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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Anxious wait over Waterfront money

BARROW faces an anxious wait to hear if it will still get its vital Waterfront regeneration cash grants now a new government is in power and seeking massive cuts in public spending.

Despite the change from Labour to the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, the still upbeat director of programmes at Barrow Regeneration, Bob Pointing, believes Barrow can win through and still get the £22m of public money it needs for the next phases to go ahead.

A large chunk of that money will be needed in two years to build a canal for yachts and small boats to access Barrow docks and the 450-boat marina that will also be built along the town-side of the water.

The canal is key to the marina – the main dock gates are too big to open just for yachts – and the marina is seen as key to the Marina Village that will be built behind it, complete with hotel, shops, restaurants and up to 650 houses and apartments.

Some of the £22m is also earmarked for acquiring land that still needs to be bought and for decontaminating the industrial area.

Mr Pointing admitted there is anxiety in public sector organisations and uncertainty about what public funding will be cut.

There are also questions surrounding the future of the Northwest Development Agency, given that the coalition government is known to want to cut back on England’s regional development agencies and possibly close some completely.

But Mr Pointing says an independent appraisal of the bid for the next tranche of money shows it will pay dividends, as it will be the catalyst for a large amount of private sector investment.

Around £20m of public money has been spent up to now, including £7m buying up dockland and the sites of businesses that are in the way, and on installing roads and services for the Waterfront Business Park on Barrow Island.

Now the detailed case for Barrow getting a further £22m of public money is being prepared for submission to the Treasury later this year.

Mr Pointing said: “We have virtually finished the appraisal process which makes the case for public sector investment leading to a lot of private sector investment.

“It is a really big piece of work, looking at all the public sector costs of the marina development and assessing these against the likely economic benefits.

“The economic benefits are quite considerable. We have had to quantify them in terms of benefits to Barrow, new jobs, new business and extra footfall in the town from more visitors and the fact new houses will generate growth in the town.

“I feel, even in the current financial situation, quite positive about the outcome. It looks a good scheme and a scheme that even in the current circumstances will get the public funding that is needed.”

Asked if he could assure the people of Barrow they will still get their waterfront development, Mr Pointing said: “I can’t give any assurances at all, but I remain very positive. I think even in the current situation it is the sort of public scheme likely to get support because will turn lead to so many new jobs and businesses.

“There is no immediate threat but everyone is concerned, especially those in the public sector.

“Barrow Regeneration has got its money for this year but the (Northwest Development) Agency itself can’t be certain about its future.”

The Evening Mail asked the Northwest Development Agency if Barrow’s regeneration money could be hit by cuts.

A spokeswoman said: “I think the only answer is it is a bit too soon to say anything. Obviously we know there are going to be cuts among the RDAs but we don’t know where they are going to be. There is no particular project we can say is in danger.

“We should know more in two or three weeks.”

NWDA chief executive Steve Broomhead said the RDAs had been asked to find £270m in cuts.

He said: “We do not yet know which individual projects and areas of RDA work will be affected or how this saving will be divided amongst the RDAs. This will be agreed shortly.”

New Business Secretary Vince Cable hinted the Northwest Development Agency would survive because of its widespread support, including from the private sector, after visiting it two weeks ago. Councillor Jack Richardson, the Tory leader of Barrow Borough Council, said of the town’s Waterfront cash: “We will have to wait for statements to come out of Westminster, because until then it is all speculation

“I think we have got to take a positive approach. We can’t be defeatist in this. We have to assume we have got a good case.

“We are going to put the case rigorously to the government and we hope they accept with the money that has already been invested it would be futile if it was not to go ahead.”

Barrow MP John Woodcock said of the looming cuts: “It could be a very serious situation for a number of projects across the Furness area and across the country, we simply don’t know.

“The government is creating a great deal of unhelpful uncertainty by putting the brakes on important projects while they think about what they want to do.

“We know the impetus to press ahead with things like the marina is overdue as it is.”

At an event hosted by the Institute of Directors in Windermere this week, the body’s head of policy, Graeme Leach, was asked by Furness Enterprise chief executive Harry Knowles what he thought would happen to RDAs

He said: “We have to ring-fence the right areas for spending. The only areas you should ring fence are those that are positive for long-term growth, such as transport infrastructure and education.

RDAs are going to be part of that reorganisation, and they are going to get skimmed down.”

Have your say

It's been obvious to many of us for some time that Barrow is going to be hit hard in the coming months and years. For far to long this town has been dependent on money from the public sector to remain viable. BAE Systems, the largest private sector employer is totally dependent on MoD contracts that must at least be in some doubt now. The other major employers in the area, NHS, Local and County Council, Government Departments are all facing cut backs on a scale not seen for many a year.

With these looming cuts on the way, is it right that £22m of public money be spent on a project that will in all probability create employment for out of town contractors and when completed be only available to affluent second home owners.

If £22m is available for regeneration in Furness, then surely it could be better spent on improving the town centre, making it a real centre for the South of the County with shopping and leisure facilities that will bring in people and money from miles around.

Posted by Tony on 11 June 2010 at 17:46

Woodcock is clearly doing his best for Barrow....... not!
Why did this town elect the man as an MP?
Is it really occupied by a majority of people who can't see the damage the Labour party have wrought on this country?

It would seem so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by fedup on 11 June 2010 at 17:07

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