employment elsewhere.

“The main thing that will attract people here is the quality of life and we are really pushing the M6 corridor project to promote business in the area. Already we can see things developing in the south of the district in places like Tebay. Kirkby Stephen and Appleby are the same.

“We have a good network and relationship with our businesses in the district but the key will be a meeting on Monday with prominent companies in the area.

“I’m sure they are as ambitious as we are in regards to growing.”

On housing, the council wants to cater for local younger people and first time buyers in particular by specifying that 30 per cent of larger developments must be in the so-called affordable price bracket.

Sites to the north of Penrith and in the Carleton area have been identified as plots for some of the new 1,800 homes planned for the town by Eden council planners.

Appleby could get around 324 new homes, Kirkby Stephen 252 and Alston 144.

A further 720 are being planned for rural ‘key hubs’ – the larger villages in Eden with another 360 spread across the district’s smaller villages and hamlets.

Council leader Gordon Nicolson said: “The issue that stirs the local population the most is that of housing.

“We are predicting that the need for housing will remain high, especially for affordable and social. We will have more two-person and single occupancy houses as young people leave home and more people get divorced.

“People will ask where these people will come and where they will work but it needs to be put in perspective as it is an 18-year plan.”

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