CUMBRIA’S economic boss has pledged to back Barrow in its drive to win more funding to improve the ‘horrendous’ A590.

Jo Lappin, chief executive of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said it was ‘understood’ how important the key trunk road is to the Furness economy.

At a meeting in the Nan Tait Centre, Mrs Lappin reassured county councillors that the A590 is part of its discussions with the Department for Transport.

Cllr Bill McEwan complained that Barrow remained at the end of a ‘cul-de-sac’ while many other areas of Cumbria benefited from major road projects.

“We always seem to be the poor relation down here and nothing seems to happen. We are not getting what we need here,” said Cllr McEwan.

Cllr Anne Burns told how an accident on Friday meant it had taken her five hours to get from Barrow to the M6.

Mrs Lappin told the committee it was important that the £8.5 billion tidal power gateway – a barrage across the Bay – did not eclipse the pressing need for funding to improve the A590.

Mrs Lappin said: “We have to make sure that the long term potential of a tidal gateway doesn’t disturb the medium term need of the A590. We need the A590 done sooner, rather than saying it’s fine because in 20 or 40 years’ time we might have a tidal gateway solution.

“The A590 is on our list of priorities and it is something that we lobby for.”

Cumbria LEP, a business-led partnership between local authorities and the private sector, determines local economic priorities and economic growth.

The meeting was told that one of the issues holding back the A590 is how funding is allocated by the DfT to those areas demonstrating growth.

Mrs Lapping explained: “The DfT don’t look at the things that really matter in a Cumbrian context, such as resilience and security. That is a conversation we have to have in our negotiations with the DfT. We need to change the methodology because it’s not going to be about volume (of traffic), it is going to be about resilience and the national security perspective. The A590 is the road in and out for part of our defence programme and that makes no sense.”

Cllr Sol Wielkopolski said with climate change a major issue, the A590 was highly vulnerable to flooding and would ‘not take much’ to be cut off.

Cllr Anne Burns said: “The accidents happening on that road now are absolutely horrendous and the speed that it is going is tremendous.

“It’s a Highways England road, not a county council road, so we can’t do anything about it. We have to lobby for that and we can lobby all we want as a local committee and as a county council, but I think we need the LEP behind us. We have a lot of industry in Barrow and without us having the proper access to this area, it’s going to frustrate anyone thinking of putting any money into this area,” said Cllr Burns.

Committee chairman Kevin Hamilton said funds for road improvements were often calculated on the number of fatalities and injuries taking place, rather than the impact suffered by the local economy.

“If we are cut off for eight hours, we need to know how much would that cost the Furness economy? We need to get together with businesses to understand that and then start lobbying,” said Cllr Hamilton.