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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Looking ahead to a big year for BEC

A NEW year message from TOM GILROY, Acting CEO, Britain’s Energy Coast

Tom Gilroy
Tom Gilroy

2011 was an important year for Britain’s Energy Coast.

As I explained in the last edition of this magazine, four organisations came together under the Britain’s Energy Coast banner (these were the West Cumbria Development Fund, West Cumbria Development Agency, Westlakes Properties Ltd and Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria).

We started to take stock of priorities and also listened to partners and stakeholders who told us what they thought our region needed from Britain’s Energy Coast – one of the key watchwords was ‘diversification’ so we’ve taken that onboard.

We passed the first round of assessment with our application to the Regional Growth Fund.

We kicked off the Economic Blueprint work which, when complete, will provide a framework for economic development and regeneration activity for all partners across West Cumbria.

And we carried on with our day job by managing a successful property portfolio, delivering against our capital schemes programme and helping small and medium enterprises start-up and grow.

And now, we’re looking forward to another busy year in 2012.

The last couple of months have seen some important milestones achieved on a number of the Capital Schemes we’re funding.

A few weeks ago, Esh Construction was awarded the contract to design and build a new Construction Skills Centre in West Cumbria. Through our partners, NMP, we are investing in this important facility alongside Britain’s Energy Coast Campus and Lakes College. Along with Cumbria County Council, the client and project manager for this development, this is a great example of true partnership
working.

We’re working together so that the young people in West Cumbria have the opportunity to gain skills that will lead to job security.

With the potential for nuclear new build, grid and infrastructure improvements and the drive towards renewable and energy efficient technologies happening in our region over the next decade, it is vital to get this training facility up and running as soon as we can. Design work has already started and Esh Construction will be on site by April so we’ll see the new building taking shape soon.

Towards the end of 2011 we announced that our property arm, Westlakes Properties Ltd had acquired the land earmarked for the Albion Square office development in Whitehaven. This year we expect to appoint a developer and begin clearing the site in readiness for construction starting.

Upon completion of the office accommodation, 900 staff will relocate from Sellafield to their new Whitehaven base. The move will also give Whitehaven businesses a boost in trade.

Also in Whitehaven, the project to build a new community stadium at Pow Beck is gaining momentum. The team is currently assessing tenders received from developers and expects to announce the successful bidder shortly. The new venue will host Rugby League World Cup matches in October and November 2013 and construction is estimated to be complete by the end of this year.

Our WCDA team remain focussed on supporting small and medium enterprises as the Linkstart and Backing Business programmes continue throughout the year. These programmes are aimed at people who want to start their own businesses as well as existing enterprises that would value a fresh pair of eyes to help achieve their targets. If you think these programmes could help you then please get in touch with the team on 01900 65656 or have a look at our website www.wcda.co.uk. The team will also be working with other partners and stakeholders in West Cumbria to attract new businesses to the region. Our Energy Opportunity Supply Chain Project (EOSCP) team arrange “Meet The Buyer” events throughout the year so that businesses can hear first hand what the larger companies who serve Sellafield need from suppliers. These are really useful networking events and we receive good feedback from attendees. The next event is for the Design Service Alliance on February 29 at Energus. For more details go to www.eoscp.co.uk.

Britain’s Energy Coast is working with The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute to help new start-ups and existing businesses develop High Technology, including Clean Tech (Renewable), products and services. In 2011, the University opened the Dalton Cumbrian Facility (DCF), its new £20m research base on Westlakes Science & Technology Park and is poised to help West Cumbria become a centre of excellence for High Tech by creating the environment to encourage product development and transfer of new technologies to market.

Renewable technologies such as Anaerobic Digestion and Biomass, which are not yet regarded as mainstream or mature markets in the UK will be central to creating new companies and products from investment in Research & Development, supported by Manchester, the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory and Britain’s Energy Coast. Renewable energy led projects are also planned for urban, industrial and rural areas to drive economic regeneration, including plans to provide infrastructure for plug in hybrid and electric vehicles.

In October last year, we were delighted to receive news that our bid for a slice of the Regional Growth Fund had passed the first round of assessment. We’re now on with the due diligence phase and expect to hear the final decision on whether our region will be awarded funds in April. The process to secure funds is very rigorous, as you’d expect, but with the decades of experience our team has in handling public sector programmes and projects, we have the right people in place working on this. The Regional Growth Fund was set up by the Government to help safeguard and create jobs and we are very keen to deliver the plans this additional funding would support.

Looking a bit further forward than just this year, we are involved in developing a new Economic Blueprint, which is designed to provide a coherent strategic economic framework for the whole of West Cumbria. We expect to see the Blueprint completed shortly and when it is, along with all of the partners (which include a range of public and private sector organisations), we will be signing up to it and developing a programme of activities that will support the delivery of the economic framework and enable West Cumbria to realise its potential. So, 2012 is going to be a big year for Britain’s Energy Coast in many ways and we’re looking forward to doing our best for the people of West Cumbria.

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