BARROW needs to “stop moaning” and be more “aspirational” if it wants to deflect recent criticism against it, a former national newspaper editor from the town has said.

Chris Blackhurst, the former editor of the Independent, made the comments after the town came under fire from various public figures, most notably the American travel writer Bill Bryson.

Describing a visit to the town, Mr Bryson said Barrow was “just about the most out-on-a-limb, end-of-the-line place in England” and “known for being forgotten and depressed”.

Councillors hit back at the writer's remarks, with council leader Dave Pidduck telling him: “Don’t come back.”

Mr Blackhurst used a column on the Independent’s website to call on community leaders to embrace the industry around the BAE shipyard to rejuvenate Barrow.

Explaining the column, Mr Blackhurst, who attended Barrow Grammar School before leaving the town to attend Cambridge University and now works in London, said: “Barrow’s biggest problem is a lack of aspiration.

“I see it in pockets but on the whole when I come to the town and visit schools I don’t see a lot of aspiration.

“The council need to do more to boost the town and build an economic cluster of industry around the shipyard.

“Some of the most advanced pieces of technology in the world are built there.”

In his column, Mr Blackhurst said Barrow could see “immense” rewards by reaching out to start-up businesses and likened the possibilities to the City of London financial centre and Cambridge Science Park.

Responding to Mr Blackhurst, Dave Pidduck, the leader of Barrow Borough Council, said town hall chiefs were already trying to work towards this.

He said: “People who live away seem to think we are just sitting on our hands but in fact that is not the case at all.

“We have council officers who are working on projects like this all the time.”

He said it was unfair to compare Barrow with Cambridge Science Park because the south eastern city was "only an hour from London” and much easier place to drawn business to than Barrow.

“When you are so close to the captial city, business are more willing to locate themselves in a place like Cambridge," he said.

“Barrow is a place that is relatively isolated and so it is more difficult to persuade business.”

The council leader also took exception to Mr Blackhurst’s criticisms that Barrow's best attractions, such as Furness Abbey, Roanhead beach and Piel Island, were not marketed enough, leading critics to form negative first impressions from the “shabby” town centre.

Mr Pidduck said: “That is not true at all. We know we have nice surroundings and we do our best to market that to people.”

Question Time panellist Paul Mason also criticised the town centre when the current affairs debate came to Barrow.