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Employers highlight need for a long-term plan for economic growth

Some of Eden’s most successful businesses are urging people to look at the wider issues around the Penrith Strategic Masterplan and consider why the town and the wider district needs to plan for growth over the next 32 years to 2050.
An eight week public consultation has begun into the long-term plans by Eden District Council, which envisage 5,560 new homes in three new settlements, along with 73 hectares of land for business development.

One of the biggest issues facing the local economy in Eden District is the area’s shrinking  working age population.

• This is set to fall by 5,000 people (17%) over the next 25 years to 2041.
• With this overall decline the number of people aged 15-34 is forecast to fall by around 1,000 or 10%.

The proposals contained in the Penrith Strategic Masterplan could help to reverse this trend with an estimated extra 13,500 residents in Penrith by 2050, with 6,000-7,000 of those of working age.

The current number of jobs in Penrith is around 12,200. The Penrith Strategic Masterplan proposes that by 2050 there would be around 19,000 jobs located in Penrith with the additional 73 hectares of employment land allocated to the North of Penrith close to Junction 41 of the M6.

Many in the business community believe that planning for growth is essential if Penrith and wider Eden are to thrive.

Andy Barr, of Appleby engineering firm Barrnon, is still looking to expand his business in the Eden area, which has seen its turnover grow five-fold in recent years thanks to its continuing success in the nuclear sector.

Earlier this year Barrnon gained national recognition for its breakthrough in removing empty fuel skips from the bottom of a storage pond at Sellafield and is currently securing work in Japan and the US.

It has been looking to develop a premises near Penrith for some time and believes other companies could be attracted to the area if land was made available.

Mr Barr said: “An economic strategy that delivers reasonably costed land for industrial use would be very welcome. The Moorside project may be in difficulties, but there is still £80bn worth of reprocessing work planned over the next 40-60 years, so there are plenty of opportunities in the nuclear supply chain.

“I would like to ask the people resisting plans for economic growth how they expect Penrith shops to have businesses in them and regeneration again with it. Without growth there would be a backwards shift in wealth which would just move to another area.”

Another of Eden’s fastest-growing businesses is Theidol.com which offers web-solutions to consumer finance and insurance comparison markets, which is planning further recruitment after continued success this year.

HR manager Nicola White said the Penrith firm had recently grown to 48 staff and was likely to take on more staff before the year end, although it had maybe “exhausted the local resource of web developers”.

Theidol.com is now considering developing a scheme to support students at University before they joined the staff, but welcomed moves to provide more affordable housing which could help recruitment, she added.

“We have had people come to us and found Penrith a bit too expensive to they end up living in Carlisle so we are in full support of these plans.

“We don’t want to look any further afield. We want to stay here where the transport links are great for us and all our staff,” she said.

Cheaper housing for Penrith is also on the agenda for businesses such as Cranstons which employs 90 people locally at its processing site and two retail outlets.

Managing Director Philip Cranston said: “We pay rates as good as we can and we look after our people, but when we advertise vacancies it’s not a question of how many will apply, it’s a case of will anyone apply.

“We’ve had staff who’ve worked for us, then bought a house in Carlisle because it’s cheaper there – then they find a job in Carlisle and we lose them.”

Oliver Viney, managing director at Atlantic Geomatics, the geospatial surveying consultancy based in Penrith, is another businessman hoping that the Masterplan can ease recruitment issues.

He said: “It’s difficult to attract skilled, experienced people to move here to come and work for us. So we decided four or five years ago to recruit at trainee level and grow the business organically with local people.

“Around 80 per cent of our clients are outside Cumbria and we are considering opening a satellite office elsewhere to help generate more work. In the long-term it would be good to see how Penrith and Eden might attract a wider variety of businesses to the area such as the engineering consultants that we work with or firms attracted by the nuclear supply chain."

Eden District Council’s Development Portfolio Holder, Councillor John Owen MBE, said: “We have a strong economy in Eden District, low levels of unemployment and as an area we are one of the most attractive places to live or work in, but this picture masks some overriding issues that we must address now and into future to secure sustainable growth.

“We have an ageing population and a shrinking working age population, so we need to create a higher wage economy and more a diverse mix of housing to attract more young families to the area and to encourage local young people to stay here after school and university. If we don’t address this imbalance in our economy we risk businesses who are looking to expand or move here to create well paid jobs seeking opportunities elsewhere.

“The Penrith Strategic Masterplan seeks to marry the benefits of having three new villages and 73 hectares of employment land available in close proximity to the M6 at Junction 41, to meet our future economic and housing needs in a sustainable way. I encourage people to give their views on these important issues before the public engagement process deadline on 2 November 2018.

For more information about the Penrith Strategic Masterplan A Vision to 2050 visit www.beaconvillages.co.uk 

ENDS